Betzendorf St Peter & Paul

What you need to know about this church

St Peter & Paul-Kirche Betzendorf

Where to find this church

Church Information

St Peter & Paul-Kirche is located in Betzendorf, a village in Niedersachsen about 10 miles south-east of Lüneburg, and on the eastern edge of the famous “Lüneburger Heide”.

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Betzendorf St Peter & St Paul
Tower west view
Betzendorf St Peter & St Paul
Tower and porch

Visiting Betzendorf St Peter & Paul

A short preface to the churches in Lower Saxony and the quality and quantity of the photos: I visited all these churches “in a hurry”: I was in the region (which I don’t visit very often) and wanted to have “a couple of photos” of each one as quickly as possible for the website. But that is exactly how they look, and the quality especially of the interior photos (if there are any at all…) is also really bad, which is due to the old digital camera I still had at that time (we’re talking about 2006 here). Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity since to visit the churches in the region again and take more, more meaningful and better photos. So for the time being I have to make do with the ones I have. 

St Peter and Paul in Betzendorf, a village on the eastern edge of the Lüneburg Heath and about 10 miles south-east of its namesake Lüneburg, is actually a really interesting church worth seeing. Well, I took exactly three (THREE!) interior shots, which can’t even give you a rough overview. The exterior shots are also rather sparse, so that the following information, which I have gathered from the church guide (you will find a link to it in the info box above; it is in German), unfortunately cannot be found in the slide show at all.

Betzendorf lies on the old trade and military road from Lüneburg or Winsen/Luhe to Celle, also called the “Salt Road” or “Celle Military Road”. There is various evidence of early settlement in the area. The Lutheran church of St. Peter and Paul is one of the old churches in the Lüneburg area. No documents of its foundation have survived, thus an exact date for the construction of the church is not known, but is estimated to be around 1250. It is a Romanesque fieldstone church with tower, nave and choir.  It is assumed that it was originally a fortified church. Remains of the masonry from around 1350 are still preserved in the north wall of the present church. During the renovation between 1450 and 1460, the building was rebuilt while retaining the outer walls.

The massive fieldstone tower was built between 1200 and 1400. Openings have been cut into the walls of the tower to serve various purposes: at ground level and at a height of about 3 m, there are direct entrances to the church and the gallery; at a height of about 8 m, there are four sound openings, all of which have been designed differently in the course of history. The sound opening to the east is now covered by the church roof. It has an early Romanesque form.

Today’s roof has the shape of a ten-sided pyramid. Initially covered with shingles, these were replaced in 1869 by English slate and this in turn by copper sheeting in 1965.

The wall thickness tapers from the bottom to the top: 2.63 m at ground level, and only 1.17 m at the level of the sound opening. The total height of the tower is 24.86 m, of which 13.66 m is the wall body and 11.20 m the roof truss.

There are embrasures in the body of the wall, which can be reached through a passage. The remains of a passage in the body of the wall lead down to an earlier burial ground. On the top of the tower, on a globe and under a cross, is a weathervane from 1907 with the inscription: “I H S” “1659 1907”. Two bells hang in the tower; the smaller was cast in 1921, the larger in 1956.

One enters the church through the south porch near the tower. The nave and choir were vaulted during the above-mentioned reconstruction between 1450 and 1460. During examinations of the vault surfaces, late Gothic paintings were discovered in March 1984, but unfortunately they were not uncovered for reasons of cost. In the centre of the nave, the chandelier from 1992 immediately catches the eye after entering the church. The dove of peace, which is in a nosedive, carries a branch in its beak which it brings to humanity. In the body of the chandelier are figures of misery. Above the front entrance on the south wall hangs a medieval crucifix from around 1360. At the ends of the cross beams are quatrefoils with reliefs showing the four evangelists and Adam pointing to Christ. Behind the front south entrance is the pulpit from 1881 with a seven-sided basic form on a column, with one side recessed for the seven-step staircase. The images in the infills show the evangelists and Christ as the good shepherd.

The centre of the choir room and highlight of the church is certainly the altar shrine, which you can even see in a photo in the slide show. It was carved between 1450 and 1460. It is a triptych in one storey with carved figures, each standing or sitting on a pedestal; a predella with a sacrament niche closed to the front by an iron grille was added in 1881. The figures on the triptych represent disciples and apostles of Jesus, Mary and Jesus himself.

Behind the altar is a group of modern windows from 1985 showing scenes from the Bible. The view back from the choir goes to the west gallery with the organ from 1881.

Conclusion: interesting church with plenty to see that we have to revisit urgently

Betzendorf St Peter & St Paul
Nave east view
Betzendorf St Peter & St Paul
Betzendorf St Peter & St Paul
View west from the chancel