The Marien-Kirche — Astronomical Clock — Church Mouse — Town-House — Various Churches, and other Places of Worship — The Stift St. Johannis — The Jerusalemsberg — Arnims Monument

Lübeck, 5th July 1820.
MY DEAK J****,
MY stay at Lübeck is so limited, and the number of objects to be viewed so great — that I find it impossible to snatch a moment for writing, while light is on the sky. Behold me then once more at my nocturnal occupation.

I have devoted the greater part of this day to the Marten-Kirche, or “Church of St. Mary;” which is noted for its astronomical clock — one of the most celebrated pieces of mechanism in Germany. Of this I must give you an account in detail.

The most remarkable fact connected with this extraordinary production of art is — that the name of the maker is unknown. It was finished in 1405, and has been constantly kept in good repair. It consists of three compartments, the lowest of which contains the original inscription: —

        Hoc horologium factum est primum, Anno MCCCCV.
        Hanc rempl. gubernantibus Dn. Pro-Consulibus Henrico
                        Westhof et
        Goswino Clingenberg, Provisoribus hujus ecclesiae.
        Ipso die purificationis Mariae.

The following lines are subjoined :—

        Aspectum cceli, Solis Lunaeque nitorem,
        Lumina per certos ignem ducentia cursus,
        Ut fluat hora fugax, atque irrevocabilis annus,
        Hoc tibi, conspiciens! oculis haurire licebit.
        Sed resonos quoties modulos campana remittif,
        Pronus astripotens Numen laudare memento.

There are also several other inscriptions recording the different dates at which the clock underwent repair.

The principal division of this compartment is occupied by a plate, on which several concentric circles are described. This has a progressive motion, and is calculated to exhibit the various details of the calendar from 1753 to 1875 — such as the Sunday letters, the days of the week and month, the hours of sunrise, the golden number, the solar cycle, the day of Easter full moon, and the number of weeks intervening between Christmas and Shrove-Tuesday. The centre of the plate contains a specification of all the solar and lunar eclipses visible at Lübeck between the years 1811 and 1860, drawn up by the celebrated Bode of Berlin.

In the middle compartment another plate is inserted — containing an hour circle, a moveable zodiac, and a dial which points out the hours and the solar place in the ecliptic. A gilt representation of the Sun, accompanied by the inferior planets Venus and Mercury, appears on the dial. There are four other dials respectively calculated for Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and the Moon. On two side columns the planetary hours are marked.

The highest compartment contains a small tower with a set of bells, which play every hour, —and a clock which is struck by the figure of Time; while, on the opposite side, that of Transiency (here personified,) reverts its face at every stroke. Under this tower is the figure of our Saviour; before which a procession, representing the emperor and the seven electors, passes at twelve o’clock every day — entering at one side and retiring at the other. The firstmentioned figure bestows a blessing on those of the potentates as they move by, which express adoration by bowing the head. Two angels always announce the ceremony by sound of trumpet. An attendant stands before each of the little doors, through which the train appear and disappear, and pays obeisance as they pass. The number of figures you may perceive amounts to twelve: hence some persons have considered that they represent the apostles.

The sides of this stupendous horologe, which is inclosed by an iron railing, exhibit various scenes from the narrative of Chris’s sufferings; i — but there is one object among them which appears completely non-descript — the figure of a mouse, carved in the corner of the frame-work surrounding one of those scriptural pieces. The intrusion of this heterogeneous stranger may be explained by reference to a custom which prevails all over Germany. Every apprentice to a handicraft trade is obliged — after the expiration of his servitude — to travel for some years (in general two,) from place to place, for the purpose of acquiring additional information. In every great town there is a Wahrzeichen,or conventional token, which is communicated to the itinerants previously to their departure, — the mention of which serves, on their return home, as a voucher for their having visited the town in question. The mouse above-mentioned is the Wahrzeichen of Lübeck. I should have informed you that the bells of the small tower, in the highest compartment, communicate with a larger set in the belfry. Every hour and half hour a whole or half strophe of some choral hymn is performed. The following lines, inscribed at the bottom of one of the walls adjoining the clock, shall close my account of it:—

        Hier zeigt des Künstlers Fleiß und Müh
        Dir der Gestirne ferne Bahnen,
        Mit frommen Ernst bewundre sie,
        Um Gottes Meisterwerk zu ahnen;
        Doch wenn das Auge sich dabei ergetzt,
        Lass auch die Hand das Kunstwerk unverletzt *).

