St. Lorenz, Nuremberg

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St. Lorenz
St Lawrence
Nürnberg St. Lorenz Türme Totale.jpg
West facade of the St Lorenz
AffiliationEvangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusParish Church
Direction of façadeW
Width (nave)10.4m
Height (max)80.0m

St. Lorenz (St. Lawrence) is a medieval church of the former free imperial city of Nuremberg in southern Germany. It is dedicated to Saint Lawrence. The church was badly damaged during the Second World War and later restored. It is one of the most prominent churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.


The nave of the church was completed by around 1400. In 1439, work began on the choir in the form of a hall church in the late German Sondergotik style of Gothic architecture. The choir was largely completed by 1477 by Konrad Roriczer,[1] although Jakob Grimm completed the intricate vaults.

In the choir one can find the carving of the Angelic Salutation by Veit Stoss, and the monumental tabernacle by Adam Kraft. The latter includes a prominent figure of the sculptor himself.

The building and furnishing of the church was cared of by the city council and by wealthy citizens. This is probably the reason why the art treasures of St. Lawrence were spared during the iconoclasm during the Reformation period. Despite St. Lawrence being one of the first churches in Germany to be Lutheran (1525), the wealthy citizens of Nuremberg wanted to preserve the memory of their ancestors and refused the removal of the donated works of art.

The west facade is richly articulated, reflecting the wealth of the Nuremberg citizens. The facade is dominated by the two towers, mirroring St. Sebald and indirectly Bamberg Cathedral with a sharp towering West portal doorway, and an indented rose window 9 metres in diameter.

Controversy and Debate[edit]

Presently a vigorous debate is going on, nation-wide, about controversial plans of the local Lutheran parish, to build up some 190 sq. m., about a third of the main part of the cathedral, with offices, storage rooms, kitchens, shops, etc., in the whole narthex, the entrance area, and the side aisles. The height of these installations would be three floors.

Massive critique has been voiced by the historian of art, Prof. Dr. Stefan Trinks (Humboldt Univ. Berlin),in an article in the renowned Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), 11th February, 2021. Previously, the warden of cultural heritage of the city of Nuernberg, Dr. Claudia Maué (Germanisches Nationalmuseum), had rejected the plans sharply. Officials of the bureau for historic monuments of the State of Bavaria, and in the city, and other specialists, followed.

The plans for the projected massive installations are judged to change the character of the cathedral permanently, since the interior shape of a gothic church comprises all its parts: the narthex, the nave, the aisles, the transept, the choir, etc., as a unified whole, with each of the elements having a specific spiritual and theological symbolism. All of them contribute to the meaning of a cathedral, as 'representation of paradise'. This is marked symbolically at the main portal on the west side: to the left and right the nude figures of Adam and Eve, covered in leaves, represent mankind outside the gates of Paradise. In the central tympanum, the depiction of the Final Judgement indicates the ‘eschatological’('future salvation')aspect of the cathedral, and its present meaning, as a site of ‘purification’, repentance, and redemption. Two bronze gates flank the statue of the Virgin Mary with Jesus Christ on her arms. The main gates are only opened ritually, on special occasions. The present plans are to open the main gates permanently. Presently access is through a small port to the side.

The present plans, that connect the permanent opening of the main portal, with an extensive build-up of secular rooms in the cathedral, ignore the significance of the portal (and of the narthex),as threshold between the ‘profane’ (literally: ‘outside of the temple’), and the sacred space, constructed as symbolic restitution of ‘paradise’. Far more severe, than the proposal, to open the main gates regularly for visitors, is the project to build in rooms for secular purposes, with various functions, such as storage rooms, community centre, cafeteria etc., in the first third of the cathedral.

The 'mystagocic' character and symbolism of this cathedral would be permanently damaged. The programmatic character of the St. Lorenz cathedral, is affirmed by its unique sculpture, the 'Salutation of the Virgin Mary', the 'Annunciation', by Veit Stoss, 1447, suspended in the heart of the cathedral, the 'crossing.' Here the wings of the angel are depicted as of peacock feathers. They symbolize the arrival of the messenger from Paradise. St. Mary, who receives him, symbolizes the Church, the Christian faithful, and the Christian community. The cathedral symbolizes a sacred space, in the image of 'Paradise', with graded steps of access to the sanctuary.

In the perspective of ecclesiology (the 'theology of the Church'), important to the Middle Ages, the 'hortus conclusus' motif, the 'closed garden' of the church as 'paradise', that is ritually accessed in liturgy and prayer, also has a Marianic dimension: the body of the Virgin Mary, and the 'body' of the cathedral refer to each other. To rededicate a large part of the cathedral to secular purposes, and to build up these parts, amounts to a gesture of violation of this 'sacred body', that is embodied in the cathedral, as indicated by some of its works of sacred art.

By using one third of the interior space for 'secular installations', this symbolism would be deliberately 'deconstructed' architecturally. The cathedral's character as a 'shrine' would be affected, in entirety by this intentional 'secularization' of its entrance realm.

