Landmark with a rich history

It has been standing here for more than 350 years - an age to be proud of, even for a venerable landmark. Hamburg’s main church the Saint Michaelis has been part of the city now for so long and it is affectionately called the “Michel”. And it has experienced quite a lot: fairy-tale weddings, state funerals and the first female pastor of the St. Michaelis parish. Further, the church is a favorite attraction of those visiting Hamburg, for plenty of good reasons. To begin with there is the Baroque architecture, which invites you to look and linger. And once you have gotten to know a few of the anecdotes around the Michel you then begin to see the church with different eyes.

For example, only few know what the church has to do with a megaphone: Hans Georg Sonnin, one of the architects invented one so he could instruct his builders in lofty heights. And this was just one of the ingenious ideas he had while reconstructing the church between 1750 and 1786. What you need to know is the Michel, as we know it today, was build on the ruins of another church that burnt to the ground after being struck by lightning. For the new construction to proceed rapidly, Sonnin invented a lifting mechanism that made it possible to carry away pieces of the ruins as a whole instead of stone for stone. The tower itself was finally completed 24 years later and was for the seafarers, who essentially shaped life in Hamburg, the first and last thing they saw of their city.

Yet it isn’t exactly this church that characterizes the city today: in 1906 while working on the roof truss there was again a severe fire and the Michel had to be rebuilt in the years following albeit the same as before. And it is still impressive to this very day. That is true for the radiant white interior with the golden ornamentation as well as for the façade.

It is the little stories on the side that make the Michel’s history really lively. Did you know, for example, that the church was almost turned into horse stables? That was 1811 when Hamburg was occupied by the French and the idea could only be averted because wealthy merchants arranged for the necessary stalls for the French soldiers elsewhere.