In Magdeburg’s old town, almost on the banks of the Elbe, stands Johanniskirche. Today the building is no longer used as a church, but as a venue for events. Visitors are welcome and the view from the church tower is unique.
History of the Johanniskirche
Exactly how long the church has existed is still not known. It was first mentioned in 941, when King Otto I donated a church to the monks of the Moritz Monastery. What it might have looked like at that time is not known. In 1188, the church was damaged in a town fire and burnt down in another fire in 1207.
If you then read further in the historical information about the church that has been handed down, you have to give the people of Magdeburg high praise for their tireless willpower. No sooner had the church been rebuilt than another fire caused damage to the building. And this happened not just once, but several times.
One of the highlights in the history of the parish certainly took place on 26 June 1524, when Martin Luther preached in the church and the church subsequently became Protestant. Today, the Luther memorial in front of the church commemorates this event.
Almost 100 years later, during the Thirty Years’ War, troops robbed the church and burned it down. Clergy and parishioners were murdered. The parish priest returned after his imprisonment and again the people of Magdeburg mobilised enormous financial resources to rebuild the church. A provisional wooden building was followed by the construction of a massive new church from 1662. Gradually the work took place and by 1675 both church towers were built in timber.
Rather unusual, I think, was the additional secular use from 1832 to 1850, during which time the roof served as an official Prussian telegraph facility.
The doorman, who was still on duty on the tower of Johanniskirche until 1874, was replaced by an electric fire alarm. A little later, a heating system was installed and in 1923 the church received electric light.
During the Second World War, the attacks on the town also damaged the church. Only a ruin remained standing.
The period after World War II
For many years, the Johanniskirche remained a ruin. From 1953 onwards, clearing work began slowly and a flat roof was built on the nave. The towers were secured and rebuilt.
The work had not been carried out very soundly and so the porch had to be closed in 1961. In 1968, the community donated the building and the land to the city of Magdeburg. After further securing work, the city opened the south tower as a lookout tower in 1980.
After the political change, there were efforts to rebuild the church. Cultural events were still held in the ruins and after the reconstruction the building could now be used as a concert and festival hall.
View inside the building
To get to the tower of the Johanniskirche, you first have to cross the large and almost empty interior. The only reminder of a church here are the beautiful coloured windows. The south side of the interior is dominated by six coloured windows through which daylight enters the room. In the choir, there are seven windows that are the complete opposite. Monochrome windows have been installed here, which let light into the room in very black and white tones. So far, I have never seen such a window design in any church. Another colourful window is on the north side of the church.
The ceiling of the church is suspended for acoustic reasons.
If you go as far as the choir, you can descend a staircase. There are remains of old walls here.
Way up the tower
You can only climb one of the two towers. The south tower is open to visitors when there are no events. It goes up a total of 277 steps via well-trodden stone steps. At a height of 52 metres is the viewing platform, which runs once around the tower.
It is a beautiful view over the city and the Elbe. You can see almost all the sights of the city, from Magdeburg Cathedral to the Millennium Tower in the Elbauenpark. Sometimes you have to search a bit, like the Green Citadel, which is hidden behind other houses.
Adults: 3 €
Tuesday – Sunday:
10.00 – 17.00
On days when events are taking place in St. John’s Church, the church remains closed.