HAMBURG: Michel and Nikolai

For centuries, community life in German cities and towns centered on the church. In many places, it still does. Hamburg’s “senior” church probably is St. Michael’s.

St. Michaelis — or “Michel,” as Hamburg residents call it — is a city landmark and one of the most famous Baroque-style churches in northern Germany.
Spend some time at the central nave, which contains three organs.
Admire the lines of the choir loft and upper pew.
The interior architecture can be a bit breathtaking.
Pause by hidden burial vaults in the basement.
Head to the tower (ride the elevator for $5) for a 360-degree view of the city.
A view that includes, of course, the Elbphilharmonie.
Traditionally, Hamburg buildings would not rise higher than the church steeples, and Michel is said to have the tallest. If so, this view shows a close second, St. Nikolai.
On the walk to Nikolai, pause to touch the bright brass finger of Zitronenjette, who sold lemons on the streets here 100 years ago. Legend says that to touch her index finger brings luck.
Nikolai is no longer a working church in the conventional sense.
In its glory, it looked like this model in the vestibule.
Today, it serves the city as a reminder of the horror of war.
That horror was visited on Hamburg in July 1943 during the part of the WWII Allies’ air war called “Operation Gomorrha.”
Today, Nikolai invites quiet contemplation.
[Courtesy: Anne Swift]

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