St. John's Church, Lüneburg

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Church of John the Baptist with its slightly sloping steeple

The Church of John the Baptist (Germ. St. Johannis or Johanniskirche) is the oldest Lutheran church in Lüneburg, Germany. It is located in the city center. Lüneburg is on the European Route of Brick Gothic and the Church of John the Baptist is an example of this style of architecture.


The Church of John the Baptist is considered an important example of northern German Brick Gothic architecture. The five-naved hall church was erected between 1300 and 1370 and repaired in 1420. In the early 15th century Conrad of Soltau, as Conrad III Prince-Bishop of Verden, failed to make St. John's the new cathedral of his see, since the city council and the Prince of Lüneburg resisted that fearing the political interference of another power. The outer structure was marked by rebuilding in 1765. Particularly striking is the lightly sloping steeple, which at a height of 108 meters is the highest church steeple in Lower Saxony. The stained-glass in the Elisabeth Chapel was made by Charles Crodel in 1969.


The baroque organ in the Johanniskirche

The church's organ was finished in 1553 by Hendrik Niehoff and Jasper Johansen and rebuilt in 1714 by Arp Schnitger student, Matthias Dropa and in the later 20th century by Rudolf von Beckerath. Among its noted organists were Christian Flor (1676–1697) and Georg Böhm (1698–1733). As a young man Johann Sebastian Bach was resident (1700–1702) at the nearby Michaeliskirche, where he appears to have been a kind of organ scholar. Noted Bach scholar Christoph Wolff says Böhm gave Bach organ lessons at St. Johannis.

The organ has been featured on BBC television as part of the project "21st century Bach" in which John Scott Whiteley plays historic organs.


The 108-meter-high spire of the church looks as though it is sloping from each side: the truss on the upper part is twisted into a corkscrew shape. A legend states that when the master builder noticed the mistake, he fell from an upper window in the church tower; however, he landed on a passing haywagon, so he lived. Feeling that he had been vindicated by God, the master went into a local tavern to celebrate. After a few too many drinks he leaned back in his chair and fell over. As he fell he hit his head on the stone hearth of the fireplace and was killed.

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  • The information in this article is based on that in its German equivalent.

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Coordinates: 53°14′52″N 10°24′46″E / 53.24778°N 10.41278°E / 53.24778; 10.41278