St. Catherine's Church, Hamburg
St. Catherine's Church (German: St. Katharinen) is one of the five principal Lutheran
Evangelical Church in Germany
The Evangelical Church in Germany is a federation of 22 Lutheran, Unified and Reformed Protestant regional church bodies in Germany. The EKD is not a church in a theological understanding because of the denominational differences. However, the member churches share full pulpit and altar...

 churches (Hauptkirchen) of Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. The base of its spire, dating from the 13th century, is the oldest building preserved in the city; after the lighthouse on Neuwerk
Neuwerk is a Wadden Sea island on the German North Sea coast and a homonymous quarter of the city of Hamburg, Germany, in the borough Hamburg-Mitte...

 island. It is situated on an island near what was formerly the southern boundary of the medieval city, opposite the historic harbour area on the Elbe
The Elbe is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Krkonoše Mountains of the northwestern Czech Republic before traversing much of Bohemia , then Germany and flowing into the North Sea at Cuxhaven, 110 km northwest of Hamburg...

 river. It traditionally served as the church of the seamen.


The earliest attestation to the existence of the church dates back to 1256. The main body, consisting of a triple nave, was rebuilt during the mid-15th century in the north German Brick Gothic
Brick Gothic
Brick Gothic is a specific style of Gothic architecture common in Northern Europe, especially in Northern Germany and the regions around the Baltic Sea that do not have natural rock resources. The buildings are essentially built from bricks...

 style. In 1657 a Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 rooftop was added to the spire, which thus reached a height of 115 meters. The church was heavily damaged in an air-raid during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, on 30 July 1943. It left only the outer walls and the base of the spire standing. The building was restored between 1950 and 1957.

The Church has had a number of famous organists and composers who were either employed or played the Organ there. The Church had an organ as early as the late 15th century, but it was replaced by a new organ built by Hans Stellwagen. This large organ was rebuilt in 1670 and was repaired by Johann Friederich Besser, at which time Johann Mattheson provided a stoplist of its ranks; some 58 stops and approximately 88 ranks (which at that time may have made it the largest organ in the world) disposed over 4 manuals and pedals. Among the organists who played here were Johann Adam Reinken, who was organist there for more than 40 years, and Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach first visited the church in the summer of 1701 and played here again in October/November 1720 when he auditioned for the post of organist at the nearby Jacobikirche. Bach greatly admired this organ, which featured two 32-foot ranks in the pedal, with four 16-foot ranks on the Hauptwerk (or Great) division and 16 diagonal shoe bellows to supply the wind to the instrument's windchests. Repairs were made in 1742, and a new lavishly carved decorated case was built; it was adorned with gilding and cherubs along with statues of angels playing trumpets. The organ and its case, though, were destroyed during bombing of Hamburg during the Second World War.

Famous pastors have included Joachim Westphal
Joachim Westphal (of Hamburg)
Joachim Westphal was a German "Gnesio-Lutheran" theologian....

 and Philipp Nicolai
Philipp Nicolai
Philipp Nicolai was a German Lutheran pastor, poet, and composer, author of two famous hymns: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme and Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern...


Further reading

  • Johann Melchior Goeze
    Johann Melchior Goeze
    Johann Melchior Goeze was a Lutheran pastor and theologian during the period of Late Orthodoxy....

    : Homily of 1759 to contemplate the reconstruction of the tower of the church in 1659. Erneuertes Andenken der im Jahr 1659, den 3ten Febr. glücklich vollendeten Wiederherstellung des Thurms und der Hauptkirche zu St. Catharinen in Hamburg : welche im Jahr 1648, den 15ten Februar, durch einen erschröcklichen Sturmwind zerbrochen und verwüstet worden : Durch eine Dank- und Gedächtnis-Predigt Hamburg, 1759.
  • Peter Stolt: Liberaler Protestantismus in Hamburg - im Spiegel der Hauptkirche St. Katharinen. Verein für Hamburgische Geschichte, Hamburg 2006. ISBN 3-935413-11-4
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