Neukirchen St Johannis
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St Johannis-Kirche is located in Neukirchen, a village in the “Holstein Switzerland” in Schleswig-Holstein, about 3 miles north of Bad Malente.
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Visiting Neukirchen St Johannis
St Johannis in Neukirchen is another inviting Round Tower Church in Schleswig-Holstein very worth seeing; we found it open during our visit. It is located on the edge of Holstein Switzerland in the small village of Neukirchen, about 3 miles north of the well-known spa town of Bad Malente.
The foundation of the church is closely related to the settlement of German farmers by Adolf II of Schauenburg (around 1140). “Still under Heinrich the Lion (1129-95), a church was built exactly in the middle of the Utine-Plune-Luitkenborg triangle, in a village assigned to the bishop, which received and kept the name ‘nova ecclesia’, new church” (“Neu” is “new” in German, and “-kirchen” stands for “-church”). The exact year of its foundation is not known, although the 850th anniversary of the church was celebrated in the parish in 2010, which would suggest the year 1160.
The master church builder Chorherr Volchart from Flanders had already drawn up the building plan at the same time as the plans for the churches in Bosau, Ratekau and Süsel in the time of Bishop Vicelin. Like these churches, St. John’s Church in Neukirchen, which is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is also referred to as Vicelin’s church, even though all these churches were not built until the time of his successor Gerold. However, it is probable that construction began before 1160, if one considers the dates of the dedications of the other Vicelin churches (Bosau 1152, Ratekau 1156, Süsel 1158).
The church is a Romanesque fieldstone building constructed from metre-thick rock walls. The round tower with its conical helmet is 40 metres high and looks out over the countryside. The settlers provided the manual labour for the construction of the church in Neukirchen. But the inhabitants of the neighbouring Slavic estates, whether Christian or pagan, also had to help. The field stones for the construction of the church were gathered from all sides, but they were also plentiful: during the last ice age, they were pushed from Norway and Sweden to northern Germany by huge glaciers. And so the stones are always “growing” because the frost pushes them upwards. The lime poured between the stones comes from the nearby Segeberger Kalkberg and is actually gypsum.
In Neukirchen, the tower is considered to have a defensive function. This is explained in particular by the metre-thick walls in the tower area, the height of the windows and the circular wall holes that can still be seen today.
The first major renovation took place in 1956-58, as the church had become slightly dilapidated after 800 years. In the course of this renovation, the new semicircular apse was added; another renovation followed in 2011-12. These renovations shape the appearance of St. John’s Church today. It is one of the best-preserved fieldstone churches and, of all the Vicelin churches, the one with the most of its original exterior.
The church is entered through a door in the south wall. There is no porch, so you immediately end up in the main room of the nave. Inside there are several remarkable things to see. For example, on the south wall of the nave there is a male, life-size figure of a saint from the 16th century. The Gothic triumphal cross in the chancel arch with a gaunt, larger-than-life corpus dates from the 14th century, the cup-shaped granite baptismal font from the 12th century. The pulpit with a Low German inscription was made in 1626 by two Neukirchen residents. Today’s organ on the west gallery from 1726 replaced the first organ from 1553. 14 baroque gallery paintings depicting the Passion can be seen on the west gallery. A further 16 gallery paintings, also baroque, with scenes from the life of Christ are now on the nave walls. One of the bells still in use dates from 1412.