Friday, 30 October 2009

What to see: Nikolaikirche (St Nicholas’s Church), Leipzig

Nikolaikirche (St Nicholas’s Church) in Leipzig shot to fame during the 1989 revolution, but dates back to around 1165, making it as old as the city of Leipzig itself. Originally a Romanesque church, it was enlarged and rebuilt in Gothic style in the 16th century. In 1539 it became a Protestant church, but nowadays Catholic services are also held occasionally.
In 1784-1797 the interiors were rebuilt in the neoclassical style by the architect Johann Carl Friedrich Dauthe. The most outstanding results of this renovation are the columns, which are not in the usual Doric, Ionic or Corinthian order, but are built to resemble palms.
Between 1723 and 1750 Johann Sebastian Bach was organist and master of the choir in the Nikolaikirche. Several of his works were performed for the first time in this church, among them his “Johannes Passion”, which was first heard on Good Sunday in 1724.
In the spring of 1989 Nikolaikirche started to hold “prayers for peace” every Monday at 5 p.m. Soon these events drew enormous crowds, making the church the focal point of demonstrations against the communist regime which spread to all parts of the GDR that autumn. The demonstrations led to Erich Honecker’s fall from power in October. Soon the GDR regime imploded and on 9 November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell.
“There was no head of the revolution. The head was the Nikolaikirche and the body the centre of the city. There was only one leadership: Monday, 5 p.m., the Nikolaikirche”, the entertainer Bernd-Lutz Lange later said. Prayers for peace continue to be held every Monday in the Nikolaikirche.

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