Historical Churches Walking Tour (Self Guided), Hamburg

Most of Hamburg's population belongs to the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church and to the Roman Catholic Church. There are also numerous smaller Christian churches. Take this tour to discover the religious environment of Hamburg!
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Historical Churches Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Churches Walking Tour
Guide Location: Germany » Hamburg (See other walking tours in Hamburg)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Author: Gloria
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • The Anglican Church of St Thomas Becket
  • St. Michaelis Church
  • Church of St. Nicholas
  • St. Catherine's Church
  • St. Peter's Church
  • St. Jacobi Church
  • The Trinity Church
  • St. Mary's Cathedral
The Anglican Church of St Thomas Becket

1) The Anglican Church of St Thomas Becket

The Anglican Church of St Thomas Becket is situated on Zeughausmarkt, midway between the St. Pauli district and the modern city centre. Housed in an elegant, listed neoclassical building with a white façade and imposing columned entrance, it has represented the Church of England in Hamburg since the 17th century. The parish has existed in some form since 1612, and was one of the first non-Lutheran churches to thrive within the city of Hamburg. The church was set up to allow British seamen and maritime traders access to a place of worship whilst they were in port. Following decades of steady growth, the church moved into its current home in 1838.

Today, the church of St Thomas Becket hosts a diverse congregation, with British ex-pats, Germans and worshippers from other countries all regularly attending the Sunday morning Eucharist service, which starts at 10.30am. The church has flourished within Hamburg’s cosmopolitan confines, despite the turbulent relations between Germany and Britain in the 20th century. A progressive place of worship, it welcomes Christians of all nationalities and denominations. The church is open throughout the week, and is fully wheelchair accessible. It hosts a regular choir, as well as a Sunday school and coffee morning alongside its Eucharist service.
St. Michaelis Church

2) St. Michaelis Church (must see)

St Michaelis Church is located in the Neustadt quarter, on the banks of the River Elbe. Its distinctive 132m high Baroque copper spire is a landfall marker for ships approaching the Port of Hamburg, and is one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. The church, known locally as Michel, is arguably the most famous of Hamburg’s five Protestant churches. Its name derives from the archangel Michael; a large bronze statue in the church portal shows the archangel defeating the devil in battle. The church has its own cemetery, which houses the final resting places of composers Johann Mattheson and Carl Philipp Bach.

A central part of Hamburg life for nearly four centuries, St Michaelis Church has led a troubled existence. The first church on this site was built between 1647 and 1669. It was opened as the church for the new town area (known as Neustadt), which was built in 1625. The original church was struck by lightning in 1750, and completely destroyed. The current building was constructed in its place in 1786, designed by Johann Leonhard Prey and Ernst Sonnin. It was reconstructed twice in the 20th century, following a fire in 1906 and bomb damage during the Second World War. Now Hamburg’s largest church, it can hold 2500 worshippers. The spire has a lift fitted inside it, allowing access for all to one of the best views over Hamburg.
Church of St. Nicholas

3) Church of St. Nicholas (must see)

The Church of St. Nicholas is a ruined church located in the centre of Hamburg. Previously one of the five Lutheran Hauptkirchen, or main churches, found within the city’s medieval centre, it was briefly the tallest building in the world. The towering Gothic Revival style spire, which stands 482 feet tall, is all that remains of the church; the main building has been demolished. The ruins are still an important tourist landmark, hosting events and displays, as well as an information centre in the old crypt.

A church has stood in this spot since the beginnings of Hamburg in the 12th century. A pillar of ecclesiastical life in the city for centuries, the previous church building was destroyed in the Great Fire of May 1842. The replacement was devised by British architect Gilbert Scott, and built between 1846 and 1863. The spire was completed in 1874, and made the church the world’s tallest building for two years, before being overtaken by Rouen Cathedral in Northern France. The ruined spire is still Hamburg’s second tallest structure, after the TV Tower.

