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Impressions of space
inside church


As with many Gothic Christian churches the nave of St. Nikolai's is divided by columns into three and faces eastwards. The impressive round brick pillars create a path directing your eye to the altar. At first glance there seems to be a transept in front of the steps to the chancel, flooded with light. This is in fact an optical effect, caused because the distance between the pillars increases. The four back bays of the vault (first phase of construction 1390-1440) are shorter than the later ones (1440-1480). Above the chancel and the free space in front of the steps the vault is almost square, the last bay is again arrowed.  The ribs of the lower vaults of the aisles and the arcades to the main nave are added at the upper third.
 

The half consoles in bricks emphasize this without disturbing the continuous inner pillar shafts in front of the upper wall of the nave. Here the eye can pass unhindered up high where the vaults of the nave move further upwards reaching beyond the consoles of the same shape. In bright daylight you can see the remains of the late Gothic architecture painting (linear arcades of pointed arches with baldachins). The pews of St. Nikolai have moved about over time. Formerly, there was a very broad central aisle. Then in 1933 the nationally oriented Pastor Heinrich Kähler dispensed entirely with the central aisle, installing pews continuous from pillar to pillar, and moving the post Reformation pulpit (1570) to its present location in front of the congregation. He remarked: »I want to see a block of German Christians in front of me.« Kähler faced criticism on his broad appreciation of the Nazi regime from within his family: »Heinrich, it's an error!«, his wife is quoted.) The present arrangement of the pews restores a narrower central aisle, to emphasise the idea of a path or procession to the steps of the chancel - the »road to the Lord« which worshippers symbolically take in the service. Before the Reformation, St. Nikolai would have looked quite different. In contrast to today's Rococo altar, the lost medieval winged main altar wouldn't have dominated the space. A »Lettner« (choir screen) separated the choir from the nave. And dotted around were 18 altars, endowed by the guilds of the town, where Mass was celebrated. Though some of the »Catholic paintings« were removed in Lutheran Flensburg in 1598, it was not until the »big clearout« in the 1830's and 1840's, of which numerous pieces of furnishings together with the side altars and the Lettner were the victims, that the present character of the room emerged with its brick pillars, its whitewashed walls and its open view.