*) Literally: — “Here the diligence and painstaking of the artist shows you the remote paths [abstract movements] of the brain, — admire them with pious earnestness, in order to divine God’s master-piece [to form an opinion of the mightiness of God’s operations]; but, if the eye be delighted with it, let the hand leave the work of art uninjured.”

The Marien-Kirche possesses, in addition to the astronomical clock, many objects deserving of notice. At one side is a recess called the Totentanzkapelle [“Dance of Death Chapel”], from a copy of Hans Holbein’s celebrated piece, which runs all round the apartment. It was formerly contended that this was the original picture, but the possession of it has at length been conceded to Basle in Switzerland. The altar, which is richly gilt, is of black marble inlaid with white. It was constructed by Quellino in 1697, under the direction of the senator Friedenhagen, who defrayed the expenses. Beside it stands a lofty and curiously wrought tower of brass, which was in the times of popery employed as a receptacle for the Host. The great organ — which is unluckily undergoing repair at the present moment — is considered the first in Germany both as to tone and compass. Numerous pictures are dispersed in every direction. Banners are also suspended from the walls, inscribed with the names, birthplaces, &c. of thirty-eight young men, who in 1813 perished gallantly on the field while defending their native country. These were members of the Hanseatic legion — a body of volunteers raised during the last war, to which each of the free towns furnished a contingent. Near one of the entrances are two octagon pillars of granite — each hewn out of one solid block, and measuring 15 1/4 yards in height.

I must not neglect to mention a wooden figure of a man pouring gold into a poor-box, which stands in the aisle. This is the effigy of a person who, having contrived to pilfer from the Gotteskasten (“God’s coffer” — as the box intended for the receipt of alms is termed), fled to America, where he amassed a great property. Goaded, however, by conscience, he returned to Liibeck after an absence of many years, and made a considerable donation to the church from the rich fruits of his sacrilege.

Not far from the Marien-Kirche is the Town-House — a large structure of a very antiquated appearance — erected on the site of one still more ancient, which was burnt in 1358. It was much enlarged in 1442, and consists of a main and two side buildings, surmounted by several small towers. Over the principal entrance is the figure of an emperor in a sitting posture, and of a savage bearing the city arms. Within the principal building is the AudienceChamber, in which the senate hold their meetings. From the ceiling of a gallery in the upper story I saw suspended the skins of five lions, which were in 1483 presented alive by the town of Campen to that of Lübeck. This part of the edifice contains also a public wine-cellar, and the Exchange. In a market-place adjoining the commission for trying civil causes used to be opened. A table covered with red cloth was spread in the public square, whereon the figure of a house was set; after which, certain forms were gone through in presence of the senate, who at the conclusion declared that legal business was now ready for investigation. One of the wings is called the Kanzelei, — but, notwithstanding the name, bears no affinity to the English court of “Chancery.” This side building rests upon twenty-one vaulted arches supported by pillars; and contains five apartments — which are severally appropriated to the purposes of a Stamp, Passport, and Excise Office, &c. The corresponding flank of the edifice contains the Goldsmiths “Hall, the Needlemakers” Arch, and the Public Crane.

There are seven other considerable churches at Liibeck, in addition to those already described. The Jacobi-Kirche, or “St. James’ Church” — built in 1227 — possesses but few objects of interest, except the chapel or burialplace of the ancient family of the Bromses, — a member of which assisted Gustavus Vasa on his enterprize to liberate Sweden. A descendant of this belligerent burgomaster (for the friend of the Scandinavian hero enjoyed that dignity,) was living not many years ago.

He was also a burgomaster, and resided in the house mentioned in a former letter under the title of “Leithof's Institution.” As his ancestor is introduced personally on the stage in Kotzebues Gustav Vasa, it became necessary to obtain his express permission whenever the drama was proposed to be represented. The PetriKirche, or “St. Peter’s Church,” is one of the oldest in Lübeck — dating beyond the year 1170. Among various figures with which the clock is embellished appear those of two goats; which, while the hour is striking, butt one another at every stroke. The name of the patron saint of the AEgydien-Kirche has undergone many modifications — such as Ilien, Ylligen, Gilles, and even Julius (which last, however, has by some Latin writers been considered identical with Egidius). Hence a plurality of patrons has been erroneously attributed to this church. On the 6th of November 1806 — when Bernadotte was besieging, and Blucher defending the town — it narrowly escaped being shattered by a bomb-shell, that is still to be seen inserted in an arch near to one of the doors. The Catharinen-Kirche, or “St. Catharine’s Church,” formerly appertained to a Franciscan convent; which after its suppression was converted into a school, and at present contains the Gymnasium. The first stone of this church was in 1335 laid by Bishop Bockholt.

Adjoining to the Catharinen-Kirche is the public library, wherein is preserved the dress which Gustavus Vasa wore in exile. It was founded in 1616, and the number of the books has gradually increased to 20.000. There is an additional library containing 10.000 volumes — the bequest of Scharbau a clergyman, who died in 1759. Of the other donors the name of Müller a merchant deserves to be particularized, who in 1788 presented to the institution a most valuable collection of coins. Both libraries are open from two to four o’clock on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The manuscripts are of inferior value, but there are among the books some excellent specimens of early printing.

The Burghirche — otherwise called the Marien-Magdalenen-Kirche, or “Church of Mary Magdalen” — stands near to the Burgthor, one of the four city gates. It was originally attached to a fortress built by the Danes in 1217, converted into a convent in 1227, and subsequently into an hospital and poor-house. In the cornice of a ruined brick wall, belonging to this fabric, I observed several laughing faces carved — of a very grotesque appearance. These were, according to tradition, placed there by the monks in derision of the townsmen. This church was dedicated to Mary Magdalen, in acknowledgment of service rendered by her to the Lübeckers on the occasion of an engagement with the Danes. Holding her petticoat, as a screen, against the faces of the enemy, she effectually concealed the movements of the citizens, — and thereby enabled them to obtain a decisive victory.

Without the Holstein gate is the LorenzKirche, or “Church of St. Lawrence,” which was formerly attached to a Pesthof or lazarhouse for those affected with the plague. It was founded in 1597, in which year eight thousand fell victims to this frightful malady. Between this and the same gate stands the Reformed Church. Within the city are a Roman Catholic chapel (the congregation of which is very small), and a Jewish synagogue. Until the period of the French occupation of Lübeck only a few privileged Jews were permitted to live within the walls. The great majority inhabited a tract called Moisling, at a considerable distance from the city, where they had their synagogue. Many, however, who were about that time introduced, have been since suffered to remain unmolested.

There are several monastic foundations at Lübeck. A description of one of the most eminent — the Stift St. Johannis or “Sanctuary of St. John” — will give you a general idea of them. This, which was originally a convent of Benedictine monks, was founded in 1177 by Henry, Bishop of Lübeck, — and endowed by Duke Henry the Lion. In 1245 the monks were transferred to Cismar, and the monastery converted into a Cistercian nunnery. After the reformation it became a Lutheran convent. About this period, while the building was undergoing some alteration, there was found in an old wall the skeleton of a person who had been buried alive, according to the barbarous usage of the times. The original number of seventy-one Lutheran conventuals has been gradually reduced to twenty-four — consisting of an abbess, a prioress, a secretary, and twenty-one elderly ladies of respectable families. They are subject to very slight restraints — being allowed even to pay visits in the city, and only required to be within doors against nine o’clock in the evening. The abbess usually keeps her carriage. They retain the free management of their estates, and the right of jurisdiction in the villages situated upon them ; but the executive power is delegated to a magistrate and secretary, appointed for that purpose. There are a private bakery and brewery within the establishment, for the gratuitous use of the conventuals. Previously to the decree of the 25th February 1808 — by which all public institutions became under the immediate control of government — two consuls acted as directors: but at that period the internal ceconomy of this, as well as of other religious houses, underwent a complete alteration. The eight junior conventuals are obliged to lodge in the city; but enjoy a small pecuniary compensation until accommodation be provided for them within the institution. There are still several functionaries who regulate the affairs of the establishment. The management of the woods — from which a considerable part of the property is derived — is committed to an upper forester and his assistants, in addition to the Holzvögte (which you must not maliciously interpret —„wooden magistrates”), who reside in the conventual villages. The estates, which are numerous, are dispersed through the district of Travemunde, — and the territories of Mecklenburg, Lauenburg, and Holstein — that part of the last especially which appertains to the Oldenburg dominions. Of the original convent not even a ruin remains, but the site is occupied by a number of small buildings inhabited by the elder conventuals.

I have had a pleasant ramble in the environs this evening. My conductor led me first to the Jerusalemberg, or “Hill of Jerusalem” — an artificial eminence planted with venerable oaks, and commanding a very agreeable prospect. According to an inscription in the Jacobi-Kirche, this hill is at the same distance from it that Golgotha is from Jerusalem. On the top is a brick monument, erected in the fifteenth century by one of the family of Constantine or Constine — as it is supposed — in commemoration of a pilgrimage to the Holy-Land. Vestiges of a rude representation of the crucifixion, executed in white plaster, are still to be traced upon it. On a sand-hill not far from this the spot is pointed out, where Bernadotte stood during the bombardment of Lübeck. Grateful mention is still made of the humanity he evinced on this occasion. His troops, baffled in their endeavour to gain possession of the town, began clamorously to demand permission to fire it by pouring in red-hot balls, — and became at length so urgent in their importunities, as to render the general apprehensive of being eventually obliged to comply. As a last resource therefore, he stipulated to surrender up the city to plunder for a day and a half, provided they would delay their purpose for one half hour, — and continued standing with his watch in his hand until the period of respite should expire. Owing, however, to some lucky error committed by a Prussian officer, the French succeeded in forcing an entrance before the half hour elapsed — and Lübeck was spared the horrors of a conflagration.

About a mile from the Jerusalemberg is Arnims Monument. Beside the road which leads in this direction is a stone cross, with an inscription which the shades of evening prevented me from decyphering. It was erected in 1465 by the Nowgorodsfahrer — a mercantile company — in commemoration of the disastrous fate that befel a vessel of considerable burden; which, with the entire crew, was lost in that year. The monument (which is separated from the road by a succession of large sandy fields,) is erected on the spot where Major Von Arnim, commander of the Hanseatic cavalry, was killed by a spent cannon-ball shot from Lübeck, — which is scarcely less than a mile and a half distant. The ball is inserted in the granite of which the monument is constructed. On one side is the following inscription:—

        Für das Vaterland hat er sein Blut vergossen,
        Auch aus seinem Blute ist euch Heil entsprossen;
        Denket dankbar sein, die ihr vorüber geht,
        Und gelobt es in der Freiheit schönen Tagen
        Immer heldenmütig Gut und Blut zu wagen,
        Wenn das Vaterland in Not ihr seht*).

                                    [The ball.]

Dies Denkmal setzten dem Helden treue Kampfgenossen.**)

On another side: —

Friedr. Wilh. Ludw. von Arnim aus dem Hause Suckow Konigl: Preuss. u: Großbrittan: Major Verdienst: und Johanniter Ordens Erster Führer der Hanseatischen Reiterei. Geb. d. 16 April 1780 Gefallend D. 5. Sept. 1813 bei einem Versuche zu Lübecks Befreiung. ***)

I have scarcely left myself space to bid you farewell. In the morning we set out on a tour through Mecklenburg. Believe me.
Yours, &c. &c.

*) “He has shed his blood for his father-land [native country] — even from his blood has your deliverance germinated. — O ye passers-by! think of him with gratitude; and vow, in the fair days of freedom, always heroically to adventure your substance and your blood — when you see your father-land in jeopardy.”

**) “His faithful fellow-combatants erected this monument to the hero.”

***) Frederick William Lewis von Arnim, of the house of Suckow ; Major in the Royal Prussian and British service; of the orders of Merit and St. John; Fürst Captain of the Hanseatic Cavalry: born the 16th April, 1780: fell on the 5th September, 1818, in an enterprize for the deliverance of Lubeck.”