St. Nicholas' Church – Hamburg, Germany - Atlas Obscura

St. Nicholas' Church

Once the tallest building in the world, this abandoned church is now a monument to the destruction of WWII. 


While the tall Gothic tower of St. Nicholas’ Church in Hamburg, Germany, still pierces the skyline of the city like it did in the brief heyday when it ranked as the tallest building in the world, what remains of the church below is now empty save for visitors coming to pay their respects to the World War II monument it has become.

The ornate Gothic fortress whose spire remains today was originally built on the spot in 1874. It was built on the site of a former church that had burnt to the ground, and upon its completion the top of the central tower marked the tallest building in the world. While the church only held this honor for a couple of years before being deposed by another cathedral, it continued to act as a well-respected and iconic holy house in the city, the intricate Gothic design making it an architectural gem.

Unfortunately, as with many countries in Europe, World War II arrived and drastically changed the city’s landscape. During a 1943 bombing run the church was irreparably damaged and had to be abandoned. Eventually the nave building was torn down, but the tower, which was still fairly structurally sound was left, hollow but standing.

Today the gorgeous tower still stands in Hamburg as a war memorial. Visitors can ride an elevator to the top of the tower for a lovely if somewhat tragic view of the city.       

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