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St Nicholass Church Hamburg
2023-01-21 | อ่าน

St Nicholass Church Hamburg was designed bySir George Gilbert Scott

It must have been very soon after settling his family in Avenue Road that Scotts attention was drawn, as he recalls:

by a City friend to the advertisement [which came out in May] for the designs for the rebuilding of St Nicholas Church at Hamburg, which had been destroyed by the great fire. My friend had been requested (though not authoritively) to induce one of the English Church architects to enter the lists of this European competition, & he fixed upon me.

The fire raged from 5 to 8 May 1842 and destroyed the centre of the old city of Hamburg, leaving 20,000 people homeless and damaging most of its major buildings, including the Lutheran church of St. Nicholas, parts of which dated back to 1195. Only the tower of the old church survived. Immediately after the fire, the London-born City Engineer, William Lindley, drew up a new layout for the city. This was heavily criticised for its lack of artistic quality, particularly by the Hamburg-born architect Gottfried Semper, who was the Professor and Director of the Academy of Arts at Dresden at the time. Lindleys layout was rejected in favour of a more sensitive plan by the Hamburg architect Alexis de Chateauneuf, incorporating ideas from Semper including the complete demolition of what remained of St. Nicholas and rebuilding it nearly 100 yards southeast in the centre of a new Hopfenmarkt. After much deliberation, Chateauneufs plan was adopted and the Senate of the city decided to hold an architectural competition for a design for the new church. A programme was drawn up by a committee comprising one Senator, an attorney, a painter and eight business men; there was nobody from the church or with knowledge of architecture. The church was to be a massive building with a seating capacity of between 1,200 and 1,400 and standing room for 3,000. The only architectural stipulation was that it should have a tower. The conditions were published late in May 1844 and the drawings had to be delivered to Hamburg by the end of November. Scott had already lost two months of the six month competition period before he decided to enter. His mysterious City friend, who probably had commercial connections with Hamburg, in looking for an English church architect seems to have wanted a design from the country where the Gothic Revival was already flourishing.

The trip to Calais had obviously widened Scotts horizons and this was the first recorded time that he took any interest in foreign architecture. Clearly he realised that there was a close relationship between English Gothic and the medieval architecture of France and Germany and he at once, however, made up my mind that the style of the design must be German Gothic, although he had no experience of the style. He thereupon decided, in spite of his late entry, to embark on a two month tour of Germany to examine its medieval churches: Oddly enough, it never occurred to me that France should be my first field of study. I knew what had been written by Whewell Petit & Moller but I had not gathered this fact from what they had said. Probably the reason why it had not occurred to Scott that France, and not Germany, was the place of origin of Gothic architecture was that this was not the message that these three authors would have conveyed to him. Georg Mollers (1784-1852) Denkmahler der deutschen Baukunst first appeared in English in 1824, with a new translation in 1836. Moller dismisses any idea that France might have introduced the style and claims it to be a Germanic invention. Likewise Petit in his Remarks believes that historically Germany was the country of origin of the Gothic style, although he thinks that the pointed arch may have come from southern France. William Whewell in his Architectural Notes on German Churches, with notes on churches in Normandy and Picardy, which first appeared in 1830, is less dogmatic but avoids getting involved in arguments which were becoming increasingly political in tone.

In 1840, it had been decided to complete Cologne Cathedral, which had been left without its western portions since the Medieval period, in accordance with plans discovered by Moller in 1814. This project was inspired by the Romantic Movement which felt that the completion of this great monument from Germanys golden age would be a fitting symbol of German unity and a reminder of its common cultural past. However, almost as soon as work started in 1842, this patriotic zeal was somewhat undermined by the researches of Franz Kugler (1808-58) who discovered that the origins of Gothic architecture were French and not German. But Scotts decision that his competition entry should be in German Gothic was possibly reinforced by the discovery that what was his favourite period of Gothic in England, the Middle Pointed, that of the late thirteenth to early fourteenth centuries, had been reproduced simultaneously in France and Germany.

