Thomaskirche (Leipzig)

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West front of St. Thomas Church (2019)
St. Thomas Church from the East (2019)
Thomas Church (1547)
Thomas Church (1615)

The Thomaskirche in Leipzig is - together with the Nikolaikirche - one of the two main churches in the city and is known worldwide as the place of work of Johann Sebastian Bach and the St. Thomas Choir .


The Mendelssohn Portal (2019)

Between 1212 and 1222 the older market church was converted into the collegiate church of the new St. Thomas monastery of the Augustinian canons . The minstrel Heinrich von Morungen is said to have given the monastery a relic of St. Thomas on the occasion of his entry , which he had brought from India. Remains of the Romanesque building came to light during archaeological excavations.

The St. Thomas Boys Choir was founded in 1212 and is therefore one of the oldest boys' choirs in Germany. In the course of history, important composers and performing musicians have held the prestigious office of Thomas Cantor .

Towards the end of the 15th century, Leipzig achieved abundant prosperity thanks to silver finds in the Ore Mountains. The old nave was torn down in 1482 and rebuilt in the shape that has largely been in place today. The church was consecrated again on April 10, 1496 by the Merseburg bishop Thilo von Trotha . In the course of the centuries it underwent some additions and modifications; The most important is the 68 m high tower, the bottom floor of which dates from before 1355, which was given the octagonal tower in the 14th century and its present shape in the middle of the 19th century.

At Pentecost 1539, the reformer Martin Luther preached here .

The exterior shape of the church is mainly characterized by renovations and alterations in the 19th century. After the church was given over to the self-government of the parish by the council in 1869, historicizing renovations took place on the outer facade for around 30 years. The neo-Gothic façade was designed by Constantin Lipsius , while at the same time all Gothic and Renaissance façade elements were removed.

From ancient times the tower contained the keeper's apartment . This was inhabited from 1533 to 1917.

The air raid on Leipzig on December 4, 1943 caused damage to the entire structure. During the attack, large parts of the buildings that once surrounded the church were destroyed, so that the restoration work after the end of the war required further changes to the facade. Above all, the uniform plaster should be mentioned, while large parts of the façade, which was vacated by the lack of additions, consisted only of unplastered brick masonry.

On the occasion of the Bach year 1950, the remains of Bach , who was Thomaskantor here from 1723 until his death in 1750, were transferred from the destroyed St. John's Church.


The three-aisled hall church has a total length of 76 m. The length of the main nave is 50 m, the width 25 m and the height 18 m. The choir is slightly angled towards the nave. The roof has an unusually steep angle of inclination of 63 °, making it one of the steepest gable roofs in Germany. Inside it has seven levels (ridge height 45 m). The ceiling of the nave consists of a ribbed vault in a contrasting color .

Interior and equipment

Bornscher Altar (1721-1887)

The Pauline Altar (2010)

The baroque portico altar or Born's altar in the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig was installed there from 1721 to 1887. It is named after the patron Jacob Born (1638–1709), President of the Leipzig Consistory. The main artists were Giovanni Maria Fossati and the sculptor Paul Heermann (1673–1732). The marble for the construction of the altar was donated by August the Strong, and after Hugo Licht rebuilt the St. John's Church in Leipzig , the altar was installed in the neo-baroque choir room there in 1897. There he was bombed on December 4, 1943.

Pauliner altar (1993-2014)

The Gothic Pauliner altar from the 15th century was originally located in the St. Pauli University Church . This was blown up in 1968. The altar could be saved, was erected in the St. Thomas Church in 1993 as an altar retable and was there until October 25, 2014.

Neo-Gothic Jesus altar

The Jesus Altar (2014, still in the Petzoldt sacristy)

The altar, designed and built in 1888 based on the theological pictorial program by Superintendent Oskar Pank under the direction of the architect Constantin Lipsius, was moved to the south sacristy of the church in the 1960s. After a two-year restoration phase, during which the reredos were restored and a new altar table set up, the Jesus altar was returned after 53 years from the Petzoldt sacristy to the chancel of the St. Thomas Church. He was taken back into service in the service on August 28, 2016.

Baptismal font

The font was created by Franz Döteber in 1614/1615 . It is made of marble and alabaster . Biblical scenes are depicted on it. In 2009 it was restored.


In the church there are numerous tombstones and epitaphs , including the late Gothic tombstones of Nickel Pflugk († 1482) and the knight Hermann von Harras from Lichtenwalde († 1451), which is attached under the south pore to the left of the side entrance. The epitaph for councilor Daniel Leicher from 1612 hangs in the northern crossing area.

