St. Nicholas' Church

Hamburg, Germany

The Gothic Revival Church of St. Nicholas was formerly one of the five Lutheran Hauptkirchen (main churches) in the city of Hamburg. The church lies now in ruins, with only its tower remaining, serving as a memorial and an important architectural landmark. The church was the tallest building in the world from 1874 to 1876 and is still the second-tallest structure in Hamburg.

With the founding of the Nikolai settlement and a harbor on the Alster in the 12th century, a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas, patron saint of sailors, was erected. This wood building was the second church in Hamburg, after St. Mary's Cathedral.

In 1335, some years before the onslaught of the Black Death, construction on a new brick building began. The structure was to be a three-naved hall church in the typical North German Brick Gothic style. This building stood until the middle of the 19th century, undergoing changes, expansions, and withstanding several partial destructions. The tower, which was erected in 1517, burned down in 1589. The tower built to replace it collapsed in 1644. The last tower of the old Church of St. Nicholas was designed by Peter Marquardt. The Marquardt tower had a height of 122 metres and with its characteristic dome was a landmark of the city and jewel of its skyline.

The old Church of St. Nicholas was the first large public building to burn in the great fire of May 1842. Shortly after the fire, the church was rebuilt again. The English architect George Gilbert Scott, who was an expert in the restoration of medieval churches and an advocate of the gothic architectural style, was commissioned to devise a new design. The architecture was strongly influenced by French and English gothic styles, though the pointed spire is typically German. The amount of sculptures made from sandstone in the interior and on the tower was unusual. The new church was built to the southeast, a short distance from the old location, where the Neue Burg had once stood. The construction started in 1846, and on 27 September 1863 the church was consecrated.

The clearly visible tower of the Church of St. Nicholas served as a goal and orientation marker for the pilots of the Allied Air Forces during the extensive air raids on Hamburg. On 28 July 1943 the church was heavily damaged by aerial bombs. The roof collapsed and the interior of the nave suffered heavy damage. The walls began to show cracks, yet neither they nor the tower collapsed.

The current condition of the Church of St. Nicholas is the result of the bombing of Hamburg in World War II, resultant demolition in 1951 and restoration work in the 1990s and 2012.

 

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Details

Founded: 1846-1863
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: German Confederation (Germany)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Dominic Lee (3 months ago)
Fun enough to go up, although the bars surrounding the tower make it hard to fully appreciate the view. Entry is €5 which is reasonable, but they are cash only. Museum attached which gives details on Hamburg during the war.
Coen Pronk (3 months ago)
The entrance is very cheap, only €5. Then you can visit the museum and climb the tower. The museum about the bombings is very interesting and touching. At the top of the tower you have a beautiful view ober Hamburg
Marissa Walker (3 months ago)
I just happened to walk past this memorial on our way to the train station, and I am so glad I stopped in. The museum in the basement of the former church site is fascinating and upsetting. In great detail it recounts the horrific bombing of Hamburg by the Allies during WWII. The bell tower is basically all that remains of the church, and has been turned into a wonderful viewing area for a wonderful panorama of the city. Very cool experience and worth every penny - the entrance fee was something like 5 euro.
Manu Mahajan (4 months ago)
It's a nice place to visit. It's part of the blue line walk tour in Hamburg. It's advisable to carry a map from your hotel or download it on your mobile. I really liked this place. Marvelous architecture and carvings on wall. Very interesting sculptures. I have posted some pictures as well. I hope you guys would like them.
Sascha B (5 months ago)
Stunning place, there is not so much left from the war... but you can imagine it was a beautiful church. Going up you get nice views but... there are like small "windows" so the view is limited. (of course! it’s the top of the church). It is worth? Yes, but a little bit expensive
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Exterior

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