St. Severin Church

Keitum, Germany

St. Severin is a Lutheran parish church named after the 4th-century bishop Severin of Cologne. Built in the Romanesque style and first documented in 1240, the church stands back from the town at a higher elevation. The tower was built around 1450 and served as a navigation mark for seafarers as well as a prison.

The site upon which the church now stands initially housed a sanctuary to Odin and was used for the worship of Germanic gods. According to legend, the Danish king Canute the Great (995–1035) provided money and stones for a church to be built in Keitum. The first documented reference to the church dates from 1240. It was probably initially dedicated to St Canute. Tests recently carried out by Hamburg University's Institut für Holzbiologie indicate that the building's roof rafters are from 1216, making the church the oldest in Schleswig-Holstein. The wood used in other parts of the church appears to have the same origin, indicating that not only the nave but also the chancel and the apse can also be dated to 1216. The tower, however, is more recent, from the mid-15th century.

As a result of the plague in 1350 and the Grote Mandrenke storm in 1362, the island was depopulated and the church abandoned. Missionaries from the Archdiocese of Cologne restored the islanders' faith, dedicating the church to St. Severin in memory of the 4th-century bishop of Cologne. In 1544, the church became Lutheran.

Architecture

The nave, recessed chancel and the semicircular apse are built of naturally coloured granite blocks, white-plastered tuff and brick. Evidence of the Romanesque style can be seen in the apse's east window. Cross-arched and stepped freizes decorate the exterior of the apse while zigzag and lozenge designs top the nave and chancel walls. While the windows on the north side of the chancel exhibit only minor adaptations to the Gothic style, the five on either side of the nave are clearly pointed. The almost square-shaped tower is the only Gothic brick structure on the island. It served not only as a bell tower but as a refuge and until 1806 as a prison. Visible from afar, it was used by seafarers as a landmark. Following an accident in 1740, access to the tower room was bricked up but it was reopened in 1981 as an extension to the nave. As the former 15th-century south porch is now used as a vestry, the main entrance to the church is now on the north side.

Furnishings and fittings

The interior of the church was refurbished in 1985 - the wooden panels, pews and fittings were restored to their original light green colour. Remains of a fresco of the Last Judgment on the north matroneum were revealed. The choir is separated from the nave by a chancel arch while a second arch leads into the half-dome of the apse.

Dating from 1230, the oldest piece in the church is the Bentheim sandstone baptismal font which stands on a base with four lions at the corners. The Late Gothic altarpiece from about 1480 is probably the work of the Lübeck imperialissima master carver. It depicts God the Father with the Risen Christ flanked by Mary with the infant Jesus and Bishop Severin. The wings of the triptych display the figures of the Apostles. The predella presents a local painting of the Last Supper (1705). The scenes of the Passion on the back of the altarpiece are badly damaged. The early Renaissance pulpit (1580) comes from Møgeltønder in Denmark. The panels present coats of arms and the Christian virtues: faith, temperance and justice.

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Details

Founded: 1216-1240
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Hohenstaufen Dynasty (Germany)

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Bernd Spohr (19 months ago)
Sehr, sehr schöne friesische Kirche mit ganz interessanten Skulpturen im direkt angrenzenden Friedhof. Gegen Mittag steht die Sonne auf der Sonnenbank, die man durchaus im Februar auch schon genießen kann! Es gibt eine tagsüber geöffnete Toilette, sehr wichtig für eine Rast und Buße tun, eben Einkehr halten in der Kirche. Es gibt einige hörens- und sehenswerte Veranstaltungen. Leider hatten wir vorher nichts darüber erfahren!
Gunther Möller (2 years ago)
Sehr schöne Kirche in Mitten schöner Natur. Die Nähe zum Meer und der damit verbundenen Seefahrt sind überall zu spüren. Sehr interessant auch der umliegende Friedhof, dessen Grabsteine der Kapitänsgräber regelrechte Geschichten der Verblichenen erzählen. Auch Promigräber kann man hier finden
Steve (2 years ago)
This is a beautiful place and has the feel of a church. I know that sounds silly as it is a church, but the only other place I have had that feeling is in Ulm Cathedral over on the mainland and a few hundred miles south. It is very old (I think it was first mentioned around 1240 and the roof was found to be from around 1216) and when you go inside and see the place it fills you with that 'strange feeling'. I'm not highly religious but that feeling is hard to explain. However, it is a very peaceful place and well kept. I hope to be buried there if possible as my mother and sister are both there. But that depends if the cost is equal to the price of housing on the island. If so I'll go for a cardboard box on a bonfire and let the wind do the rest. Maybe Guy Fawkes Night would be good if I get the timing right. :-) - Keep smiling.
Pauline Wilcox (4 years ago)
Beautifully kept and peaceful cemetary
Monica Stratton (5 years ago)
This little church has been looked after so well & was very interesting. The age & the history of this place was well kept. Loved it.
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