JS Bach's grave

The Bach grave in the St. Thomas Church

The bones of Johann Sebastian Bach have been in the Thomaskirche since 1950. After his death on July 28, 1750, he was buried in the hospital cemetery of the Johanniskirche. In the course of the Bach renaissance that began in the 19th century, a broad public began to be interested in the bones and the exact location of Bach's grave. Therefore, in 1894, the anatomy professor Wilhelm His was commissioned to identify Bach's bones from exhumed bones. His came to the conclusion that “the assumption that the bones of an elderly man found in an oak coffin on October 22, 1894 at the Johannis Church were the bones of Johann Sebastian Bach”, was highly probable. On July 16, 1900, the bones were again buried in a stone sarcophagus under St. John's Church.

In the course of the bombing of Leipzig on December 4, 1943, the Johanniskirche was destroyed. The sarcophagus with the bones of Bach remained intact. After discussions about the location and design of a new grave, it was decided in 1949 to bury Bach “in the choir, where the highest spatial height of the church intersects with its most sacred space”. On July 28, 1949, the bones were transferred to the St. Thomas Church and initially laid out in a makeshift manner in the northern sacristy. There they were guarded day and night by parishioners until the coffin lid was closed on August 13, 1949. The new tomb, based on a design by the Leipzig architect Kunz Nierade, located in the steps to the choir, was inaugurated on July 28, 1950, the 200th anniversary of Bach's death. In the course of the interior renovation of the St. Thomas Church, which took place from 1961 to 1964, the burial site was moved to the choir room in 1961 using the bronze plate from 1950.

Church window

The Thomaskirche originally had simple ornamental glazing. Only after 1889 were colored windows installed in the choir room and on the south side. The five choir windows were created by Alexander Linnemann from Frankfurt am Main . The only choir window that was destroyed in the Second World War was replaced in 2000 by the Thomas window based on a design by Hans Gottfried von Stockhausen .

The windows on the south side show the following motifs: Memorial window for the fallen of the First World War; King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden; Johann Sebastian Bach; Martin Luther with Elector Friedrich the Wise of Saxony (left) and Philipp Melanchthon (right); Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (since 1997); Kaiser Wilhelm I. In October 2009 this series was supplemented by the peace window designed by David Schnell , which commemorates 20 years of peaceful revolution .

On New Year's Eve 2019/2020, a perpetrator - now captured - smashed several windows in the church, including the rose window above the west portal, as well as some other valuable ones from the end of the 19th century, with paving stones.


The history of the organs of the St. Thomas Church can be traced back to the 14th century. In 1489 a "small organ" is mentioned in writing. In 1511 a large organ was built by Blasius Lehmann on the west gallery, which was replaced or enlarged in 1601 by a three-manual instrument by Johann Lange ( Kamenz ) with 25 registers . Extensions and renovations followed in 1619 by Josias Ibach, 1721/1722 by Johann Scheibe and 1772/1773 by Johann Gottlieb Mauer . In 1639 a swallow's nest organ was built on a new gallery above the triumphal arch, which was removed in 1740. Bach's St. Matthew Passion was performed in 1736 “with beyden organs”. Mozart played the main organ on May 12, 1789. From 1885 this organ was replaced by a Sauer instrument.

Former Schuke organ

The Sauer organ

Since music from the Baroque period can only be performed to a limited extent on the romantically arranged Sauer organ with pneumatic action, Alexander Schuke built a three-manual organ with 47 registers and mechanical action in the corner of the wall at the east end in 1967 the north gallery stood. Your brochure was contemporary, modern, well structured and simply designed. The Schuke organ gave way in May 1999 to the new building by Woehl . 42 of their registers and wind chests were reused in the organ in the Fürstenwalder Dom St. Marien , consecrated in 2005 , as well as the organ bench and the pedal board.

The Thomaskirche today has two large organs:

Sauer organ

The older of the two large organs stands on the large west gallery, the choir gallery of the St. Thomas' Choir. The romantic instrument was built between 1885 and 1889 by the organ builder Wilhelm Sauer . The organ initially had 63 registers on three manuals and a pedal. In 1908 the disposition was expanded to a total of 88 registers based on suggestions from Karl Straube . The game and register actions are designed as inflow pneumatics . The tuning is equal and is at a 1 = 440 Hz. The Sauer organ is considered ideal for representing Max Reger's organ music . Until 2005, the instrument was restored by the Christian Scheffler organ workshop and returned to its original condition from 1908.

