ST. THOMAS CHURCH IN LEIPZIG

A PLACE OF FAITH, SPIRIT AND MUSIC

Edited by Britta Taddiken
Translated by Björn Mackenthun

Bibliographic information published by the German National Library

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbiographie; detailed bibliographic data are available in the Internet at http://dnb.dnb.de

© 2017 by Evangelische Verlagsanstalt GmbH · Leipzig

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E-Book: Zeilenwert GmbH 2017

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cover

Title

Imprint

Christian Wolff

BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION HISTORY

Martin Petzoldt †

WORKS OF ART

Martin Petzoldt †

PERSONALITIES LINKED TO ST. THOMAS CHURCH

Ullrich Böhme

ORGANS AND INSTRUMENTS IN ST. THOMAS CHURCH

Georg Christoph Biller

THE ST. THOMAS CHOIR AND THE THOMASKANTORS

Christian Wolff

ST. THOMAS CHURCH TODAY

DATES AND EVENTS

PICTURE CREDITS

Hall nave towards the east with the Baroque pulpit by Valentin Schwarzenberger, the Prince’s Chair on the north gallery (left) and the Born Altar in the choir. Water-colour by Hubert Kratz, c. 1880.

BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION HISTORY

Viewed from the outside, a steep pitched roof rises above the impressive late-Gothic hall structure of St. Thomas church. The attached, extended choir on the east end of the building recalls the fact that St. Thomas church was once the collegiate church of the Augustine canons: Neo-Gothic sacristy structures, the tower on the south side, which stands at the seam between the nave and the choir, and the neo-Gothic western façade all point to the turbulent architectural history of St. Thomas Church.

In 1949, the remains of the great cantor, Johann Sebastian Bach, were removed from St. John’s church, which was destroyed in the Second World War. In 1950, they were reburied in the choir, where the oldest architectural components of this church’s over 800-year history have been identified.

PREHISTORY OF THE MODERN ST. THOMAS CHURCH

It is assumed that a three-nave late-Gothic church without a transept and with a massive western tower stood on the site of today’s St. Thomas Church in the middle of the 12th century. As recorded in a papal document from 1218, in 1212 Margrave Dietrich von Meissen ordered the founding of a collegiate church of the Augustine canons, whose patron was the Apostle Paul. During their conflicts with the margrave in this period, the citizenry of Leipzig are said to have scattered the building material for the new choir throughout the area. A capital in the shape of a chalice, discovered during a structural examination, is evidence of a late-Romanesque choir. In the mid-13th century, a massive tower was built over the east end of the southern aisle. The church’s nave was then elevated. The altar consecrations recorded for the 14th century suggest that the structural changes in the nave were completed at this time. It is conceivable that a medieval sacristy stood in conjunction with the eastern wing of the monastery, north of the choir.

Reconstruction of the Romanesque structure from the 12th/13th century.

Cross section of the modern St. Thomas Church.

THE ST. THOMAS HALL CHURCH

In the years 1482  1496, in the centre of the flourishing commercial and trade fair town of Leipzig, a spacious hall church was built as an outstanding example of upper Saxon late-Gothic style. The well-proportioned interior with its outstanding acoustics has been preserved to this day. With a breadth of 25 metres, an average length of 39 metres and 14 metres high sandstone columns, this hall greatly surpassed its predecessor. The south side, with its churchyard, was intended for show and is furnished with Weissenfels sandstone ashlar blocks. The inside is distinguished by an impressive reticulated vault, whose ribs are made of Rochlitz porphyry tuff. The keystones are made of brick. The late-Gothic vault masons used advanced technology to balance the church’s various nave widths with the various speed sequences of the rib figures. The colourful rib system, contrasting with the whitewashed stucco, vividly expresses the hall church’s dynamic tension. The construction of the new St. Thomas Church was directed by Master Klaus Roder until 1489 and afterwards by Master Konrad Pflüger until its completion in 1496. St. Thomas Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Merseburg, Tilo von Trotha, on the first Sunday following Easter, 1496.

View from the north-east. Water-colour by F. W. Heine, 1880.

In 1537, the mayor of Leipzig, Ludwig Fachs, ordered the construction of a new tower. The result was an eight-sided tower with a Latin cupola, lantern and wind star. In 1541, two years following the introduction of the Reformation in Leipzig, the cloister (located on the north side of the church) was razed. In 1570, mayor Hieronymus Lotter constructed the Renaissance gallery. He built a new Renaissance portal in front of the tower which, however, was replaced by a neo-Gothic portal in the renovation undertaken in the 19th century.

St. Thomas Church suffered severe damage during the Thirty Years’ War, but was repaired soon after. In the 18th century the church was remodelled in the Baroque style with the construction of permanent seating for the city’s titlebearers and aristocrats. An addition with a plain Baroque façade was built across the entire north side so that the estates and lords proceed unhindered to their reserved seats in the church.

St. Thomas Church and the old Thomas School seen from the north-west, c. 1880. Left of the Thomas School the old commercial building with the unadorned western gable are visible.

THE NEO-GOTHIC REMODELLING IN THE 19TH CENTURY

In the 19th century, Napoleonic troops severely damaged the church’s interior when they turned it into a warehouse. In 1813, St. Thomas Church was declared a military hospital. When Gebhard Lebrecht von Blücher – the supreme commander of Prussian forces who contributed decisively to the victory over Napoleon – bombarded the city, one of the huge cannon balls also crashed through the roof of the church. It can still be seen on the first level of the tower – a souvenir of trying times.

Between 1884 and 1889, St.