So, inspite of the difficulties of travel which made any visit abroad a protracted affair, Scott straight away decided to leave Caroline and the three children, and to go to Hamburg but by the way of an extended tour to include some important examples of German architecture. He was able to draw up an itinerary presumably based on Whewell, Moller and Petits books, and he was able to persuade his elder brother John and two young lawyer friends to accompany him. They began with one of the worst countries for pointed architecture Belgium, though to me it was then an enchanted land. Belgiums real glory is its secular Gothic buildings which in their scale, quality of craftsmanship and numbers, are unequalled in England. Although most of them are fifteenth or sixteenth century civic buildings, they must have presented Scott with a completely new architectural experience and a greatly extended repertoire on which to call when making his Gothic designs. He recalls, I visited with great delight Bruges, Ghent, Tournay, Mons, Hal, Brussels, Mechlin, Antwerp, Louvain, & Leige. Scott says that his companions were very agreeable, but he was irritated that they never allowed him enough time to sketch properly:

They had always done a place before my work was well commenced, & had I listened to their wishes, I should have obtained no advantage scarcely from my tour. As it was I worked very hard and got a great deal but it was by fighting hard against adverse circumstances. I would strongly advise architects to travel only with architects, or even alone rather than with lay fellow travellers.

They went, presumably by train, from Liege to Aachen, or Aix-la-Chapelle as Scott called it, through to Cologne. There my legal companions had done everything by the end of the first day, & I now, out of all patience with lay intervention, got up the next morning at 4 or 5 & started off on my own hook to Altenburg. Presumably the lawyer friends, had had enough of Scotts irritability as they seem to have departed, leaving Scott to rejoin his brother in Bonn a few days later. Scott sketched pretty well everything at Altenburg to the very patterns of the glass. He then returned to Cologne and got a good day on which I worked myself half to death. Work on the completion of the Cathedral was at last underway when Scott first saw it. Ernst Friedrich Zwirner (1802-61) had been appointed architect in 1833 and the reconstruction had started in 1842. It was not officially completed until 1880 so in 1844, it must have appeared very much as it had for the last three hundred years.

Scott then went twenty miles south to rejoin John at Bonn. They then went up the Rhine and, where the hills start some fifteen miles south of Bonn at Remagen, Scott stopped to visit the reconstruction of the pilgrimage church of St. Apollinarius. Zwirner had started to build this some five years before but did not complete it until 1859. He apparently derived its details from Cologne Cathedral but Scott thought that Its architecture was bad. They visited Laach Abbey, Andernach, Coblenz and then Mainz, or Mayence as Scott calls it. There Scott made a sketch of the huge Gothic church of St. Stephen, which was built between 1257 and 1328, and would be a prelude to other Gothic churches which Scott would soon be seeing. It is a so-called hall church, more common in north Germany, where the aisles are as high as the nave leaving no space for a clerestory. The result is a lofty and spacious interior but rather dark. The travellers probably crossed the bridge at Mainz to the north bank of the Rhine which was then largely open country and went twenty miles eastwards up the Main to stay at Frankfurt. While there:

we were greatly interested by the conversation of Dr. Schoppenhauer [sic] an old German philosopher who usually took his meals at the Hotel we staied [sic] at. I think I never met a man with such grand powers of conversation but, alas, he was a determined infidel: I have met him since twice at the same Hotel, the last time was as late as 1860 when I with some difficulty drew him out into conversation, which deafness rendered less easy than formerly & I was quite astonished at his brilliancy & had it not been for his infidelity at the noble philosophical tone of his thoughts and conversation. I meant to have sent him some books on the evidences &c of Christianity but I forgot it & when I went to Frankfort [sic] last year & looked out for him I found his portrait hanging over where he used to sit, betokening that he had departed. May it be that his philosophy had previously become christianized!

