St Mary’s church is a must to visit while being in Lubeck. The town is called “The city with the seven spires” even if there are “only” five churches in the old town. Even if churches are not your thing, you will want to check some of these out while being in Lubeck. Join us and learn more about the Churches of Lubeck!
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Each profession had its own church
Lubeck must be the only city in the world where each profession had its own church. Since the city center is small (2,5 kilometers long and 1,5 kilometers wide) it means that there are a lot of churches in a small area. So, the bishop had his own church, and then the tradespeople and merchants had their own. The seafarers had their own and even the “river farers” that were on the river had their own church.
Finally, the craftsmen had their own church too. This also shows how incredibly rich Lubeck was. Just the thought of the craftsmen, having enough money to built their own church is mindblowing. Because let’s not be fooled here – these are not small houses that are called churches, these are real churches with all their pride! During this period, the people living in Lubeck were the ones deciding and the church had not much to say.
The church was more than a place of worship
Today, most people go to church to worship. But in Lubeck, during medieval times and during the Hansa period, that was not the case. People went to church because that was where “life was happening”. People came there and had gatherings, meetings and to just spend some time.
If you had a letter to write – the church was the place to be. Here, you could sit down and write your letter. Why people didn’t do that at home is out of my knowledge but apparently, letter-writing was a thing that was done while visiting the church.
Helping the poor
Even if the church didn’t have any saying in the lifestyle of the people living in Lubeck, they still believed in God and wanted to be good people. Today, a lot of people around the world will give money to the church, and then the church will give the money to the poor. In Lubeck, the people gave money straight to the poor and not through the church.
They built houses for the poor. One example can be seen outside the St Jacob’s church. People that had nowhere to live could come there. Here, they got to live and eat for free but instead, they worked with agriculture and helped with everything that was needed. It’s really interesting to see how small space the poor people got – at the same time, they had someplace to live.
St Mary’s church – the church of the merchants
The first church that was built in Lubeck was the Lubeck Cathedral. The merchants living in the city decided to build their own church and that’s when St Mary’s was built. Being 125 meters, it became the largest church, beating Lubeck Cathedral by 5 meters. It was the largest church built by bricks in gothic style for a long time and today it’s Germanys third-largest church (Cologne Cathedral being the biggest).
The church was built between 1277 and 1351 and is part of a UNESCO world heritage site. Even if it’s no longer the tallest brick church, it still brags about having the world’s tallest brick vault (40 meters). And since the Lubeck Cathedral had two towers (or spires) they gave St Mary’s church two spires too.
St Mary’s church was heavily destroyed during WWII
Palm Sunday in 1942, the church was severely damaged during Allied air raids. A lot was destroyed and to this day – there is a collection in the church that asks visitors to donate money so that they can restore the church. And it’s easy to understand that people are willing to donate to this cause. The church is undergoing a restoration that will cost about 1 500 000 euros to fix all the brickwork and everything that needs to be done.
Once you enter the church, you can immediately feel the history of this place. There is one super special thing in the church but I will get to that in a minute… Because there is a lot of special things to admire while being inside St Mary’s church. The astronomical clock is super impressive. It reminds us of the astronomical clock that is inside another St Mary’s church – the one in Gdansk, Poland.
St Mary’s church is filled with skulls
One thing that catches my eye while walking around this huge and impressive church is all the skulls that are on display. They are everywhere, in paintings and as sculptures on the walls and scattered around inside the church. It’s a different sight to be seen inside a church but it’s also a cool thing to see. Morbid in some way!
Inside the church, there is also a display that shows the church’s history. The information is in English (and German) and it’s an interesting and good read. I can almost feel the love from the locals and the interest to restore the church. The entrance fee of 2 euros is a fair price to see this place. And then it is my super special thing in the church that I mentioned before.
Churchbells that fell during WWII
Back to Palm Sunday and back to the bombing of Lubeck. On the night between the 28:th and 29:th of March 1942, two of the bells fell from their tower. They had a 60-meter fall and shattered the ceiling and embedded themselves into the floor. And there they lay – to this day. A memory (even if a terrible one) of the effects of the war.
