Friday, October 03, 2008


Hamburg’s Saint-Ansgar-Kirche lies on the site of the original Saint-Michaelis-Kirche and, consequently, has been known as “Kleiner Michel” (“Little Michael”) ever since Saint-Michaelis-Kirche relocated and rebuilt on a much larger scale almost four hundred years ago. Saint-Ansgar-Kirche is located only 200 yards from today’s Saint-Michaelis-Kirche.

The first Saint-Michaelis-Kirche was a cemetery chapel built in 1600 and enlarged six years later. That building was demolished in 1750 since it was no longer needed, a “new” Saint-Michaelis-Kirche having been constructed from 1647 to 1669. However, when the “new” Saint-Michaelis-Kirche was destroyed by lightning only a few months after the original Saint-Michaelis had been demolished, “Kleiner Michel” was hastily rebuilt in order to offer the parish at least a temporary home. That 18th-Century building was to survive until World War II.

In 1807, “Kleiner Michel” was made available to Napoleonic occupying forces for Catholic masses, there being at the time no Catholic churches within Hamburg’s town borders (practice of Catholicism had been prohibited in Hamburg from the time of The Reformation).

In 1824, The City Of Hamburg purchased “Kleiner Michel”. The city donated the building to the Catholic Church once Catholic worship was again permitted in the city starting in 1848.

The 18th-Century building was destroyed by bombs in 1943. A new church of brick construction was raised after the war. This new church was consecrated to Saint Ansgar, the founding figure of Christianity in Northern Germany.

Saint-Ansgar-Kirche is a very handsome church, and we enjoyed visiting it very much. It is anything but a small church, but it certainly does not approach the vast scale of nearby Saint-Michaelis-Kirche, which indeed does make a dwarf of “Kleiner Michel”.

The photograph below shows the rear of Saint-Ansgar-Kirche, with Saint-Michaelis-Kirche in the background. Saint-Ansgar is typical of Hamburg buildings in that it has very detailed, even intricate brick construction and features architectural elements borrowed from Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque architecture as practiced throughout Northern Europe. The modern-day bell tower, naturally, looks out of place in such a fine building.

The church maintains an active professional concert schedule. We did a good amount of concert-going while we were in Hamburg, but we did not catch a concert at Saint-Ansgar, primarily because we found programs at other concert venues more appealing to us.

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