That hope was hardly likely to be realised as, of course, the old German philosopher was the great Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) who had settled at Frankfurt after lecturing at Berlin University where, in 1819, he had produced his most famous work The World as Will and Idea. Scott seemed oblivious to his friends importance in Germany at the time and quite impervious to his very powerful arguments, and it is absurd that he could even contemplate the idea that he could convert Schopenhauer to Christianity. All of this displays an unworldliness and naivety which keeps re-emerging throughout his life. Perhaps it was the very fact that the two English men apparently knew nothing of his somewhat chequered background which appealed to Schopenhauer and as he was well-known for his excellent command of the English language, he could practice on these two attentive and intelligent listeners. There is little doubt about John Scotts intellectual powers as two years later he graduated as the 36th Wrangler, a wrangler being a student who has completed the third year of the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge and passed with first class honours, then ranked in order of marks. But the Scotts had little command of German vernacular at the time, and it was not until after Scott was awarded the Hamburg church commission that he began getting up German.

At Frankfurt, Scott was able to sketch the Cathedral, but Johns long vacation being nearly over he was obliged to hasten my journey. Scott now had to concentrate on the main purpose of the tour and turn northwards to Hamburg. They stopped briefly at Marburg where I had a peep only at the exterior of St Elizabeths church at Marburg while breakfast was going on, the first High Gothic church in Germany built between 1235-83. On 8 October 1844, they reached Magdeburg, where they boarded a steamer which took them nearly two hundred miles overnight down the Elbe to Hamburg. There John made a hasty departure for England as the new term at Cambridge would have already started by the time that he got back.

Scott staied [sic] on to get local information but says nothing about Hamburg itself which was being reconstructed after the fire. He presumably found little of interest there as he took a diligence journey to Old Lubeck. This was another forty-mile journey across the base of the Schleswig-Holstein peninsular to the Baltic coast. Here, on 11 October, he found the old town to my great delight and where the lack of building stone in north Germany meant that even the medieval buildings were built of brick. Scott returned to Hamburg, saw the site of the proposed church and boarded a steamer to return to London. On board:

I struck out, on the first morning, my design for the church but a stormy sea soon put a stop to the work. I think my voyage took three days & four nights during most of which I was in bed, and on reaching home I was so ill as to be laid up for several days during which time, however, I was enabled to complete my general design, on which all force was put as I had only a month left on returning to my office.

After Cologne and Altenburg, Scott had not seen any major Gothic building until St. Stephens at Mainz, but instead a succession of Romanesque churches and cathedrals. His excitement in seeing St. Elizabeths, Marburg, must have been partly because of the discovery that there were more examples of his favourite style in Germany, and this was confirmed by the other churches that he saw afterwards, particularly Magdeburg Cathedral. Scott had been away from the office for about two months and his return seemed to throw it into turmoil. Moffatt had presumably been in charge, but several of the big works were complete, or nearing completion. Chesterfield was finished, Camberwell was almost complete, as was St. Marys Stafford, while the various smaller churches such as Beeston, Leenside and Westwood Heath were completed in the latter part of that year. So it was an excellent time, with apparently an increasing number of assistants and pupils and a slackening off of new work, for Scott to introduce this entirely new project which required the submission, in four weeks, of an attractive and extensive set of drawings. The rest of the office work was apparently abandoned with all hands being put upon them. The drawings were admirably finished although the best elevations were made by Mr. Coe & Mr. Street.

The drawings for St. Nicholas, Hamburg, were completed and although done in a great rush, were very large & numerous and accompanied by a long report. Scott always appreciated the overwhelming effect that a massive display of draughtsmanship would have on judges, regardless of the quality of the design, and his choice of the motto Labor ipse Voluptes [Labour itself a pleasure] reflects the immense industry which the submission represented. By deliberately allowing only one month to complete the work, Scott showed that he enjoyed working under pressure.