Woehl organ

The Woehl organ

In the Bach year 2000, the organ builder Gerald Woehl (Marburg) built another organ, also called the "Bach organ", on the north wall on the north gallery opposite the Bach window. This instrument is mainly used to reproduce the organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Externally, the instrument takes up elements of the baroque prospect of the former disc organ of the St. Pauli University Church, which was blown up in 1968 by Bach . Woehl adapted the prospectus to the spatial conditions in the Thomaskirche and to the four-manual disposition of the new instrument, which is crowned by an additional upper work. The organ's character as a baroque instrument should be expressed through the baroque structure, which is concentrated towards the center. In contrast, many details, such as the frame profiles and case curves, the Bach emblem in the middle of the organ, the crown above the console and the two cymbal stars are modern.

The Woehl organ has 61 registers (4266 pipes) on four manual works and a pedal. The play area is located in the middle under the breastwork. The sound of the instrument is based on organs of the central German organ building of the 18th century. The basis for the disposition was the design by Johann Christoph Bach I for the Stertzing organ of the Georgenkirche Eisenach (1697–1707), whereby not all registers were executed. The organ of the Thomaskirche has two cymbal stars, a glockenspiel and two kinds of “bird calls” as an effect register . The playing and stop actions are mechanical.

The wind turbine is housed under the gallery platforms, separated for manual works (left) and pedal works (right); it consists of two wedge bellows, template and wind motor. By means of a lever (chamber coupler) it is possible to switch the whole work to two different pitches - a semitone higher in the chorus tone or lower in the concert tone . The tuning is unequal (according to Neidhardt ) and is at a 1 = 465 Hz (chorus tone), which corresponds to the usual pitch of Leipzig organs of the Bach era, or a 1 = 415 Hz (low concert pitch) for playing with baroque instruments. Range of choruses: manuals C – f 3 , pedal C – f 1 ; Pitch range concert pitch: manuals CD – f 3 , pedal CD – f 1 .

Since 2006 the church has been enriched by a chest organ for continuo playing , which also comes from the Gerald Woehl workshop.

Thomas organist


The incised drawings on the Gloriosa by Nikolaus Eisenberg

Four bells hang in the tower of the St. Thomas Church. The largest church bell is the Gloriosa and only rings on high feast days. Theodericus Reinhard cast it in 1477 with a weight of 5,200 kg and a diameter of 204 cm. The engravings of the bell with a height of 74 cm created Nikolaus Eisenberg . Their strike tone is a 0 .

The second largest bell sounds on the strike note c 1 and was cast by Wolf Hilliger in 1574 . The monk's or confessional bell is the third largest bell in the strike tone d 1 . Jakob König cast it in 1634; it also serves as an hour bell.

The fourth bell rings for prayer. It was cast by Christophorus Gros in 1585 and can be heard on f 2 . The joy of singing the bells is greatly impaired by the suspension on cranked steel yokes. A chiming bell for the quarter-hour hangs separately in the tower lantern, which was cast by the Schilling bell foundry in Apolda based on the model of its predecessor from 1539.

Casting year
(16th note)
1 Gloriosa 1477 Theodericus Reinhard 2040 5,200 a 0
2 1574 Wolf Hilliger c 1
3 Monk or confession bell 1634 Jacob King d 1
4th 1585 Christophorus Gros f 2

In March 2017, the Leipziger Volkszeitung reported on the urgently needed project to comprehensively restore the historic bells and their belfry. In addition, the ringing should be supplemented by at least 3 bells with the striking tones c 2 , g 2 and a 2 .

The tower is normally open to visitors, but is currently closed, probably until 2021, due to work on the bells.

Bach monument in front of the church

Outdoor area

In front of the side entrance of the Thomaskirche there is a monument to Johann Sebastian Bach by the sculptor Carl Seffner from 1908. An older Bach monument , which was created with the support of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy in 1843, is in the green area in front of the main entrance, as is a memorial for Mendelssohn . On the north-west corner of the church there is a plaque for Johann Adam Hiller , which comes from an earlier monument .

Place of music

The St. Thomas ' Choir and the Gewandhaus Orchestra perform regularly in St. Thomas' Church : Fridays at 6:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. in the motet and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. during church services . On special occasions and festive days, Thomas concerts are performed primarily with works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy .

Many works by Johann Sebastian Bach were premiered in the church. After Bach's works had largely been forgotten in Leipzig, Mendelssohn began to perform them again, thus establishing the tradition of Leipzig Bach maintenance.

Some works by other composers were also premiered here, for example the symphony cantata Lobgesang by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

Support association

The Thomaskirche - Bach e. V. was founded in 1997 on the initiative of Sup. Johannes Richter. Since then he has the Ev.-Luth. St. Thomas parish supported with 5.5 million euros. The association now has over 300 members worldwide.