The great height of the church spire proved to be its downfall, as it became an easy target for Allied Forces planes during World War 2. The nave of the church was destroyed, and the congregation moved to a new facility in an outlying suburban area. Restoration works have included the installation of an elevator within the spire, which takes visitors up to a 75 metre high platform, allowing great views over the nearby Speicherstadt district.
St. Catherine's Church

4) St. Catherine's Church

St. Catherine's Church is one of the five principal Lutheran churches in Hamburg, Germany. The base of its spire, dating back to the 13th century, is the oldest building preserved in the city, after the lighthouse on Neuwerk island. It is situated on an island near what was formerly the southern boundary of the medieval city, opposite the historic harbor area on the Elbe river. It traditionally served as the church of the seamen. The earliest attestation to the existence of the church dates back to 1256. The main body, consisting of a triple nave, was rebuilt during the mid-15th century in the north German Brick Gothic style. In 1657, a Baroque rooftop was added to the spire, thus elevating its height to 115 meters. The church was heavily damaged in an air raid during World War II, on July 30, 1943. It left only the outer walls and the base of the spire standing. The building was restored between 1950 and 1957.
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. Peter's Church

5) St. Peter's Church (must see)

Hauptkirche St. Petri, known in English as St. Peter’s Church, was built by order of Pope Leo the Tenth in the early 11th century. Whereas most of Hamburg’s other churches were originally built outside the city walls, St. Peter’s has always stood within the ancient walled settlement, known in those days as Hammaburg. It was first documented as a market church in 1195. The present Gothic church building was completed in 1418. The 132m tall tower, almost Scandinavian in appearance, was accompanied by an even higher second tower until 1807, when it was torn down, having been used as a stable by Napoleonic soldiers.

The church was badly damaged by the Great Fire of Hamburg in 1842. It was restored and rebuilt in the original Gothic style, with many of the church’s original features rescued from the fire. These include the lion head door handles found in the west portal, which date from 1342. They are believed to be the oldest surviving artwork in the city of Hamburg. Still a functioning Catholic church, St. Petri has suffered from a dramatic change in its surroundings – once a busy residential area, the church parish now comprises shops and offices. The congregation have embraced this change, allowing stores to advertise on the church building to pay for upkeep of the building.
St. Jacobi Church

6) St. Jacobi Church (must see)

St. Jacobi Church is one of the five Lutheran churches found in Hamburg city centre. It is located in the Neustadt quarter, close to Mönckebergstraße, one of the city’s main shopping streets. The first recorded mention of the church was in 1255, when it was listed as a small chapel outside of Hamburg’s city walls. It soon became a central part of the growing medieval city, and was replaced by a three naved hall church, similar to the nearby St. Petri church. The fourth nave was added in the 15th century. .

St. Jacobi was destroyed by the extensive bombing of Hamburg during World War II. The church was rebuilt in 1963, in an unusual style featuring medieval design and a modern spire. Many of the church’s original features, including its 60-register baroque organ, survived the bombings and were installed in the new church. The organ, the largest in Northern Europe, can be heard at the church’s main service, held each Sunday morning.

Other medieval relics held within the modern church building include three altars dating from the 14th century, and the historic Ministers’ Room, featuring murals and landscape paintings by Johann Riesenberger. The stained glass windows, created by Charles Crodel, are a modern addition to this aesthetically pleasing place of worship.
The Trinity Church

7) The Trinity Church

The Trinity or St. Georg Church's original Baroque building from 1747 was destroyed by bombs in July 1943. The present church was rebuilt in 1957. It is considered a particularly good example of the religious architecture of the 50 years of the 20th century.
St. Mary's Cathedral

8) St. Mary's Cathedral

St. Mary’s Cathedral was the original Hamburg cathedral, serving this function in the city from 1035 to 1804. Known locally as Hamburger Dom, it was twinned with the cathedral in Bremen, another important city state in what is now Northern Germany. One of the first places of worship built in Hamburg, St. Mary’s Cathedral was located between the rivers of Alster and Elbe, close to Speersort Straße.

The cathedral survived for over 750 years in the city, through the Reformation period in Germany, largely due to its ownership by the Duchy of Bremen, which prevented the increasingly protestant city of Hamburg from closing it. When the Duchy of Bremen ceded the cathedral in 1803, a decision was made to demolish it. Some believe that this was in keeping with Hamburg Senate’s prioritization of mercantile interests throughout the 19th century. Others feel that it was down to the strong anti-Catholic sentiment in the city following the Reformation.

The location in modern Hamburg is marked by a park, just south of St. Peter’s Church. Steel blocks mark the former walls of the early cathedral, whilst 39 white benches indicate the former columns of the nave. One column foundation can be seen through a glass paving stone. The park is intersected by Domstraße, a pedestrian street named after the former cathedral. St. Mary’s Church in the Sankt Georg quarter, built in 1893, became the new Hamburg Cathedral in 1994.

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