The use of mottoes to preserve anonymity seems to indicate that this was a much fairer competition than most that Scott had previously entered. However, despite elaborate precautions, judges were often made aware of the names of the designers of the schemes that they were assessing, sometimes in a deliberate attempt to sway their decision, or in the case of Scott, by accident. The drawings were to have been sent straight by steam-boat from London to Hamburg. It was still only the beginning of December 1844 but an early frost had stopped the navigation of the Elbe and the boat was halted at Cuxhaven some sixty miles short of its destination. Eventually the drawings arrived in Hamburg three weeks after the time! Scotts agent, Emilius Muller, a Hamburg merchant, was indefatigable in his negotiations and the delay was condoned, his work displayed alongside the other thirty-eight designs that were received on time. These included a design by Semper which Scott claims was grounded on that of the cathedral at Florence. However, Scott was not alone in receiving special treatment as Semper produced another scheme, a Gothic design, which was sent to the committee in January. Of the other schemes Scott says: Heideldoff, Lange, &c had more or less of failures while an English architect of the name of Atkinson (the future Siberian explorer) then living at Hamburg who had made a powerful effort, had failed of making his design German. Thomas Witlam Atkinsons (1799-1861) design would undoubtedly have been in the Gothic style but not in the Middle-Pointed. He had moved to Hamburg to enter the competition and, after what must have been his disappointment at its outcome, abandoned architecture to become a traveller and artist, publishing Oriental and Western Siberia, in 1858.

Scott acknowledged that his most formidable opponent was Professor Semper. Gottfried Semper (1803-79) was a native of Hamburg but his best-known work at the time was the Opera House at Dresden, which he built between 1838 and 1841. He was to later carry out other major buildings in Dresden including a reconstruction of his Opera House after a fire in 1869, the Polytechnic at Zurich and various important buildings in Vienna. According to Pevsner, he was the best German architect of the mid-nineteenth century. Sempers Hamburg entry was not in his usual Italian Renaissance style, but, as Pevsner states, it was an indefinite mixture of Romanesque and Byzantine with a dome derived from Brunelleschi. But he clearly intended that his design would show an affinity to the general reconstruction of Hamburg which was taking place in a round-arched classical style popular in Germany at the time, which he himself had helped to promote.

Scott, in his design, made no attempt to integrate with the plain classical rebuilding of Hamburg. Perhaps when he saw that the site was for a free-standing building, he felt he could produce a highly ornate design in the Middle Pointed style. In the report which Scott sent with the design, he sets down his reasoning for his choice of style, although the judges were probably expecting designs in the Gothic style anyway. He maintains that it would be inconsistent to imitate the local characteristics of old buildings in the immediate district as it would deprive the architect of the opportunity to take advantage of the varied beauties exhibited by German churches of corresponding style in general. Here, for the first time since he was converted to Gothic architecture some five years previously, he produces a rational argument for his choice of architectural style. The Middle Pointed had clearly become his favourite, even before Hamburg, but now with the discovery that this style was common to the whole of northern Europe, he was able to produce a justification for his enthusiasm for it.

Scotts design for St. Nicholas was like that for a cathedral. It was a huge building with a great 480 feet high spire at the west end and, although its walls were of yellow brick, they were enriched by a mass of fourteenth-century carved stonework. Internally, it had two sets of side aisles and an apsidal east end in the German form with a parallel chapel and the sacristy. As a concession to Protestantism, there were no transepts but these were later added to the final design on the insistence of the clergy. Scott claims, presumably from what Muller told him, that when his drawings were hung alongside the others, the atmosphere among the general public was perfectly electric. He continued:

They had never seen Gothic architecture carried out in a new design with anything like the old spirit; and as they were labouring under the old error that Gothic was the German (Alt Deutch) style their feelings of Patriotism were stirred up in a wonderful manner. My design was to their apprehension far more German than those of any of the German architects.

Within a few days of the arrival of my drawings, articles appeared in the Hamburg newspapers which for the most part advocated my design with enthusiasm. Muller sent cuttings on to Scott who kept them for twenty years so that when he was writing his Recollections, he was able to paste two of the most complimentary items into his notebook. In an article in the Hamberger Neue Zeitung, on 23 December 1844, the author discusses the various plans and says that number thirty-nine, Labor ipse voluptes, was the crown of them all. It represents the correct development of historic Christian architecture carried out with clarity and majesty. We will, he tells us, forever admire the majesty of such a minster, and herein lives the spirit of Erwin von Steinbach.

