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Guide to Bach Tour: Main Page | Life History of J.S. Bach | Performance Dates of Bach’s Vocal Works | Maps | Route Suggestions | Discussions
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Guide to Bach Tour


Description | History
J.S. Bach: Connection | Events in Life History | Performance Dates of Vocal Works | Festivals & Cantata Series
Features of Interest | Information & Links
Photos: Part 1 | Part 2 | Maps


The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League ("Queen of the Hanse") and because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.

Situated at the Trave River, some 60 km north-east of Hamburg. Lübeck is the largest German port on the Baltic Sea. The old part of the town is an island enclosed by the Trave. The Elbe-Lübeck Canal connects the Trave with the Elbe River. Another important river near the town centre is the Wakenitz. Autobahn 1 connects Lübeck with Hamburg and Denmark (Vogelfluglinie). The borough Travemünde is a sea resort and ferry port at the coast of the Baltic Sea.

Country: Germany | State: Schleswig-Holstein | District: Urban district | Area: 214.13 km˛ | Population: 214,900 (December 2008)


The area around Lübeck was settled after the last Ice Age. Several Neolithic dolmens can be found in the area.

In addition to this, around 700 AD Slavic peoples started to come into the eastern parts of Holstein which had been left by many Germanic inhabitants in the course of the Migration Period. By the early 9th century Charlemagne, whose Christianisation attempts were opposed by Saxons, moved Saxons out and brought in Polabian Slavs, who were allied to Charlemagne, in their stead. Liubice ("lovely") was founded on the Trave banks about four kilometres north of the present-day city centre of Lübeck. In the 10th century it became the most important settlement of the Obotrite confederacy and a castle was built. The settlement was burned down in 1128 by pagan Rani from Rügen.

The modern town was founded by Adolf II, Count of Schauenburg and Holstein, in 1143 as a German settlement on the river island Bucu. He established a new castle which was first mentioned by Helmold in 1147. Adolf had to cede the castle to Henry the Lion in 1158. After Henry's fall in 1181, the town became an Imperial city for 8 years. Emperor Barbarossa gave the city a ruling council with twenty members that survived into the 19th century. This council was dominated by merchants and caused Lübeck's politics to be dominated by trade interests for centuries to come.

The town and castle changed ownership for a period afterwards and was part of the Duchy of Saxony until 1192, of the County of Holstein until 1217 and part of Denmark until the Battle of Bornhöved in 1227.

Around 1200 the port became the main point of departure for colonists leaving for the Baltic territories conquered by the Livonian Order and, later, Teutonic Order. In 1226 Emperor Frederick II elevated the town to an Imperial Free City, becoming the Free City of Lübeck. In the 14th century Lübeck became the "Queen of the Hanseatic League", being by far the largest and most powerful member of this mediaeval trade organization. In 1375, Emperor Charles IV. named Lübeck one of the five "Glories of the Empire", a title shared with Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence. Several conflicts about trade privileges were fought by Lübeck and the Hanseatic League against Denmark and Norway with varying outcomes. While Lübeck and the Hanseatic League prevailed in conflicts in 1435 and 1512, Lübeck lost when it became involved in the Count's Feud, a civil war that raged in Denmark from 1534 to 1536. Lübeck also joined the Schmalkaldic League.

After defeat in the Count's Feud, Lübeck's power slowly declined. Lübeck managed to remain neutral in the Thirty Years' War, but with the devastation caused by the decades-long war and the new transatlantic orientation of European trade, the Hanseatic League and thus Lübeck lost importance. After the Hanseatic League was de facto disbanded in 1669, Lübeck remained an important trading town on the Baltic Sea.

The great composer Dietrich Buxtehude became organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck in 1668 and remained at the post until at least 1703.

In the course of the war of the Fourth Coalition against Napoleon, troops under Bernadotte occupied the neutral Lübeck after a battle against Blücher on November 6, 1806. Under the Continental System, the bank went into bankruptcy and from 1811 to 1813 Lübeck was formally annexed as part of France until the Vienna Congress of 1815.

In 1937 the Nazis passed the so-called Greater Hamburg Act, where the nearby Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg was expanded, to encompass towns that had formally belonged to the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein. To compensate Prussia for these losses (and partly because Hitler had a personal dislike for Lübeck), the 711-year-long independence of Lübeck came to an end and almost all its territory was incorporated into Schleswig-Holstein.