The goals of the association are to promote the preservation of the St. Thomas Church, the St. Thomas House (successor building to the old St. Thomas School ) and the maintenance of church music, in particular the work of Johann Sebastian Bach. It is thanks to the commitment of the Förderverein that the Thomaskirche Leipzig was able to be completely restored on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach. With the donations that the association acquires, it helps to maintain the Thomaskirche as a place of faith, spirit and music and to finance various projects. This includes the renovation of the two organs as well as the return of the neo-Gothic Jesus altar to its original place in the chancel of the St. Thomas Church. In October 2017, the Thomaskirche - Bach e. V. started a donation campaign for the restoration and expansion of the historic bells of St. Thomas Church, which should bring in EUR 350,000 by the end of 2019.

Furthermore, the "Thomasshop" or the Thomaskirche-Bach-2000-Marketing-GmbH was founded. The sales proceeds from the “Thomasshop” benefit the Thomaskirche.


  • Cornelius Gurlitt : St. Thomas Church. In:  Descriptive representation of the older architectural and art monuments of the Kingdom of Saxony. 17th booklet: City of Leipzig (Part I) . CC Meinhold, Dresden 1895, p. 40.
  • Carl Niedner: The patronage of the Augustinian Canon Collegiate Church of St. Thomae in Leipzig. Investigations into the early history of the Bach Church and the old town of Leipzig . VEB Bibliographical Institute, Leipzig 1952.
  • Gunter Hempel: Episodes about the Thomaskirche and the Thomaner . Tauchaer Verlag, Taucha 1997, ISBN 3-910074-67-7 .
  • Stefan Altner: St. Thomas Choir and St. Thomas Church. Historical and present in pictures . Tauchaer Verlag, Taucha 1998, ISBN 3-910074-84-7 .
  • Martin Petzoldt : St. Thomas in Leipzig . Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2000, ISBN 3-374-01842-4 .
  • Christian Wolff : The Thomaskanzel. Orientation between doubt and certainty . Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-374-02122-0 .
  • Christian Wolff (Ed.): St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. A Place of Faith, Spirit and Music . Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-374-02190-5 .
  • Christian Wolff (ed.): The Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Place of faith, spirit, music . Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-374-02169-7 .
  • Christian Wolff (Hrsg.): The organs of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig . Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2005, ISBN 3-374-02300-2 .
  • Text booklet for the CD "The new Bach organ of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig"
  • Alberto Schwarz: Das Alte Leipzig - Stadtbild und Architektur , Beucha 2018, pp. 85 ff., ISBN 978-3-86729-226-9 .

Web links

Commons : Thomaskirche  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 51 ° 20 ′ 21.5 ″  N , 12 ° 22 ′ 21.3 ″  E

Individual evidence

  1. Text booklet for the CD: The new Bach organ of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Querstand 2001 (explanations by Thomas organist Ullrich Böhme about the church)
  2. a b c d building. December 20, 2019, accessed January 5, 2020 .
  3. Discover. In: Website Thomaskirche. Accessed January 1, 2020 .
  4. Martin Petzoldt : The altars of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2012, ISBN 978-3-374-03061-3 , pp. 42–51.
  5. ^ Johanniskirche, Leipzig. In: Journal of Construction . tape 51 .
  6. - The Pauliner Altar is back on Augustusplatz (October 24, 2014)
  7. a b illustration "The Bach grave in the Thomaskirche", exhibited in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. On-site inspection on August 9, 2011.
  8. Church leaders: Thomaskirche: place of faith, spirit, music
  9. ↑ St. Thomas Church in Leipzig: window destroyer captured. Retrieved January 7, 2020 .
  10. ^ Neumann (Ed.): Foreign-written and printed documents on the life story of Johann Sebastian Bach 1685–1750. 1969, p. 141.
  11. a b St. Marien-Domkantorei: Cathedral organ ( memento of July 24, 2017 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on April 1, 2015.
  12. organ Portrait: The Schuke organ in the Cathedral of Fürstenwalde. (Broadcast in RBB Kultur on November 30, 2019, on December 1, 2019 at listened to)
  13. To the concept of the Bach organ ( memento from February 3, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) on
  14. Felix Friedrich , Vitus Froesch: Organs in Saxony - A Guide (=  257. publication of the Society of Organ Friends ). Kamprad, Altenburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-930550-89-0 , p. 15 .
  15. Information on the Bach organ
  16. Historical Leipzig chimes need a cure. in: Leipziger Volkszeitung, March 15, 2017.
  17. See the Give us a g ''! Information on the fundraising site for the project