Scott could not have hoped for higher praise than this with the reference to von Steinbach which he underlined in red ink in the Recollections. It went to the heart of the German Romantic Movement. Goethe regarded the west front of Strasbourg Cathedral as the work of a German artistic genius whom he immortalised in poetry as Erwin von Steinbach, and from this association emerged the idea in the nineteenth century, that the fully developed Gothic of the medieval period was the German national architecture. The other cutting which Scott pasted into his notebook was even more flattering. It was from the Nachrichten of 2 January 1845 and is an anonymous poem, which took the form of an address to the author of the design with the motto Labor ipse voluptes, whom he referred to as a honest master builder, who was rekindling the ancient German art. An angel must have hovered about you, as light streams heavenwards from your masterpiece. All men are astonished by the work. Spread the tidings throughout the land that Saint Nicholas is once again glorified within Hamburghs walls. But Scott was not satisfied that the committee would be sympathetic to his scheme.

Between December 1844 and the following January, Scott wrote five letters to the committee which were delivered by Muller. One of these, early in January, was written when it was becoming apparent that the committee would require an expert panel to judge the designs. He suggested that it should consist of three German architects who happened to be the leading Gothic scholars in the country. They were Sulpiz Boisseree and Georg Moller, who were working on the plans for Cologne Cathedral, and Johann Claudius Laussaulx, who has been called the German Pugin. Scotts suggestion was, of course, ignored but later in the month the committee did set up a panel of seven local architects. They were all classicists with the one exception of Theodor Bulau who was carrying out some Gothic buildings in the city at the time. Scott may have hoped that Bulau would be his ally but unfortunately for him, Bulau and Semper were life-long friends and Bulau kept Semper, in Dresden, in constant touch with the panels deliberations.

On 20 February 1845, the panel selected Sempers great domed structure as its favourite design, followed by the Gothic designs of Strack and Scott. However, the evangelical reformers disliked Sempers proposals and a young Hamburg cleric, Ferdinand Stöter immediately published an anonymous pamphlet attacking Semper and arguing for the appropriateness of Gothic for Protestant architecture. Semper seems to have panicked when he realised that extent of pro-Gothic feeling among the clergy: he not only produced his own reply to Stoter, but in five days he had rushed out a completely new Gothic design for St. Nicholas which he sent off to the panel, thus completely undermining his own anti-Gothic stance.

The Church Council, as the clients, were so embarrassed by the situation in which it had been placed that it asked Zwirner and Sulpiz Boisseree (1783-1854) to come to Hamburg and review the decision. The fact that the Council chose these two to re-examine the judges decision would indicate that they, in reality, wanted a Gothic design. As the architect commissioned to complete Cologne Cathedral, Zwirner was a committed Gothicist, while Boisseree, who had known Goethe, was the main driving force behind the project to complete Cologne. Scott must have been delighted with the Councils choice as he had already met both architects the previous year. However, Boisseree was ill and could not travel to Hamburg but he had received Stoters and other pamphlets and decided to send, what Scott calls a sort of essay on the subject, which was considered to coincide with my own views. Inevitably Zwirner was upset to discover that he was to be the sole arbiter in this important competition when he appeared in Hamburg on 28 April.

