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St. Michael’s Church in Hamburg

Church of St. Michael, the official name is the main church of St. Michael (Hauptkirche Sankt Michaelis) – this is the main evangelical church of Hamburg. It is located in the center of modern Hamburg, in the Neustadt district of northern Germany.

Located on a hill, the Church of St. Michael has long served as a kind of guide for ships arriving in the city along the Elba River. The modern building of the Church of St. Michael is already the third on this site.
In 1600, then still outside the city walls, a small chapel was built, the so-called “Small Michel” (“Kleine Michel”). As the city grew, the old church building became too cramped for the growing number of parishioners.

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From 1647 to 1669, the construction of a new church was carried out according to the project of Peter Markard and Christoph Corbinus. Since 1685, the Church of St. Michael officially became the fifth main church in Hamburg, along with the churches of St. Peter, St. Jacob, St. Nicholas and St. Katarina.

In 1750, lightning fell on the wooden bell tower of the church. When a fire occurred, it was no longer possible to extinguish it. The church was completely destroyed by fire. The following year, 1751, the first stone was laid in the foundation of the second Michel. The completion of the new church building designed by Johann Leonard Prey and Ernst Georg Zonnin happened only 17 years later. And again the bell tower was made of wood, this time lined with copper.

From 1806 to 1814, Hamburg was conquered by the Napoleonic army. In the church of st. Michael in these years was arranged stable for 500 horses.

In 1906, a fire broke out during repair work on the roof and the church completely burns down again. The restoration of St. Michael’s Church, which began in 1907, was carried out with the aim of preserving the architectural monument in its original form. This time, however, it was decided to replace the wooden structure of the bell tower with one consisting of steel and concrete. In 1912, the grand opening of the church of St. Michael, which had already become the “calling card” of the city, had taken place.

But on this test, fell to the lot of Michel, did not end there. The bombing of 1941 – 1945 destroyed almost the whole of Hamburg. The church of St. Michael did not escape this fate. Restoration work continued until 1957.

View of the Church of St. Michael, © Igor Savchuk
Church architecture
The building of the Church of St. Michael was erected from red brick, a typical building material of northern Germany. However, the architectural style in which it is built – baroque – is completely atypical for the region. In the western part of the church stands a monumental tower, its height is 132 meters.

The modern church building is considered a restored version of 1762. The Church of St. Michael is the youngest and largest church in Hamburg. Its walls accommodate 2,500 visitors.

The main entrance to the church is decorated with a carved door, which is crowned with an expressive bronze sculptural composition, depicting the archangel Michael, striking the Devil with a spear.

What to see
The interior of the church of St. Michael in Hamburg is made in the shape of a cross. The marble altar forms the center of space. Due to the large number of windows, the church is always filled with light.

The first rows of benches, designed for representatives of the city parliament and distinguished guests, are noticeably wider and more comfortable than others and richly decorated.

A twenty-meter marble altar was completed in 1910 as part of restoration work. The altar painting depicts the risen Jesus Christ surrounded by archangels, as well as Roman soldiers. The altar is crowned with a sculptural image of the crucifix and the golden halo of the Holy Spirit. The altar table is decorated with a bronze relief depicting the Last Supper.

The baroque marble chair with Art Nouveau elements was made by the sculptor from Dresden Otto Lessing. The department of multi-colored marble was established in 1910 in the process of restoration work carried out in the church after a big fire.

Sculptural composition above the entrance to the church of St. Michael, © Evgenia Chekh
Church organs
There are five bodies in the church of St. Michael. Each of them has its own focus.

The central, largest organ, is designed to perform the works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

A concert organ located in the choirs of the north side of the nave is used to perform classical works of higher registers.

Another tool, Fernwerk, is located under the roof of the church. Its sounds reach the audience through a lattice gilded dormer in the ceiling of the church of St. Michael.

In 2010, after restoration work in the crypt, another organ appeared in the church, designed to perform chamber works from the time of Carl Philip Emanuel Bach.

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