SONNIN, Ernst Georg
(b. 1713, Quitzow, d. 1794, Hamburg)

Interior view

1750-57
Photo
Sankt Michaelis, Hamburg

St. Michael's Church is one of Hamburg's five Lutheran main churches and the most famous church in the city. St. Michael's is a landmark of the city and it is considered to be one of the finest Hanseatic Protestant Baroque churches. The church was purposely built Protestant unlike many other Hamburg churches which were originally built by Roman Catholics and were converted to Protestantism during the Reformation. It is dedicated to the Archangel Michael.

The reconstruction of St. Michael's, which had succumbed to fire in 1750, was the main work and masterpiece of Ernst Georg Sonnin. In 1750 he, and the Thuringian-born Johann Leonard Prey (1700-1757) submitted proposals for the reconstruction of the church. The foundation stone was laid a year later, and the finishing ceremony was carried out in December 1757, although with a tower base barely covered over. It was only twenty years later that funds were made available for the construction of the tower.

Along with the Frauenkirche in Dresden, Sankt Michaelis is considered the most splendid example of a Protestant Baroque church. Protestant in conception but Catholic in execution might be a reasonable description of a first impression on entering the building. The spatial proportions and dimensions of the centralized hall are remarkable, especially when viewed from the gallery. The four piers that mark out the cruciform ground plan support broad coffered transverse arches bearing a lofty trough-shaped vault lined with a broad projecting ledge and an encircling balustrade.

The composer Johannes Brahms was baptized on May 26, 1833 in this church and confirmed at the age of fifteen.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 22 minutes):
Johannes Brahms: Sonata for cello and piano No. 1 E minor op. 38