You will find historic buildings all over the city center. Luckily Lüneburg was not destroyed over the decades through e. g. fires or wars. Though locals call the western part of the center ‘old town’, because here you find a high amount of original housings side by side. It is a beautiful area to stroll around and discover some of the details of the various decorated facades.
The street of houses leading to St. Michael's Church is called “Auf dem Meere” and part of the so-called subsidence area. In some spots the ground water table is less than one metre below the earth. Due to this, the cellars cannot be used in almost all of the houses and most of them have been filled in for safety reasons.
House No. 9 in the middle of the street is especially eye-catching. Massive subsidence caused by the salt mining made the house shift quite a bit. The middle part of this neo-classical building has a basement, so this part did not move as much as the sides of the house.
The street which is running parallel is called 'Neue Sülze' and runs from the town hall to the saline. It forms the edge of the salt deposit. The surface extends over 1.2 sq kilometres, making it one of the largest in North Germany. The pure salt is found at 35-40 metres. In successful years, the people from Lüneburg extracted 25,000 tons of salt per annum. Over the years depressions became more frequent. Depleted caves collapsed and took the houses built on top with them. The subsidence was the reason why a whole district was scheduled for demolition after the Second World War. Despite massive protests, about 180 houses with over 600 flats were torn down. Only when the 'Arbeitskreis Lüneburger Altstadt' (short: ALA) was founded in 1972, the district could be saved with the help of donations. ALA’s Renaissance fairs are legendary, all the net profits from these events are used for monument preservation.
Auf dem Meere
ST. MICHAEL CHURCH
After the castle including the convent and church of St. Michael was torn down, it was rebuilt here in this spot inside the city wall between 1376 and 1418. In regard of the massive subsidiaries the location at the foot of Kalkberg was not a wise choice. Due to the salt mining the tower and the hall church were heavily damaged. Some of the columns on the left inside the church are inclining more than 60 centimetres to the side. The 'Klosterkammer Hannover' has to authorize extensive restorations on a regular basis, therefore little is left of the Gothic interior.
All in all St. Michaels boasts ten church bells. The youngest was cast in 1975, the oldest is rumoured to have beckoned Henry the Lion to attend the church service. The tower with its baroque helmed roof is inclined more than 70 centimetres to the South-West, due to the salt mining subsidiaries. When you enter the tower hall, you will discover the brass measuring point set into the floor covering.
A special work of art is the pulpit, created in 1602 by the sculptor David Schwenke. The once famous altar, the 'Golden Table' was destroyed through robbery, ignorance and neglect.
The office of the scale master – where weights and measures were adjusted to standard - gave Waagestraße its name ('Waage' is the German word for scale). At the middle of the street, on the opposite side of the town hall garden, you can see a house with a belly-like concavity. These are a common sight in Lüneburg, natives mockingly call them 'pregnant houses'.
For centuries, the brick houses in Lüneburg were built with gypsum mortar, which was hewn from the Kalkberg massif, ground and fired.
Unfortunately, the plaster kilns were too hot and too much humidity was extracted from the bricks. They were 'burned to death'. Over time, the plaster absorbed much of the missing humidity and the walls started to bulge to the outside.