All of these are my photographs except where noted otherwise. My photos are freely available especially to educators.
I saw from a cab the most famous of all of Lübeck's landmarks, the Holstentor, an old city gate.
This is the side of the gate that faces the town. Beyond in this photo is a bridge over the Trave River and beyond that is the railroad station.
The main thing I went to see was the Marienkirche, a major masterpiece of brick architecture in a coastal plain region where stone suitable for quarrying is in very short supply, but clay is abundant. It was built over a period of a century from about 1250 to 1350. It is not and never was a cathedral church. It was always the church of the mercantile oligarchy that ruled this premier city of the Hanseatic League. Its size and magnificence glorified God and also proclaimed the power and success of the mercantile dynasties who used the church as a place of worship and a burial place for centuries.
The size and ambition of the church, consciously modeled on French Gothic cathedrals of the time, was intended to be a challenge and a declaration of independence by the mercantile oligarchy from the local bishop. The Marienkirche originally dwarfed Lübeck's old Romanesque cathedral across town. The builders located the Marienkirche deliberately next to the market square and near the town hall, a declaration of the primacy of local authority over the claims of foreign bishops.
Dietrich Buxtehude was for many years the organist of the Marienkirche and made it famous for its music.
In 1705, the very young Johann Sebastian Bach walked all the way from Amstadt to Lübeck, a distance of 250 miles, just to hear Buxtehude perform and to learn from him.
Photo from here.
The RAF bombed Lübeck on March 28 - 29, 1942 in the first major saturation bombing of a German city, and a civilian target. Lübeck was a port city, but was primarily considered a cultural city of little strategic military value. The raid dropped incendiary bombs creating a firestorm that destroyed most of the city center and badly damaged three of the city's historic churches including the Marienkirche.
Here are the bells of the Marienkirche once again ringing out. Lübeck's church bells are famous for their very low and deep tone.
Among the casualties of the War and of restoration is the Marienkirche's Baroque Fredenhagen altarpiece, a very rare Protestant Baroque altar made by the Antwerp sculptor Thomas Quellinus in 1697. Quellinus apparently was a Catholic sculptor who worked for Protestant clients in northern Germany and Denmark for much of his life. The post War restorers made the still very controversial decision not to rebuild or restore the altarpiece. Its remains are now on display in the ambulatory behind the apse.
My favorite works of art in the Marienkirche are a series of stone reliefs in the ambulatory of the Passion of Christ by an artist I know nothing about, Heinrich Brabender, and his shop from 1515.
It has everything that I've come to value in German Renaissance art, especially a very imaginative sense of drama and emotion.
Gerrit sends us a link to Dutch language Wikipedia that has a little more information on Heinrich Brabender. It turns out that he was a native of Münster in Germany though his father probably was Dutch (Brabender/ Brabant). Though little is known about Brabender, he apparently was a successful artist in Münster, his career complicated by the stresses of the Reformation, especially after 1531 when the Reformation arrived in Münster. He fled or was driven out of Münster by the Anabaptist Uprising. Brabender returned to a devastated city finding much of his work there damaged or destroyed. He died in 1537.
These panels in the Marienkirche in Lübeck may well be his most significant and complete surviving works. According to the very bad and unclear Google translation of the Dutch Wikipedia article, much of the rest of his surviving work is fragments of destroyed projects or tomb slab and epitaph carvings.
Tres Riches Heures by the Limbourg Brothers.
Even so, I was a big fan of Thomas Mann's novels when I was in my 20s, and Buddenbrooks was definitely a favorite. My love of that novel and of Thomas Mann's writing was my main reason for traveling to Lübeck in the first place. My only regret is that I did not spend more time looking around this great city.
The Schiffergeselschaft is mentioned in Buddenbrooks, and is exactly as the novel describes it.