Sightseeing in Lübeck
The main sights in Lübeck can be seen by walking from the Holstentor into the old town and along Breite Straße.
The massive brick, twin-tower Holstentor (Holsten Gate), the symbol of Lübeck, was erected in 1464-78. It was actually constructed before the city walls and clearly more intended to flaunt the city’s power and wealth rather than serve for defensive purposes. The less frequently photographed façade facing the city is artistically more impressive. It houses the Holstentor-Museum (Local History Museum). The large brick buildings south of the gate date from the 16th to 18th centuries and once served as salt stores (Salzspeicher).
A flight of stairs from Kolkstraße leads to the Petrikirche (St Peter’s Church), Schmiedestraße. This original triple-nave, mid-13th-century Romanesque church was altered to the Gothic style in the 14th century and two additional naves were added in the following two centuries. It was virtually destroyed during World War II but rebuilt. More interesting than the church itself, is the view from the top of the tower. It is reached by elevator and thus one of the most popular viewing platforms in the region. The church is a popular venue for concerts.
Lübeck’s two most impressive brick buildings, the Rathaus (Town Hall) and Marienkirche (St Mary’s Church), are adjacent to each other along Breite Straße.
The Rathaus was built from 1250 onwards. It is mostly of glazed, dark brick and built in an L-shape on two sides of the Marktplatz. It has characteristic high protective walls decorated with slender turrets. On ground level, it has Gothic arcades, still used by local traders for their intended purpose. On Breite Straße, it has a wonderful late 16th-century Dutch Renaissance external staircase. Up to 1669, the representatives of the Hanseatic League usually met at Lübeck in the Hansasaal. Across the road from the Rathaus is the famous Café Niederegger.
The monumental Marienkirche, at Schüsselbuden 13, served as a prototype for all northern Germany’s brick Gothic churches. The church was constructed between 1250 and 1350. It is the third-largest church in Germany and its 80-m (262-foot) central nave is the highest brick nave in the world, at 38½ m (126 feet), The spires are 125-m (410-feet) high. The church was damaged during an air raid in 1942. During the ensuing fire, most of the interior was lost but long-forgotten medieval wall paintings were laid bare and restored with the rest of the church. At the rear, two bells lie where they fell as reminders of the destructiveness of war.
[ Related page: Cathedrals in Germany. ]
Across the road from the church is the 1758 Baroque Buddenbrookhaus at Mengstraße 4. It belonged to the Mann family from 1841 to 1891 and Lübeck’s most famous sons, the writers Thomas and Heinrich Mann, spent several summers here. Thomas Mann, Nobel laureate for literature in 1929, used the house as the setting for his novel Die Buddenbrooks, which described the life and fall of a rich patrician family. The house was virtually destroyed during the war but the façade was restored. The modern interior houses the Heinrich and Thomas Mann Center, with displays on the two writers’ lives and works.
Northern Altstadt Area
At the far end of Breite Straße is the 1535 Schiffergesellschaft (Seamen’s Guild) house with a Renaissance exterior and a beautiful preserved interior. It is mostly wood paneled with rough wooden furniture and brass fittings as befits a seamen’s tavern. It houses a popular restaurant. Across the road is the small, Gothic triple- nave Jakobikirche (St James’s Church), Jakobikirchhof 5. More interesting than the mostly 14th-century church are the magnificently carved 16th-century organ lofts. A chapel with a damaged lifeboat commemorates the sinking of the training vessel Pamir, lost with all hands in 1957.
The Heiligen-Geist-Hospital (Holy Ghost Hospice), Am Koberg, founded in 1280, is one of the oldest social institutions in Europe. It originally served as an institution to take care of the sick, but gradually turned into an almshouse and later a house for the aged. Of special note are the Late Gothic wall paintings in the chapel as well as the large Gothic Langes Haus (Great Hall).
The Museumskirche St. Katharinen (St Catharine’s Church Museum), Königstraße, houses modern statues inside the 14th-century church. Some wall paintings from the 14th and 15th centuries survived.
Nearby is the Günther Grass-Haus , Glockengießerstra ße 21. Here the emphasis is not only on the 1999 Nobel Laureate for Literature’s written work, but also on his less well-known fine art works, including drawings, paintings, and sculptures.
Farther down Glockengießerstraße are several courtyards and passages (Höfe und Gänge) that housed social institutions. In the 17th century, several buildings here were erected for the poor and elderly. Of special note is the 1636 Baroque façade of the Füchtingshof (no 25).
The southern parts of the old town generally receive fewer visitors but two sights here are worth the slight detour.
The St Annen-Museum, St-Annen-Straße, is in a former monastery dating back to 1502. The monastery dissolved after the Reformation. Since 1915, the building has been used as a museum for religious art and cultural objects. The selection of carved altars is huge and includes a late 15th-century altar painted by Hans Memling.
The Dom (Cathedral), Mühlendamm 2-6, is the oldest building in town. It was founded in 1173 by the illustrious Heinrich the Lion but the original Romanesque church was converted and enlarged in a Gothic style during the 14th century. The Paradise Portal dates from 1260. The Late Gothic crucifix is a 15th-century masterpiece.
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