The symbolic meaning of this cathedral as a 'shrine' was important in the Middle Ages, when the crown regalia of the Empire were deposited (ritually) here. In this role as 'shrine of the nation', the St. Lorenz Cathedral corresponds to the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris. Presently Notre Dame is being restored with immense financial support, in the heart of secular Paris, and of France, to restore its previous shape, damaged and almost destroyed by fire. On this background, the plans for the St. Lorenz Church are, to subvert this character as a shrine, by reducing the 'sacred space' to the eastern half, while reassigning the western third to secular purposes - regardless of its historical meaning.

In defence of this projected 'build-up', spokespersons for the project aver, that the installations of glass and metal could be removed again. This is being disputed. The plans that have so far been advanced in secrecy, have recently become published. The installation of rooms for secular functions in the aisles - that would be built up - deconstructs the distinction of 'sacred' and 'profane' that is fundamental to the architectural meaning of this cathedral.

The de-construction of the 'sacred space' is deliberate - to judge from announcements by those responsible. The expressed intention is, to 'lower the threshold' for access, and to 'open the church for society'. This does not explain the necessity for such massive installations, of rooms for an array of secular functions. These are alleged as necessary to find storage room for chairs. Another argument that has been voiced, is that the parish doesn't need that much space for worship any more. This indicates that the 'sacred space' in the cathedral may be further reduced in future.

By implication, the character of the cathedral as a 'temple', as sacred shrine in its entirety, is disputed. Thus the ground being prepared for its further secular transformation. Similar transformations, by extensive 'build-ins', have been made already, in historic churches of Nuernberg, such as the gothic Martha-Kirche. This church is referred to as precedent for the transformation of St. Lorenz. In case this project is permitted by the state authorities, a legal precedent would be set nation-wide.

From the perspective of church music, a prize winner of the international organ contest at the Internationale Orgelwoche - Musica Sacra (ION), in Nürnberg, (professor) Sebastian Küchler-Blessing, Essen, declared (in translation):

"This church is unique ... The effect of its space is incomparable. The architecture breathes majestic space ... The special acoustics contribute to this singular position - this place of worship is an integral piece of art,in the entirety of its present manifest form. These radical measures are like blows with a fist. They would be an architectural declaration of bancruptcy of aesthetics of our time." 

in: FAZ, 11th Feb. 2021, opinion piece to article by S. Trinks on the plans for installation of profane rooms in St. Lorenz - see article reference below.)


The hall choir including the sacrament house by Adam Kraft

The church has three organs.

  • Main organ. Steinmeyer, Oettingen, 1937 rebuilt by Klais Orgelbau, Bonn, 2003. 5 manuals
  • Stephans Organ. Steinmeyer op. 34 from 1862 formerly in the Evangelical Lutherin Church, Hersbruck, Restored in 2002 by Klais Orgelbau, Bonn. 2 manual
  • Laurentius Organ. Klais Orgelbau, Bonn 2005. 3 manual.

Coordinates: 49°27′04″N 11°04′41″E / 49.451°N 11.0780555556°E / 49.451; 11.0780555556

Organists of St. Lorenz[edit]

The church has employed organists for over 500 years, many of them prominent musicians within Bavaria. Amongst the famous names are the following:

  • Nicholas Pair (Bayer) ca. 1448
  • Hans Seber 1510 - 1517
  • Hans Feller 1517 - 1525
  • Interregnum from 1525
  • Georg Nötteleins ???? - 1565
  • Paulus Lautensack 1565 - 1571
  • Wilhelm Ende 1571 - 1581
  • Kasper Hassler 1587 - 1616
  • Johann Staaten 1611 - 1618[2]
  • Valentin Dretzel 1618 - 1634
  • Sigmund Theophil Staden 1634 - 1655
  • Albrect Martin Lunßdörffer 1688 - 1694
  • Johann Löhner 1694 - 1705[3]
  • Wolfgang Förtsch 1705 - 1743
  • Cornelius Heinrich Dretzel 1743 - 1764
  • Johann Siebenkees 1764 - 1772
  • Johann Gottlieb Frör 1814 - 1823
  • Georg Friedrich Herrscher 1843 - 1870
  • Carl Christian Mattäus 1871 - 1914
  • Carl Böhm 1913 - 1917
  • Walther Körner 1918 - 1962


  • [[Angelic Salutation (Stoss)



  1. ^ Frankl, 1960, p. 149.
  2. ^ The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. Don Michael Randel. Harvard University Press.
  3. ^ Companion to Baroque Music. Julie Anne Sadie. University of California Press. 1998

<Trinks, Stefan, "St. Lorenz Nürnberg mit Einbau : Mit dem Aufzug durch die Spätgotik". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 11th February, 2021 (Feuilleton). />

<Voigt, Hartmut, "Heftige Kritik an Umbauplänen für Nürnberger Lorenzkirche. Stadtheimatpflegerin reagiert entsetzt: "Der Raumeindruck wird zerstört", in: Nordbayern, - 22.01.2021.(Nürnberger Nachrichten). />

<Reiner, Michael, "Stadtheimatpflegerin kritisiert geplanten Umbau der Lorenzkirche", in: Bayrischer Rundfunk (eds.), BR-24Newsletter, 22. January,2021.,SMptdT1 />


  • Frankl, Paul (1960). The Gothic: Literary Sources and Interpretations through Eight Centuries. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 916. LCCN 57005471.