The Church of Saint Nicholas in Hamburg

The Church of Saint Nicholas in HamburgThe Church of Saint Nicholas in Hamburg is now in ruins but still serves as a memorial and an important architectural landmark of the city. The church was the tallest building in the world from 1874 to 1876 and is still the second-tallest building in Hamburg next to the TV tower.

The Church is in a ruined condition owing to the air raids during the World War II followed by its demolition in 1951. It was only 1990s that the ‘Rescue the Church of St. Nicholas foundation’ took up the responsibility of its restoration with the support of the city of Hamburg, the congregation of the Church of St. Nicholas and various corporate sponsors and private contributors.

The original church was in typical North German Brick Gothic style and stood so until the middle of the 19th century, undergoing changes, expansions, and withstanding several partial destructions. The Church of St. Nicholas was heavily involved in all the theological debates that were fought out in the city, especially during the Reformation.

The old Church of St. Nicholas engulfed in the great fire of May 1842 being the first large public building to be destroyed by this fire. Shortly after the fire, the church was redesigned by the English architect George Gilbert Scott, who designed an 86 meter-long nave, with a 28 meter-high vault. The church mostly reflected French and English gothic styles, though the pointed spire is typically German.

On 28 July 1943 the aerial bombs by the allied forces damaged the church. The roof collapsed and the interior of the nave suffered heavy damage. The walls began to show cracks, yet neither they nor the spire collapsed. However, the basic structure of the gothic church remained intact to a large extent and reconstruction was a realistic option.

The spire and some remains of the wall were preserved as a memorial against the war. Later the rescue foundation attempted to salvage pieces of rubble that were removed in 1951. They also installed a 51-bell carillon as a memorial.

Since 1 September 2005, an elevator has taken visitors to a 75.3 metre-high platform inside the spire to enjoy history panels and a panoramic view over Hamburg.