Saturday, October 04, 2008


Hamburg’s Englische-Kirche—officially, The English Church Of Saint Thomas A. Becket—is another Hamburg church only yards away from Saint-Michaelis-Kirche.

The church has a long history. In 1611, merchants from Great Britain settled permanently in Hamburg, establishing the first British outpost of traders and bankers on the continent. With interruptions for various wars, this British presence in Hamburg has continued for almost 400 years. Currently over 100,000 British nationals reside in Hamburg, and their presence may be noted everywhere. Even British customs have seeped into the city’s habits, none more prominent than the English afternoon tea, now a Hamburg ritual. Hamburg is the only city on the European continent in which this English custom has taken root (but Hamburgers generally forgo sandwiches and scones, and simply have cake with their afternoon tea).

Within a year of British merchants arriving in Hamburg, the Anglican Church, under the control of the Bishop Of London, was granted religious freedom by Hamburg authorities. For over two centuries, British merchants in Hamburg were the only non-Lutherans permitted to worship in the city (by contrast, Hamburg authorities only granted Roman Catholics the right to worship in 1848), a conspicuous example of economic interests taking precedence over religious principles.

In 1807, during the Napoleonic occupation of Hamburg, the British Merchant Guild was expropriated by French officials. After France’s occupation of Hamburg ended, the British Merchant Guild was awarded compensation by The City Of Hamburg. The compensation was used to build Englische-Kirche.

Ole Jorgen Smid designed the church building, which was completed in 1838. Englische-Kirche is the purest Neo-Classic building in all of Hamburg. The church is of quadrangular construction, with a front façade decorated with a portico supported by four Ionic columns.

The interior is surrounded by a loft, and looks little different than the interiors of the many Neo-Classic churches of London erected at the same time.

The building was severely damaged by bombing in World War II and required thorough renovation after the war.

Hamburg’s Englische-Kirche is no longer governed by the Bishop of London. The Hamburg church is today subordinate to the Bishop Of Gibraltar.

We did not attend Anglican Service at Englische-Kirche. We were in Hamburg only for two Sundays, and we attended Sunday morning service at Saint-Michaelis-Kirche on one Sunday (because a Bach cantata was incorporated into the service, performed by soloist and orchestra) and on the other Sunday we attended Sunday morning service at a large, modern but nondescript church (because Mozart’s “Coronation” Mass was incorporated into the service, performed by soloists, chorus and orchestra).

However, on the Sunday morning we worshipped at nearby Saint-Michaelis, we made a quick visit to Englische-Kirche half an hour before Anglican Service was scheduled to begin in order to view the interior (the church is open only at service times). We were greeted warmly and openly, and we felt badly that we did not remain for service.

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