St. Jakobskirche (St. James’s Church)


Address: Kirchpl., 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

The main attraction to this church is not just for its beauty but for its Holy Blood relic. More on that below.

The current church was built in stages starting in 1311 and continuing until 1471. The Order of German Knights, also known as Teutonic Knights, was extremely active in this area during the Middle Ages until it was abolished in 1809. The order was reestablished in Vienna, Austria where it operates as a charitable foundation.

A sad legend surrounds this church. It is said that the master architect constructed the south tower of the building, and his apprentices built the north. When the master saw that the north tower was more beautiful, he threw himself off the top of the north tower with his loyal dog following behind. The dog is memorialized in one of the gargoyles.

Take time to meander around the church and enjoy the stained-glass windows from the 1400s.

Go up the 32 steps to see the Holy Blood Altar, the relic I mentioned earlier. The altar itself was created around 1500 by Tilman Riemenschneider, Germany’s most-famous woodcarver. He was known for his fabulous wood and stone carvings throughout Europe. Timan also served as the mayor of Würzburg and as a senior town councilor during the Peasant Revolt in 1525. However, once the order was restored, he was imprisoned for several months, during which time he lost most of his wealth. During the last six years of his life, he produced no new works. It has been speculated that his hands were broken under torture during his time in prison. The carvings on the altar are incredible and worth a look. The reliquary is a metal cross with a clear crystal-like capsule in the center that contains, what some believe, is a drop of Jesus’s blood on a cloth. It has been said that miracles started happening to those in the presence of the holy blood and it was therefore placed in a container for safekeeping.

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Kristal Ham

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