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Kirchen im Alten Land


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The history of our church


The diocese of Jork was referred to for the first time in 1221, in a document signed by the Bishop of Verden, Iso von Bremen. The name most probably originated from the Latin, Majorca, meaning tithe land.
The parish of Jork belonged to the Hollenstedt archdeaconry, which was under the authority of the Andreasstift - St. Andrews's cloister - in Verden. In 1543 the first Lutheran clergyman, Lüder Möhring, came to Jork. Then, in 1652, Franziscus Moeller was appointed - the first Swedish deacon in the Altes Land. Until 1945 Jork remained the seat of the `Superintendent´* for the Altes Land.
Originally built on a knoll, over the years the brick church was rebuilt, refurbished and extended. The present nave was renovated in two phases, in 1664 and 1709. It is 40 metres long and 14 metres wide.
The bell tower stands slightly apart from the main church building. It is 35 metres high and was originally built in 1685. The wood on the tower was entirely renovated in 1998/99 along with the church steeple.

The walls of the expansive interior are painted white. They are vaulted by a blue, wooden barrel roof with numerous gold stars on it. With its supporting beams, it is reminiscent of an inverted ship.
The stall or box pews are also blue. They are Baroque, in other words, 17th and 18th-century. The doors on the pews open onto the centre aisle and have traditional, luck-bringing signs ornamenting them. One of these is a heathen stag motif taken from the Grimmirlied in the Edda saga. The ends of the stalls have the names of the former pew owners carved on them (I Ste or Stede = 1 Stelle, i.e. 1 seat). Many of the names can still be found in Jork today.
The pews in the chancel are exceptional, because they can be folded back to face the other way. This was originally so that churchgoers could face the pulpit during the sermon. The mechanism was retained when the church was renovated in 1986 and is still used sometimes. There are over 200 cushions in the pews, made over the past twenty years at the instigation of the local handwork group.

The altar is late Baroque and eight metres high. It was designed and made by Johann Rinck. On it, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Burial and Resurrection of Christ are depicted. The four figures are the four Evangelists: Luke and John on top, Matthew and Mark below. The altar was donated by Claus and Anna Schuback in 1710, who came from a Hamburg merchant family and wished to express their gratitude for a life of prosperity. The family were given a seat of honour in the church: the ornately carved, enclosed pew on the front, right-hand side. The family also contracted to be buried under the centre aisle of the church, in front of the altar, on the proviso that the grave would never be reopened. Unfortunately, this was unavoidable during restoration work on the church heating, during which burial chambers were found underneath the whole of the pew area of the nave. Gravestones which had been removed during earlier renovation work were then returned to the centre aisle during the most recent restoration work.

Behind the Schuback pew is the so-called Juratenstuhl, the pew in which the parochial church council sat. Adjoining it is the former preacher's pew or confessional, which now serves as a vestry. On the other side of the altar one finds the special pew for the preacher's wife. Pastor Brinkmann's wife did not enjoy good health, however, so could not use it. Instead, in 1787 she had what was then a "chalk store" (chalk was used as a disinfectant) converted into a place to sit, and a small window set in the wall. She then rented out the preacher's wife's pew for a fee every Sunday until she had collected enough money to pay for the new seating.

The gallery above the bridal door was known as the "von Haaren'sche Prieche" and was erected by Matthäus von Haaren, a military Captain from Twielenfleth. During the Thirty Years War, General von Königsmark made him a Count, with oversight over the Altes Land. It was he who built the "Gräfenhof", which is the present Town Hall in Jork. His family coat of arms - three sharpening irons for sharpening scythes - can be seen on the parapet of the house.

In 1664 the von Haaren family also donated the pulpit and canopy, both of which are elaborately carved. Round the edge one can read: "Thue Daß Werck Eines Evangelischen Predigers Richte Dein Ampt Redlich Auß. 2. Tim 4, 5." ["Work to spread the gospel, and do all the duties of your calling." Second Letter of Paul to Timothy, 4,5)]. In 1665, the year after they were erected, the pulpit door and stairs were painted.
The font is of plain, carved stone and originates from 1791. The bowl and lid are of brass, and of a later date.

The organ was originally built by Arp-Schnitger. Three stops and the organ front - which was erected in 1709 and now has a preservation order on it - are all that remain of the original organ. In 1982 the fundamentals were rebuilt by Alfred Führer from Wilhelmshaven, who copied old plans for a mechanical, sound-board organ and made the pipes replayable. The organ has 22 stops and two cymbel stars.

The 31 pictures on the gallery below the organ also date back to 1709. The top row shows scenes from the Old Testament, the bottom row the Creation of Man, the Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Paradise. They are followed by scenes from the life of Christ and Whitsuntide. The majority of the pictures were copied from etchings of scenes from the Bible made by Matthäus Merian the elder (1593-1650) between 1625 and 1630."
The four paintings on the walls are of clergymen. On the right, next to the pulpit, is Franciscus Fexerus, who was pastor in Jork from 1656 to 1679 and began the new extension to the church in 1664. Clemens Diecmann (who was in Jork from 1680 to 1715) can be seen over the Choir stalls. He completed the building of the church in 1709. His successor, Johann Samuel Büttner (in Jork from 1715 to 1747) can be seen on the north wall of the church. He is chronicled as having said: "Those found drinking or smoking tobacco during the church service are to receive serious punishment …". Next to him is the last `Superintendent´ of the Altes Land, Franz Bernhard Focken, who died in February 1945. His portrait was painted by the Jork painter Richard Eggers (1905 to 1995). The small painting to the left of the pulpit is of the Hamburg merchant Johann Schuback, who gave alms to the poor of the parish of Jork in around 1750.
The triptych on the south wall was also painted by Richard Eggers. It depicts the Ten Commandments, the Crucifixion and the calming of the waters. Following a serious accident which bound him to a wheelchair, the artist vowed to paint these pictures if he could ever paint again.
The candelabra over the centre aisle was also made in 1667, but donated to the church by the Schliecker family from Osterjork in 1890. Of three candelabra, it is the only one still in existence. The other two were surrendered as scrap metal in the Second World War. This one bears the inscription: "Wir haben ein festes prophetisches Wort und ihr tut wohl, dass ihr daran achtet, als ein Licht, das da scheinet in einen dunkeln Ort bis der Tag anbreche und der Morgenstern aufgehe in euren Herzen. 2. Petrus 1". ["All this confirms for us the message of the prophets, to which you will do well to attend, because it is like a lamp shining in a murky place, until the day breaks and the morning star rises to illuminate your minds." (Second Letter of Peter, 1,19)]

The crowns above two of the paintings of the clergymen and the ornamentally carved chairs are not a sign of nobility but indicate the Revelation of St. John (John 2, 10) "Sei getreu bis in den Tod, so will ich dir die Krone des Lebens geben" ["Only be faithful till death and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation of John, 2,10)]. They are typical of Protestant church decoration of the Baroque era. Services at St. Matthias Church are at 10.30 a.m. on three Sundays in the month. Every second Saturday there is a musical evening service at 6.30 p.m.

St. Matthias Church invites you to take a closer look - here are examples of things to look for: