It all began with a tiny chapel where merchants and pilgrims once stopped off on their travels. Some came to rest, others came for silent contemplation on their way to Santiago de Compostela. St. James' Church is still a place of pilgrimage today. But it is not just the pilgrims who are fascinated by its cultural treasures and by Arp Schnitger's famous Baroque organ.
Pilgrims have been stopping off at St. James' Church to pay their respects to its patron saint from the very beginning. In 1255, it was still a tiny chapel outside the city walls situated on the pilgrimage from Lübeck to Hamburg. Today it is one of the city's major churches. And the pilgrims? They still come, in higher numbers than ever before, in search of the meaning of their lives, as they travel south to the shrine of the Apostle and martyr James the Great.
Inside the church, the fascinating art treasures – for instance the three medieval altars dating back to around 1500, the famous Arp Schnitger organ (the largest preserved Baroque organ in northern Germany) in the west gallery or the tableau of biblical scenes in the organ gallery – attest to cultural and spiritual life since the Middle Ages. All of these artworks were salvaged from the bombs of World War II, which levelled the church to the ground. The windows, however, could not be saved – they had to be recreated to replicate the medieval originals during the church's restoration, which was not completed until 1963. Stained-glass artist Carl Crodel took an almost child-like and naive pleasure in recreating the picturesque stories told in the colourful and figurative windows. They are simple and modest, which is precisely what makes them so special.
Opening hours: April to September: Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, Sundays and bank holidays after services, closes at 5pm; October to March: Monday to Saturday, 11am to 5pm, Sundays and bank holidays after services, closes at 5pm
Nearest train station: Hamburg
Themed tours and pilgrimage events available (www.jacobus.de), tower café (open from May to October)