The Saint Nikolas Church was a neo-Gothic cathedral that was once one of five Lutheran main Churches in the city of Hamburg. The original building was completed in 1195. A brick church was built in the 14th-century, which was destroyed in a fire in 1842.
The church was completely rebuilt in 1874. Its 148-metre-high tower meant it was the tallest building in the world from 1874 to 1877. Today the tower is still the second tallest building in Hamburg after the television tower and the fifth tallest church in the world. In 2005, an elevator was installed on a platform 75-metres-high.
The old St. Nicholas Church was the first large public building to burn down in the great Hamburg fire in 1842. The chroniclers described the destruction of the St. Nicholas Church as the most moving event for the citizens. It was the first building to go up in flames and was an indication of how catastrophic the fire would be. Despite desperate efforts, the fire could not be stopped due to the equipment at the time.
During the Second World War, the bombings destroyed most of the church. The unique spire of the Church of St. Nicholas was used by allied air force pilots as a target and orientation marker during extensive air raids on Hamburg.
What makes this church even more unique is the wine store in the preserved cross vault of the cellar, which dates back to 1886. After the church's large boilers were replaced by a heating system in 1885, the areas formerly used for storing coal were rented to several wine shops in Hamburg. The cellar vault survived the destruction of the church during the war, unscathed.
If you go to see the church, make sure you check out the sculptures in the garden. Three bronze sculptures by Edith Breckwoldt were added in the early 2000s. The first one is called ‘Prayer For Peace’ (Friedengebet) and it portrays a kneeling, praying woman who is hugged by a child. The character aims to bridge the gap between a terrifying past and a hopeful future. The bronze figure of the Examination (Prüfung) was meant to be a reminder of all the horrors of the world wars.
The central figure is a six-metre-high bronze sculpture titled Earth Angel (Erdengel). The title and subtitle of the sculpture are written on the base in eight languages. The artist's message is "Take my hand and I'll lead you back to you" and is intended to express that all knowledge rests in people themselves, if they find their way back to themselves, they will also find peace.