Wednesday, August 31, 2011

LUBECK PART 2: The Rest of It

Warning: This post highlights two more churches in Lubeck.  If you are sick of German churches, I'm sorry--you'll just have to tough it out.

CHURCH #1: As the third largest church in all of Germany and the tallest structure in Lubeck, St. Mary's Lutheran Church is hard to miss.  Built between 1250 and 1350 and restored between 1947 and 1959, it has the tallest brick vault in the world. Now that's sayin' something!

Thank you, Wikipedia, for this marvelous photo that far exceeds any of my poor attempts.
The very, VERY impressive vaulted ceiling:
St. Mary's was almost destroyed in World War II in the same March 1942 bombing raid that took down the Lubeck Cathedral:

Wikipedia gives this interesting insight: "Because of the devastating effect of the fire and the bombing, wooden construction of the roof and spires was dispensed with. Instead, all the spires of churches in L├╝beck rebuilt after the war utilized a specially developed construction procedure, in which the roof comprised a layer of lightweight concrete underneath a layer of copper. The copper covering would match the original design and the concrete roof would avoid the possibility of a second fire."

The organ, unfortunately, was completely destroyed.  This is particularly tragic for Lubeckers because the story is that Johann Sebastian Bach came to Lubeck in 1705 to study with St. Mary's famous organist Dietrich Buxtehude.  Scheduled to stay only four weeks, he ended up staying three months! (Of course, there are those who say Buxtehude's unmarried daughter may have something to do with that.)  See the memorial plaque below and the new organ nestled up in the nosebleed part of the church:

These two bells crashed to the floor during the 1942 bombing, and they were left where they fell as a powerful reminder of the War:

This crucifix was also saved from the ashes, and left unrestored (though on a new cross):

Note Christ's missing left arm.
There are some beautiful sandstone reliefs that were also recovered, including the Savior washing the disciples' feet:

The Last Supper:

The sleeping apostles at the Garden of Gethsemane:

I think this World War I memorial, crosses wrapped in what appear to be bandages, is especially poignant:

All of the windows, ALL of them, were completely destroyed in the War.  We were a bit surprised to see what they were replaced with:

Andrew, check out the raven.
In fact, there are skulls all over the interior of St. Mary's. The clerk told us they represent the unity and universality of life and death.

After all that religious imagery, it was a bit of a shock to see this huge clock marked with astrological symbols hanging on the wall:

One of my favorite "art pieces" at St. Mary's is actually out in the courtyard:

The Devil and Bob Cannon.  Sculpture added to St. Mary's in 1999.
A sign next to this lovely statue reads (in English), "When the first stones of St. Mary were laid the devil believed that this building would be a wine bar.  He liked the idea, because many souls had already found their way to him after frequently visiting such a place.  So he mixed with the crowd and started to help the workers.  No wonder that the building grew higher and higher amazingly fast.  But one day the devil had to realise what the building would really be.  Full of anger he grabbed a huge boulder to smash the walls that were already standing.  He was just flying near through the air when a bold fellow shouted to him: 'Just stop it, Mr. Devil! Leave what has already been erected!  For you we will build a wine bar just here in the neighbourhood!' The devil was very pleased with this idea.  He dropped the boulder beside the wall, where it is lying until this day.  One can still see the devil's claws on the stone.  And just opposite the church the workers built the wine cellar of the Town Hall." 

CHURCH #2: St. Jacob's Lutheran Church, completed in 1334, is the church of boatmen and seafarers. It was mostly spared during the 1942 bombing that did so much damage to the rest of the city.
I think this pieta on the altar is stunning.  I love the relaxed draping of Christ's body and the somewhat distressed look on Mary's tilted face:
 It is part of the glorious altar:

Quidditch, anyone? (Sorry.  I couldn't resist.)

 We almost missed this World War I memorial tucked away in a corner.  The huge bas relief soldier (10 to 12 feet tall) is clad in heavy winter clothing
The bricks surrounding him bear the names of citizens of Lubeck who died in the war, listed by the year of their deaths:

 The church is full of surprises, including this whimsical candle holder and the faces on those organ pipes in the background.

. . . and the wreck of a lifeboat from a ship that disappeared in 1957, carrying all on board to their deaths:

The best surprise of all was that we came during organ practice and had our very own private organ concert:

In conclusion (I know--it's about time!), here are just a few more sights from around this beautiful city:

(Hee hee!)

Do you think this could be Banksy's work?

