Visit the third-largest church in Germany in the City of the 7 Spires and discover what the devil, a mouse and St. Mary's church have in common in Lübeck's Old Town.
St. Mary's is the church of the Council of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck. The brick basilica serves as a model for the Gothic brick style of churches in the Baltic region. For the first time, the Gothic cathedral style of France was adapted to the local brick.
Numerous works of arts are to be found in St. Mary's interior: The Cross of Triumph by Gerhard Marcks in the high choir above the Swarte Altar from 1495 is as much at home here as the largest mechanical organ in the world. The well-known church musician and composer Dietrich Buxtehude was St. Mary's organist and work master from 1667 to 1707.
The commemorative chapel in the south tower with its church bells possesses a unique expressive power. The bells plunged to the stone floor during the 1942 air raids. The Gothic brick basilica has a medieval painting, the largest peel of bells in Schleswig-Holstein and a carillon with 36 bells from St. Catherine's Church in Danzig.
The two danse macabre windows take the motif and figures from the frieze of the Lübeck danse macabre burned in 1942.
There are three tales that are told about St. Mary's:
1.) The legend of Rosemary the church mouse
Many hundreds of years ago, when St. Mary's was still quite new, a large rose bush grew next to the church. The people of Lübeck believed that as long as the bush flowered ,their city would remain free. But one morning the rose bush had withered and dried out. A mouse, so it is said, had made its nest in its roots.
And soon afterwards, Lübeck was handed to the Danes. When the town was free once more, the town council had the mouse carved into stone behind the choir - as a reminder that dire misfortune can arise from a lesser evil overnight.
But, over the centuries the small church mouse has won a place in the hearts of the people of Lübeck. They called her Rosemary and touching the small stone mouse will bring luck. Or, at least, that's what they say.
2.) The legend of the St. Mary's devil
As the people of Lübeck were building St. Mary's, along came the devil and asked what they were building. "A large tavern", they lied so as not to anger him. A tavern? A place of vice and drunkenness?" This pleased the devil and he gave a hand so that the building quickly grew.
Only when the church was nearly finished did the devil see that the people of Lübeck had tricked him. Furious, he picked up a huge boulder so as to destroy the building again. Then they said to him that they wanted to really build a large tavern right next door, the Ratskeller. The devil dropped the boulder so that it fell close to the church. And there it lies today with a bronze devil created by the sculptor Rolf Goerler in 1999, sitting on top.
3.) The legend of "old-as-stone"
An old, rich Lübeck merchant didn't want to die. Whenever Death came to fetch him, he sent him away. Finally, he became so old that he didn't know anybody any more as everybody had died before him, even his children and grandchildren.
Now, he no longer wanted to live anymore but Death wouldn't come to him. One night, the merchant went looking for him in St. Mary's. He climbed up a ladder that the workmen had left behind, onto the roof and waited. He waited so long that he shrivelled up and turned to stone.
From outside, if you look high up the Epistle Chapel you will recognise him: a weathered stone figure showing the fearful cowering form of an old man.
Tel.: +49 (0) 4 51/39 77 00
4th Oct - 10th Jan: Daily 10 am - 5 pm
11th Jan - 31st March: Daily 10 am - 4 pm
1st April - 3rd Oct: Daily 10 am - 6 pm
Adults: € 2.00
Admission is free for children, youngsters, members of the congregation and visitors who only wish to pray in the church.
Students, job applicants, people with disabilities, Hartz-IV recipients and visitors on a guided tour of ten or more: € 1.50
The Marientaler is not charged for attending church services and midday devotions.
Guided tours in St. Mary's Church:
From 2nd May to 31st Oct: weekdays at 12.15 pm
From 2nd May to 30th Sept: additionally at 3 pm weekdays
From 26th Nov to 23rd Dec: weekdays at 12.15 pm
Duration approx. 1 hour.
Special and thematic tours possible.
Prices and dates on request, call +49 (0) 4 51/7 73 91
Tip: Photos with little devil, stroke the mouse, midday devotions organ music