Muller thought that it best if Scott could also go to Hamburg in case of being wanted. He seems to have been able to drop everything and go to Hull, where he presumably stayed with his cousin. He crossed from there to Hamburg at the start of May 1845. On arrival, Muller told him that in fact his presence was not required but Scott decided to stay on to await the result and to fill his time by returning to sketch in the old town of Lubeck, where he had had such a delightful time some eight months earlier. After several days he heard, presumably from Muller, as he was attempting to remain incognito, that the committee had decided that he was the winner and he returned to Hamburg. It was only then that he found out that, in spite of his efforts, his presence had been discovered, and that Zwirner and one of the committee members had also gone off to Lubeck, and unbeknown to Scott, their paths had crossed on the way. This, Scott says, afforded a fine card for the invention of a conspiracy! Zwirner submitted his report on 8 May so, after months of dithering, the committee, on Zwirners recommendation, reversed the decision of the panel and on 19 May 1845 gave the first prize to Scott and Moffatt. Strack remained in second place and the third place was awarded to Lange. Semper was now completely out of the placings.

When it was clear what the outcome would be, Bulau dashed off a particularly bad-tempered letter to Semper which condemned all those involved in the decision, including the traitors of the state who play into the hands of the English, that contemptuous pack of enemies. Their scheme will not be successful The devil take them one and all. Semper was devastated at the outcome and, suspecting that there had been a meeting at Lubeck, threatened litigation, although faced with counter claims of libel, he backed down. Scotts behaviour may have been naïve but it seems, as he says, the conspiracy theory was an invention which could not stand up to legal scrutiny.

This was so far the greatest achievement of Scotts career. At the age of thirty-three he had beaten off the fiercest competition to become the winner of a major international architectural competition. The prestige and status of this success completely outshone his earlier triumphs at Wanstead, Oxford and Camberwell, as although his success with the last two was undoubtedly due to his skill and knowledge of Gothic architecture, its application at Hamburg had a much greater significance. In the rising tide of German nationalism and its search for a unified cultural identity, there were very few architects like Zwirner who were capable of executing work in the fully developed Gothic style. James Fergusson, writing about the reconstruction of Hamburg after the fire of 1842, said that with some buildings the German architects attempted what they call Gothic, and have failed as utterly as they generally do when they dabble in this style. In contrast, Edward Freeman (1823-92), an Oxford historian and Secretary of the Oxford Architectural Society, wrote in 1849 that St. Nicholas was the noblest work that three ages have produced.

Instead of rushing back home to celebrate his victory, Scott stayed on in Hamburg for a considerable time to make arrangements for commencing the execution of the work. His sketch book contains sketches that he had made in the medieval town of Luneburg, twenty-five miles south-east of Hamburg, and the monastery at Lune. The news of Scotts victory had obviously travelled before him but his triumphal return to London was somewhat marred by sourness from The Ecclesiologist. As a self-taught Gothicist, Scott was largely impervious to the didactic aspect of the Cambridge Camden movement. Oxford and Cambridge were the great recruiting grounds for the ecclesiologists, but he had not attended university, and although his family were all Cambridge men, their well-known evangelical views stemming from the Commentator, hardly helped his acceptability in High Church circles. So suspicions were confirmed when the outsider energetically fought off the other contenders to win the commission to design a church for Lutherans which The Ecclesiologist denounced as one of the worst sections of a heretical sect. It wrote about Scott that We are sure that the temporary gains of such a contract are a miserable substitute indeed for its unrealism, and we must say it its sin. Scott was obviously deeply hurt by the attack and immediately responded on 30 July 1845 with a very long letter To the Editor of the Ecclesiologist, which, to his annoyance, was not published.

Scott returned to Hamburg late the following September, when the contract for the foundations was signed, and on 8 October we formally broke ground. The design was modified as a difference of opinion had arisen; the second aisles were omitted and transepts added, with a fleche placed over the crossing. Scott had been learning German since his second visit but John Burlison was more successful with the language and apparently now freed from his involvement with Chesterfield spent some time at Hamburg in 1845, to get up practical information. Henry Green Mortimer, now finished with Stafford, was appointed Clerk of Works. Scott, therefore, had two of his most experienced and trustworthy assistants at Hamburg.

Again Scott had a fairly leisurely return journey from his third visit to Hamburg in October 1845. At Xanten on the Rhine he noted that it contains an admirable church, which had some influence on the maturing of the Hamburg design. So after some twelve month.