During World War II, Lübeck was the first German city to be attacked in substantial numbers by the Royal Air Force. The attack on 28 March 1942 created a firestorm, that caused severe damage to the historic centre and the Bombing of Lübeck in World War II destroyed three of the main churches and greater parts of the built-up area. A POW camp for officers, Oflag X-C, was located near the city from 1940 until April 1945. Lübeck was occupied without resistance by the British Second Army on May 2, 1945.

On May 3, 1945, one of the biggest disasters in naval history happened in the Bay of Lübeck when RAF bombers sank three ships which, unknown to them, were packed with concentration-camp inmates. About 7,000 people were killed.

Lübeck's population grew considerably from about 150,000 in 1939 to more than 220,000 after the war, owing to an influx of refugees expelled from the former Eastern provinces of Germany.

Lübeck remained part of Schleswig-Holstein after the war (and consequently lay within West Germany) and was situated directly at the inner German border during the division of Germany into two rival states in the Cold War period. South of the city the border followed the path of the river Wakenitz that separated both countries by less than 10 m in many parts. The northernmost border crossing was in Lübeck's district of Schlutup. Lübeck's restored historic city centre became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Notable People

Hans Blumenberg, philosopher
Willy Brandt, chancellor
Ephraim Carlebach, rabbi
Felix Carlebach, rabbi
Joseph Carlebach, rabbi
Björn Engholm, politician
Christian Friedrich Heinecken, child prodigy
Godfrey Kneller, painter
Heinrich Mann, novelist
Thomas Mann, novelist
Sandra Völker, swimmer
Dietrich Buxtehude (c1637-1707), composer and organist


Bach Connection

Together with Hamburg and Leipzig, it was a main centre of" Lutheran orthodoxy in the time of J.S. Bach.

Easily the most celebrated aspect of musical life in Lübeck in the early years of the 18th century were the Abendmusiken organized by the Danish organist of the Marienkirche, Dietrich Buxtehude. In October 1705 J.S. Bach applied to the ruling consistory in Arnstadt for leave to visit Lübeck, and was allowed an absence of four weeks. This was unrealistic; if, as is reported, he travelled on foot, the journey would have taken two weeks in either direction, without a day's rest or any useful stay in Lübeck. In fact, J.S. Bach did not return until late January 1706 and, despite competent deputizing by his cousin Johann Ernst Bach [25] (1683-1739), he was reprimanded and (by implication) threatened with dismissal should he transgress further.

J.S. Bach must have spent nearly three months in Lübeck, probably also visiting Lüneburg and perhaps Hamburg. He was probably present at, or even involved in, two occasional works by D. Buxtehude performed on December 2-3: Castrum doloris and Templum honoris, me first occasioned by the death of Emperor Leopold I on May 5, 1705, the second marking the accession of his son Joseph I (1678-1711). Kerala Snyder has suggested that J.S. Bach may have been one of the 25 violinists who took part in the second of these works. It is even possible that J.S. Bach was interested in D. Buxtehude's job - he was already 68 years old. Usually the successor of such position was supposed to marry the predecessor's daughter, but in this case to 20-year-old J.S. Bach would have had to marry D. Buxtehude's already 30-year-old daughter. Maybe this is the reason why J.S. Bach did not try to get this position any longer, even if he would have been able to.

J.S. Bach must also have been influenced by the. organ playing and the organ compositions of D. Buxtehude, and certainly furnished himself with copies, which he later used for his own teaching and playing purposes. Later on, at Weimar, he had contact with anomer important collection of D. Buxtehude's organ music, which had been supplied to Johann Gottfried Walther by Andreas Werckmeister. Between them, J.S. Bach's and J.G. Walther's collections constitute the earliest surviving sources for more than half of the Danish master's organ works.

Article by Stephen Daw in Malcolm Boyd (Editor): Oxford Composer Companion - J.S. Bach (Oxford University Press, 1999)
K. F. Snyder: Dietrich Buxtehude, Organist in Lübeck (New York, 1987)
Reisewege zu Bach - Travelling Ways to Bach (Michael Imhof Verlag, 2003), p. 88
Lübeck brochures from Bach Tour of Aryeh Oron (2004)

Events in Life History of J.S. Bach



Arnstadt (1703-1707)

Nov +, 1705

Prolonged visit to Lübeck to stay four months with Dietrich Buxtehude

Dec 2-3, 1705

D. Buxtehude oratorios Castrum doloris and Templum bonoris performed in Lübeck

Performance Dates of J.S. Bach’s Vocal Works: None.

