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The leaning tower of Lüneburg. The builder jumped off and survived

In the middle of the town


It is not only Pisa that has a leaning tower – so does Lüneburg.

The oldest church in Lüneburg is St. John’s; it attracts the visitor from afar because of its 108-metre-high spire, which rises high into the sky.

During construction of the spire around 1384, the tower leant 2.20 metres to the west from the vertical. It should be leaning a bit because steeples were always angled slightly into the wind, but not by so much!

Even today the legend is told in Lüneburg of the architect who erected the leaning tower: after construction he saw what he had done. He climbed the stairs to the church tower and plunged in shame through a window into the depths.


However, just at that moment a hay cart drove past. The architect landed softly and survived the fall. He thought to himself, "If I'm still alive after this jump, then it must be God's will that the tower is so crooked." With this certainty he wanted to celebrate the event, got drunk in a pub, fell from the bench, broke his neck and died.

Existing as early as 927 as a baptistery, St. John’s church is one of the oldest in Lower Saxony. It served as a model for many hall churches in northern Germany, for example in Stendal, Brandenburg, Hanover and Tangermünde. The five-aisled hall church with almost square plan once contained 39 altars. The famous high altar with paintings by Hinrik Funhoff and the magnificent Baroque organ are definitely worth seeing.

The young Johann Sebastian Bach learned to play the organ and composed with his uncle Georg Böhm, who worked from 1698 to 1733 as a cantor and composer in St. John’s church.

Der Turm ist während des Baus um 1384 nach Westen hin 2,20 Meter aus dem Lot geraten. Er sollte zwar schief sein, denn Kirchtürme wurden immer etwas in den Wind gestellt, damit sie nicht die volle Windlast frontal abbekamen, jedoch nicht so schief.
Und noch heute erzählt man sich in Lüneburg die Legende von dem Baumeister, der den schiefen Turm errichtete: Nach dem Bau sah er, was er angerichtet hatte. Daraufhin stieg er die Treppen zum Kirchturm hoch und stürzte sich voller Scham durch ein Fenster in die Tiefe.

Allerdings fuhr gerade in dem Moment ein Heuwagen vorbei. Der Baumeister landete weich und überlebte den Sturz. Er dachte bei sich: "Wenn ich nach diesem Sprung noch lebe, dann muss es Gottes Wille sein, dass der Turm so schief ist." Mit dieser Gewissheit wollte er das Ereignis feiern, betrank sich in einer Kneipe, fiel dort von der Bank, brach sich das Genick und war tot.