Breakfast  (*Drool*)

And finally, since this is my last post about Germany, I have to include what I wrote in my travel journal at the end of this day in Lubeck:
"I can't help but miss my mom these last two days in her beautiful home country.  I find myself somewhat melancholy as I wish to share this experience with her.  I think of her when the church bells ring, when I look up at the soaring church spires, when I notice the lush window boxes and gardens, when my feet start to feel the effects of a day walking on cobblestones, when I see the familiar red and white Niederegger marzipan wrappers, when I hear the gutteral German language in the air around me.  Now I have a thousand more questions about Germany and her life here that I wish I could ask her.  There are too many things I will never know."

Next destination: Copenhagen, Denmark

Monday, August 29, 2011


After our night in Berlin, we were up early and off on a long bus ride to Lubeck, Germany, the largest German port on the Baltic Sea (population 214,000) and former capital of the Hanseatic League, but not until we had consumed another wonderful, gut-expanding breakfast, complete with delicious wurst, cheeses, pickled herring and beet salad.

Even in our food-induced stupor, we found the scenery between Berlin and Lubeck very interesting:

The windmills reminded me of the Palm Springs area, but the lush green fields certainly didn't.

We passed field after field covered in brilliant red poppies.

I wish I could have gotten out of the bus to get a less blurry picture.

After a few hours, we arrived in Lubeck and checked into our hotel next door to the famous Holsten Gate, built in stages beginning around 1200 A.D.:
Like so many European cities, this beautiful canal encircles the city and creates a relaxed, wonderful ambience:

Germans know how to "do" front doors:

I loved the linden trees in bloom all over the city.  They took me back to my childhood home, where my mother had planted two linden trees in the front yard.  Oma, my German grandmother, used to spread out the linden blossoms on a sheet on our patio redwood table, then brew a tea from the dried blossoms.

The Lubeck Lutheran Cathedral is one of the more imposing structures in Lubeck, and also one of the oldest, having been started in the 12th century by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria.  Its red brick construction and green steeples are mimicked by other churches all over the city.
Legend has it that in the 8th century Charlemagne, hunting in the wooded area that was to become Lubeck, captured a large deer.  Instead of killing it, he draped a heavy gold chain across its antlers.  Four hundred years later, Henry wanted to build a cathedral in Lubeck but did not have the money.  One day while walking the in the woods around the village, he killed a deer and discovered a diamond-encrusted crucifix in its antlers.  When he removed the crucifix, the deer sprang back to life and ran away, and Henry the Lion had his money to begin construction on the cathedral.

Monument to Henry the Lion in the Cathedral yard

Tragically, in March 1942 a bombing raid destroyed a fifth of Lubeck and much of the the cathedral was lost:
Reconstruction, begun shortly after the War ended, was completed in 1982.  As a result, the interior has a very modern feel, including this stained glass window that is an explosion of color and shape:
 . . . and this organ with its clean and simple lines:
The crucifix, however, is the original, rescued from the ruins of the building:
 . . . and the baptistry is an interesting blend of medieval and modern:
This crypt of the cathedral's first bishop, who died in 1341, was also preserved.  I especially like how even in death his hand is raised to bless (although I suppose it could be rigor mortis):

The tedious work of restoration must be an ever-present need:

Just down the street from the Lubeck Cathedral is the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, consecrated in 1891 and the only Catholic church in Lubeck:

Note the picture of the four men on the side of the building.  More about them later.
 I wasn't quite as impressed with this Pieta as I have been with others I have seen:

(Speaking of rigor mortis...)
 But the stained glass windows, with their glowing reds and repeating patterns, are unique and dazzling:

I also loved this block print:
. . . and this beautiful, tender, and very detailed crucifixion scene that includes angels flying around the figure of Christ on the cross:
However, my favorite part of the Sacred Heart church is without question the story of these three Catholic bishops and one Lutheran pastor who were guillotined on November 10th, 1943, for speaking against the Nazi regime.
We were in Lubeck on June 14th, just eleven days before two cardinals from Rome were coming to the city to beatify the three Catholic priests and honor the Lutheran pastor. I wish we could have been there for that event!

Lubeck certainly has beautiful churches, but nothing quite matches the beauty of its most famous export, MARZIPAN.  Lubeckers claim that marzipan was invented here, either during a time of famine or during a military seige when all the citizens had left to eat was almonds and sugar. Anyone who likes marzipan (as I do) has no doubt eaten some from Lubeck, home to the most famous marzipan brand, Niederegger:

There was a wonderful marzipan store, chock full of all kinds of marzipan confections:
 We really enjoyed the on-site bakery:

- - - AND the ice cream shop just outside the front door:

What? Only ONE scoop?
 Not far from the Niederegger Marzipan Store is the charming town square:
 This model of the city center shows the canal that encircles it and the seven churches that are found in a very small area:

COMING NEXT: The rest of Lubeck