Bach Festivals & Cantata Series: None.


Features of Interest

Much of the Old Town has kept a medieval look with old buildings and narrow streets. The inner precincts has over 1,000 brick Gothic houses. The town once could only be entered by passing one of four town gates, of which two remain today, the well-known Holstentor (1478) and the Burgtor (1444).

The old town centre is dominated by seven church steeples. The oldest ones are the Lübecker Dom (the city's cathedral) and the Marienkirche (Saint Mary's Church, see below), both from the 13th and 14th centuries.

Other sights include:
The Lübecker Rathaus (Town Hall).
Saint Catherine Church, Lübeck: a church that belonged to a former monastery, now the Katharineum, a Latin school.
Thomas Mann's house.
Günter Grass' house.
Church of St. Lawrence: located on the site of a cemetery of people dead during the 16th century plague
Church of St. Jacob (Lübecker Jakobikirche, 1334)
The Salzspeicher: historic warehouses where salt delivered from Lüneburg awaited shipment to Baltic ports
Heinrich and Thomas Mann Museum in the Buddenbrook House.
The world’s oldest pub

Like many other places in Germany, Lübeck has a long tradition with Christmas market in December, which includes the famous handicrafts market inside the Heiligen-Geist-Hospital (Hospital of the Holy Spirit), located at the north end of Königstrasse

Lübeck has many smaller museums like the St. Annen Museum, the Behnhaus, the Museum Harbour and the Holstentor. Lübeck Museum of Theatre Puppets is a privately run museum. Waterside attractions are a lightvessel that served Fehmarnbelt and Lisa von Lübeck, a reconstruction of a Hanseatic 15th century caravel.

The 12th century Church of St. Mary (Marienkirche) with Bach relief - St. Mary's, the church of the Council of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck, is the third-largest church building in Germany. Its construction took some 100 years. It serves as a model for countless Gothic style brick churches in the entire Baltic region. Many works of art are found at St. Mary's, such as, for example, Gerhard Marcks' "The Cross of Triumph" of 1495, on the high choir above the Swarte altar. It is also home to the world's largest mechanical organ. From 1667 to 1707, the well-known church musician and composer Dietrich Buxtehude was St. Mary's organist and work master. The church bells that fell during the air raids in 1942 are reminders of the horrors of war.


Information & Links

Lübeck und Travemünde
Tourismus-Zentrale LTZ
Beckergrube 95
D-23539 Lübeck
Tel: +49-451/122-1908 / Fax: +49-451/122-1202
Tel: +49-4502/804-31 / Fax: +49-4502/804-60
Websitet: Lübeck Tourismus [German/English/Italian]

Lübeck (Official Website) [German]
Lübeck (Wikipedia) [various languages]
Cityreview: Schlezwig-Holstein > Lübeck [German]
Lübeck (Meinestadt) [German]

The J.S. Bach Tourist 6: Lübeck (Koster)
On the Traces of J.S. Bach: Lübeck (German Tourism) [German/English]


Prepared by Aryeh Oron (March 2004 - December 2009)

Guide to Bach Tour: Main Page | Life History of J.S. Bach | Performance Dates of Bach’s Vocal Works | Maps | Route Suggestions | Discussions
Maps of Bach Places | Videos of Bach Places | Symbols (Coats of Arms) of Bach Places | Organs in Bach Places
Places: Altenburg | Ammern | Arnstadt | Bad Berka | Berlin | Brandenburg | Bückeburg | Celle | Collmen | Dörna | Dornheim | Dresden | Eisenach | Erfurt | Gehren | Gera | Gotha | Halle | Hamburg | Heiligengrabe | Jena | Karlsbad | Kassel | Kleinzschocher | Köthen | Langewiesen | Leipzig | Lübeck | Lüneburg | Meiningen | Merseburg | Mühlhausen | Naumburg | Ohrdruf | Pomßen | Potsdam | Ronneburg | Sangerhausen | Schleiz | Stöntzsch | Störmthal | Taubach | Wechmar | Weimar | Weißenfels | Weißensee | Wiederau | Zeitz | Zerbst | Zschortau


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Last update: Friday, June 02, 2017 13:32