HANSEATIC CITY LUEBECK
St. Marien - The Church of the City Council
The Marienkirche, St. Mary's Church, the church of the Council of the Hansetown Lübeck is the third largest church in Germany. It is considered to be an extraordinary monoumental example of ecclesiastical Gothic brickwork. Lübeck's citizens built it nearby the town-hall. The building had been commenced in 1250 and was completed in 1350.
French and flemish Gothic cathedrals have likely served as model for the Lübeck basilica with its three aisles, the 40 meter high middle nave - the highest brickwork vault of the world - and the two 125 meter high towers.
With St. Mary's Gothic forms were "transposed" from natural stones into home-bred brickwork material for the first time. Thus St. Mary's itself became a model for numerous Gothic brickwork-churches in the entire area of the Baltic Sea .
During the bomb raid in Lübeck in the night to March 29th, 1942, when a fifth of the inner city was destroyed, St. Mary's burnt out nearly completely. The roofs burnt down. The high spires of the towers and vaults came down and the bells crashed onto the floor of the southern tower.
Being an outstanding national building St. Mary's was protected against further deterioration by an emergency roof although the war was still going on. The reconstruction started in 1947 and was completed substantially twelve years later. It was already in 1956 and 1957 that the two towers had received their helmets again. At that time seven million Mark were given by the Federal Republic of Germany, the Land Schleswig - Holstein, the City of Lübeck, the church administration and by gifts and donations coming from home and abroad.
Owing to the fire parts of a medieval wall paint coat had come to light. Most of it could be restored and contributes to the special atmosphere inside the church. The remainders of the two big bells having crashed down during the fire, are left at the bottom of the southern tower as memorial.
The 30 bells coming from St. Catherine's Church (Katharinenkirche) in Gdansk (Danzig) are combined to a chime of bells. Towards the end of the war these bells from Danzig had been rediscovered on a "Burial ground for bells" at Hamburg where they should have been melted. Since Lübeck houses many refugees from Danzig, these bells were given to St. Mary's where they play a chorale melody every half an hour.
The "Letter Chapel" (Briefkapelle), an annex constructed during the early 14th century, has been restored in the 1970th. It served the parish community as "Winter Church", since the large church room was too cold in the winter. In former times the chapel was used to house the stands of public writers putting on paper contracts for Lübeck's citizens, i. e. they "lettered" them (confirmed them in writing). The nine meter high and slender columns are made of Bornholm granite. The most important work of art in the Briefkapelle is a tombstone of the famous mayor of Lübeck, Brun Warendorp (who died in 1369). The Briefkapelle and the "Trese", the former public treasury, got over the war nearly undamaged.
St. Mary's has many other works of art and objects of interest, such as the "Triumphal Crucifix" of Gerhard Marcks in the high choir above the "Swarte - Altar" made in 1495, the tabernacle of bronze (1479) and the splendid marble epitaph for the member of the town-council Johann Füchting (17th century), who donated the famous "Füchtingshof" in the Glockengießerstraße. In the "Marientidenkapelle" (Choir-vertex-chapel) stands a late Gothic altar (1517) made in Antwerpen, being dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
In place of the destroyed big organ the organ-manufacture of Kemper from Lübeck installed in 1968 the largest organ of the world having an mechanical connection (the so called "Traktur") between the keys and the air valves. On five manuals and pedals it has 101 registers with almost 10.000 organ pipes, the largest of which are 11 meters high.
From 1667 up to 1707 the famous composer Dietrich Buxtehude was organist and in charge of the workshop of St. Mary's. His small organ - the "Totentanzorgel" ("Dance of the death - organ") - was reconstructed in 1986.
The present astronomical clock was reconstructed true to the original by Lübeck's watchmaker Paul Behrens.