The bells are by far the most powerful sight inside the church. I even got teary-eyed when seeing them. There is something super special seeing something like broken church bells on the floor of a church. This was a special moment for us and we believe that it will be the same for you if you visit St Mary’s church. They offer guided tours daily and they are open from 10.00 to 18.00 in the summer and until 16.00 during the winter.
Lubeck Cathedral – the Bishops church
So, before St Mary’s church became the biggest in Lubeck, Lubeck Cathedral was the biggest one with its 120 meters and two towers. It got destroyed during WWII and it took a long time for the restoration to begin. Actually, they didn’t start with the reconstruction of the church until St Mary’s church was fully restored.
It’s placed in the heart of the old town and it’s free of charge to visit. Today, this place is known as the church of music. There are different choirs and they organize weekly music and concerts. From April to October, the church is open daily between 10:00 and 18:00. During wintertime, it closes earlier.
St Jacob’s church – The seafarers’ church
Called St Jakobi in German, this church was the seafarers’ church. This is one of few churches that still has its original baroque altar. But there is more to this place that makes your eyebrows rise. We both really liked the arm-sculptures that were sticking out of the pillars in the church, holding candles. Otherwise, this church is quite clean and not too “braggy”. Apparently, the churches were one of the only places where it wasn’t important to brag.
On the floor of the church, you can see gravestones embedded in the floor. It was the most powerful and rich people that bought their gravesites inside the church (you can see that in more churches than St Jacob’s as well). The point of that was that they didn’t want to be forgotten. By having their graves inside the church, people would come here to worship, see their names and pray for them too. Inside the church, there is also one of the biggest organs ever made out of wood. It looks like it’s made out of metal but it’s made out of wood.
A memorial inside the church for the victims of the sea
In 1957, the ship “Pamir” sunk during a storm. One of the lifeboats is now on display inside the church together with the names of all the people that were lost during the storm that sank the huge ship. There were 86 people on Pamir when it set sail. Out of those, only six people survived in the lifeboat that is now on display inside the church.
The lifeboat and the things that are inside the church are everything that was found from the ship “Pamir”. There are also some letters and personal items of the people that lost their lives. It’s a special thing to see inside a church. During our visit we also got to see someone working on the restoration of old paintings inside the church – that was awesome too. To enter the St Jacob’s church is free of charge. The church opens at 10.00 each day but the closing time varies. For example, it closes at 13.00 each Sunday from January to April.
St Petri church – The church of the “river farers”
So while the seafarers had their own church, so did the river farers. St Petri church started to get built-in 1220 and it used to be an open-air church. During the war (WWII) 2/5 of the church was completely destroyed and the rebuild started in 1982. Since 2014, the church is a university church. The church is also called St Peter’s church.
The reason why you should visit the St Petri church is because of the viewing tower. There’s a viewing platform 50 meters up and from there you can see a really nice view. And what’s great is that there’s an elevator that takes you to the top so no need to struggle with the steps. The entrance fee to the tower is 4 euros per adult. The church is opened from 09:00 – 20.00 between March and September. During wintertime, it opens later and closes earlier.
St Petri is a modern church
Like I mentioned before, St Petri church is nowadays a university church. This means that there are different ceremonies and lectures held within the church. It’s a meeting place for teachers and students and everyone is welcome to join. There is also a church laboratory – now, how amazing is that?!
And this is also a place where they have different art exhibitions, readings, and performances. I love that a church is so modern! There is also a well-known café that serves coffee and cakes – good to know if you get hungry after being in the tower and looking at the view.
St Gile’s church – the church of the craftsmen
St Giles church (also called Aegidienkirche) is the smallest of the five churches in Old Town of Lubeck and it was the church of the craftsmen. The church is famous for its carved choir that was made in 1587. There is not that much information about this church compared to the others but if you have the time, make sure to visit this church too.
It’s opened Tuesday to Saturday between 10:00 and 18:00 during the summer but it closes earlier in the winter. Be aware that the church is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
If you go to the market square (near the town hall) you can see a small model of the old town and there you can also check out all the churches in miniature.