A church at the site of current San Giovanni Maggiore Basilica was likely erected sometime in the 4th century. There are a number of founding legends for the church. One is that emperor Constantine Ifounded the church in gratitude for the rescue of his daughter Costanza from a shipwreck. It may have been built or introduced into a pre-existing pagan temple dedicated to the cult of Hercules or Hadrian. One of the stones in the architrave is dated to 324. The church underwent numerous reconstructions, including in the 6th century. It was likely made into a Byzantine-style basilica during the era of Belisarius.
After an earthquake in 1635, the last reconstruction in 1656 led to the Baroque building by Dionisio Lazzari seen today. He designed the present cupola, completed in 1685. Further earthquakes in 1732 and 1805 required more reconstructions.
The 1870 earthquake devastated the church and knocked down the roof. For the restoration, Gennaro Aspreno Galante was unable reconstruct the former details. Almost razed in 1872, the local canon Giuseppe Perrella commissioned a neoclassical reconstruction, completed in 1887, from engineer George Tomlinson, with help by Errico Alvino and Federico Travaglini. A hundred years later, the roof again caved down, closing the church again for 42 years, until a restoration in 1978 unveiled the early-Christian apse, below the wooden choir dating from the 17th century. The church was long closed for restoration and architectural studies.
The imposing main altar, damaged over the years, was built in 1743 by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro. Behind the apse is visible the ancient church apse.References:
Lübeck Cathedral is a large brick-built Lutheran cathedral in Lübeck, Germany and part of the Lübeck UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1173 Henry the Lion founded the cathedral to serve the Diocese of Lübeck, after the transfer in 1160 of the bishop's seat from Oldenburg in Holstein under bishop Gerold. The then Romanesque cathedral was completed around 1230, but between 1266 and 1335 it was converted into a Gothic-style building with side-aisles raised to the same height as the main aisle.
On the night of Palm Sunday (28–29 March) 1942 a Royal Air Force bombing raid destroyed a fifth of the town centre. Several bombs fell in the area around the church, causing the eastern vault of the quire to collapse and destroying the altar which dated from 1696. A fire from the neighbouring cathedral museum spread to the truss of the cathedral, and around noon on Palm Sunday the towers collapsed. An Arp Schnitger organ was lost in the flames. Nevertheless, a relatively large portion of the internal fittings was saved, including the cross and almost all of the medieval polyptychs. In 1946 a further collapse, of the gable of the north transept, destroyed the vestibule almost completely.
Reconstruction of the cathedral took several decades, as greater priority was given to the rebuilding of the Marienkirche. Work was completed only in 1982.
The cathedral is unique in that at 105 m, it is shorter than the tallest church in the city. This is the consequence of a power struggle between the church and the guilds.
The 17 m crucifix is the work of the Lübeck artist Bernt Notke. It was commissioned by the bishop of Lübeck, Albert II. Krummendiek, and erected in 1477. The carvings which decorate the rood screen are also by Notke.
Since the war, the famous altar of Hans Memling has been in the medieval collection of the St. Annen Museum, but notable polyptychs remain in the cathedral.
In the funeral chapels of the southern aisle are Baroque-era memorials by the Flemish sculptor Thomas Quellinus.