Lubeck, on Germany’s Baltic coast is a picture perfect medieval town – a UNESCO heritage site. Once the capital of the former Schleswig Holstein, an independent fiefdom, Lubeck formed part of the Hanseatic League, an alliance formed in medieval times to protect trade in Baltic waters but also to ward off pirates. The interdependence and trade connection accounts for many similarities in the charming regional architecture – red brick cathedrals, tiled gatehouse turrets and gingerbread houses. It is in the Baltic too, that there is still tangible evidence of more recent historic events – World War II and the Cold War.
When the heart of a city is bombed
This was no more poignantly seen for me than in Lubeck. At its heart is St Mary’s Church, built in the North German Gothic style in red brick it towers over the surrounding buildings in the town. It also boasts the highest nave in Europe at a height of 38,5 meters, making it a building of enormous architectural significance, as well as the world’s largest organ. In 1942 it was nearly entirely destroyed by allied bombing, and one can still see the remains of the broken bells in the south tower, which fell to the ground in the fire that followed.
It’s a curious thing that the town, which has been dubbed the “Marzipan Capital of the World”, Niederegger shop believed to date back to the 12th Century. If you can imagine a town that went about its business for centuries and then had its heart bombed out of it with the destruction of the St Mary’s church. The horror I imagine to be same anywhere. Still in this pristine small city you can still sense the reverberation of the blow.
Despite the meticulous restoration of the church using the same now blackened brick and its surrounds, a poignancy lingers about the place, and nowhere more witnessed than in the church. The raw white washed walls, despite their best efforts, can’t erase the sorrow of the event. It is etched everywhere within the building, from the marble sculptures with with chopped fingers, or scarred faces, to memorial stain glass windows, who lead bends as though melted by the fire of incendiary bombs or the bells – oh the bells – that lie still in a broken heap untouched since their fall.
Outside in the brilliant sunshine, residents in the small city go about their business. A craft market spills out in the market square and the rebuilt Niederreger shop and restaurant bustle with the tourist trade. It’s back to business in the 21st century. By the way, don’t ask for Brutwurst here – you will be reminded in no uncertain terms that this is not Bavaria but the Baltic, and the staple of all Lubeckians? No surprises….fish.
The visit to Lubeck was made on AzamaraQuest, enabled by Cruises International