St Anne’s in Annaberg-Buchholz is one of Saxony’s largest and most beautiful hall churches. The late-Gothic church was built after rich silver finds attracted the multitudes to the heavily-forested Erzgebirge region in the 15th century. This time of economic prosperity provided the perfect conditions for art and architecture to flourish. The church’s foundation stone was laid just three years after the town was founded in 1496.
Three prominent architects were responsible for transforming the plans for a spacious hall church into reality. Konrad Pflüger and Peter Ullrich oversaw the construction of the massive outer walls, and their influence can also be seen inside the church, in the inward-pointing support pillars and peripheral gallery. Jacob Haylmann from Schweinfurt introduced Bohemian influences to the church building, garnered from his involvement in the construction of Prague Castle. His late-Gothic looping ribbed vaults still adorn the church to this day. After its completion in 1525, the church continued to hold orthodox masses for the people of Annaberg until 1539. Following the Reformation, the majority of the fixtures remained in place. Five large altars and other items pre-dating the Reformation are still in place at St Anne’s to this day. Furthermore, the church is still known by the name of St Anne, patron saint of miners and St Mary’s mother.
The church is filled with beautiful works and religious objects by renowned artists, including Hans Witten, Hans Hesse and Franz Maidburg. The pulpit, the baptismal font, the biblical images carved in stone on the gallery and the beautiful doorway are particularly noteworthy.
The famous “Annaberg altar” also deserves special mention. This carved altar of St Mary was donated by the miners’ guild in 1521. The panel paintings originated from the studio of German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach, while the back of the altar was created by painter Hans Hesse. This gives a detailed portrayal of mining in the Annaberg area at the start of the 16th century. Along with the legend surrounding Daniel Knappe’s first discovery of silver, the painting also depicts the mining processes, the various occupations and the heavy impact of mining on the landscape of the Erzgebirge region.
The main altar, which stands at the centre of the choir, is particularly eye-catching. The altar, made of light-coloured limestone and marble, was produced in Augsburg for St Anne’s Church by Adolf and Hans Daucher. This early-Renaissance piece depicts the genealogy of Christ. The stone-carved branches loop and wind from the Tree of Jesse, encompassing the Kings of Israel and Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus, before reaching the Holy Family itself.
The church owes its present-day appearance to a comprehensive programme of restoration work undertaken between 1973 and 1998. Following the complete renovation of the roof, the inside of the church was restored back to its 16th-century state. The furnishings and organ were also overhauled.
The organ is a Romantic piece dating from 1884 and built by German firm Walcker, based in Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart. Following restoration by German company Eule, in Bautzen, it was rededicated in 1995. With its 4,583 pipes, 3 manuals and 65 stops, the instrument brings delight to music lovers from far and wide.
The church tower
St Anne’s 78.6 m tower is a popular tourist attraction and has been lived in for the past 500 years. Since 1999, the Melzer family have been lovingly taking care of the old masonry, receiving tourists and ringing the bells. They live 42 metres up, above the belfry, which houses the three large bells. Furthermore, the cupola is also home to the “ore-hewer bell”, which is rung three times a day and strikes the hour on the church clock. The tower is open from May to October, and at weekends during Advent. Those visiting are rewarded with a display of interesting exhibits in the stairwells and a unique view over the town and the Erzgebirge area.