Friday, July 11, 2008

The Spires Of Hamburg

This postcard of Hamburg from the 1930’s shows five of the six principal spires of the city center, as well as the city’s largest and highest monument.

The monument in the lower right-hand corner is the Bismarck-Denkmal, a monument to Otto Von Bismarck, former Chancellor Of The German Reich and the force behind the unification of Germany. The statue of Bismarck is over fifty feet high. The base of the statue is of comparable height. It is both a brutal and a transfixing monument.

The Bismarck-Denkmal lies in the center of Alter Elbpark, the Old Elbe Park. The Old Elbe Park lies directly on The River Elbe, which flows one hundred yards to the right of the Bismarck-Denkmal.

During World War II, a giant air raid shelter was created at the base of the hill on which the monument rests. The shelter was constructed for area residents as well as for workers from the harbor. When we were in Hamburg, we located what we believed to have been two of the old entrances to the air raid shelter, now filled with concrete.

The large church in the forefront of the postcard is Saint-Michaelis-Kirche, Saint Michael’s Church. Saint Michael’s is Hamburg’s principal church as well as the city’s largest church. It was destroyed during the war, but rebuilt from the original plans. It is Hamburg’s most important Baroque building.

The three spires at the far left of the postcard are, respectively, the Rathaus, Saint-Petri-Kirche and Saint-Jacobi-Kirche. Saint Peter’s and Saint Jacob’s are both medieval North German churches. Saint Peter’s escaped damage during the war. The spire of Saint Jacob’s suffered a direct hit and collapsed, but the remainder of the structure was saved by the Hamburg fire squadrons. The spire was rebuilt after the war.

The spire on the right of the postcard, between Saint Michael’s and the Bismarck monument, is Saint-Katharinen-Kirche, another medieval North German church. Saint Catherine’s was destroyed during the war—only the walls and spire were left standing—but it was rebuilt at war’s end.

The sixth main spire of Hamburg cannot be seen in this postcard. The spire of Saint Michael’s conceals the spire of Saint-Nikolai-Kirche. Saint Nicholas’s Church was the newest of Hamburg’s five primary churches, designed by British architect George Gilbert Scott in the late 19th Century in the Neo-Gothic style so frequently encountered in London.

Saint Nicholas was destroyed during the war, and never rebuilt. Only its spire was left standing. The spire is still there, a memorial to the tens of thousands of Hamburg civilians who lost their lives during the conflagration.

Other than the spires that may be seen in the postcard, and other than the Bismarck monument, no other buildings in this postcard survived the war.

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