Things will be quieter than usual in Germany’s churches this Christmas. The festive concerts have been cancelled, but the Christmas services will be taking place under coronavirus restrictions.
The Frauenkirche church in Dresden
Dresden’s Frauenkirche church is regarded worldwide as a symbol of reconciliation. It was rebuilt after its destruction in World War II with donations from all over the world. Since 1993, when the altar was uncovered in the ruins, an open-air vesper has been held on December 23 — most recently with 18,000 people. This year there will only be a live stream from the church without any attendance.
Thomaskirche church in Leipzig
The Nikolaikirche church in Leipzig is synonymous with the Peaceful Revolution, the Thomaskirche church with Johann Sebastian Bach, who was cantor there for 27 years. On Christmas Eve, the people of Leipzig are drawn to Bach’s church to listen to the St. Thomas Boys Choir. The choir will perform again this year, but the number of visitors is reduced and registration is required.
Frauenkirche church in Munich
The imposing Liebfrauendom church is the landmark of the Bavarian capital. It literally heralds Christmas for the people of Munich. On Christmas Eve at 3 p.m., the 10 bells in the two towers chime for 20 minutes. Because only 130 registered visitors will be able to attend the solemn Christmas mass, it will also be broadcast live online.
Cologne Cathedral is the landmark of the Rhine metropolis, visible from afar. At 157 meters (515 ft) high, Cologne Cathedral is the third tallest church in the world. To ensure that as many people as possible can celebrate Christmas Eve in the Gothic cathedral this year despite the strict hygiene regulations, there will be four Christmas masses for which online registration is required.
Boasting 1,224 years of history, the Aachen Cathedral is a famous pilgrimage site. Founded by Charlemagne, for centuries it was the coronation church of German kings. The festive Christmas masses under the cathedral’s huge dome are something very special. Because of coronavirus restrictions, only 120 visitors will be allowed to enjoy them at one time; twice as many masses are planned here too.
St. Michael’s Church, called “Michel” by the people of Hamburg, is seen as northern Germany’s most beautiful baroque church. On Christmas Eve, there’s always a continuous service in the Michel, candles are lit, and people sing together (archive photo). A beloved tradition that will continue this year: The services will be held alternately indoors and outdoors under coronavirus regulations.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin
The old steeple is a reminder of the destruction during World War II, the new one a feat of reconstruction. The Memorial Church is a landmark and a memorial — a place that provides unwavering comfort and confidence. On Christmas Eve, masses will be held with fewer visitors, more distancing and hygiene rules.
At 161.5 meters (530 ft), Ulm Minster has the tallest steeple in the world. In good weather, the view from the observation deck reaches as far as the Alps. Christmas services will also be held in Germany’s biggest Protestant church, but they will be limited to half an hour, reservations will be required for visitors, and hygiene and distance rules will apply.
No less than 40 churches dominate the cityscape of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony. The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is 1,200 years old and a jewel of Romanesque architecture. What a festive setting for services during the Christmas holidays! Each of the 11 services will be open to 80 registered visitors, and the Christmas Eve mass will be available as a live stream online.
Erfurt (St. Mary’s) Cathedral
A Gothic package: St. Mary’s Cathedral (left), St. Severus Church (right). For many Erfurt residents, Cathedral Hill is the place where the mystery of Christmas becomes apparent. Namely, when the holiday is celebrated on Christmas Eve at 11:30 p.m. in St. Mary’s Cathedral, with Christmas carols and readings from the Christmas Gospel. This year too — but with distancing and hygiene precautions.