St James Church

A pilgrim site for Tilman Riemenschneider - Rothenburg's St James Church

The name of the church is already an indicator: Rothenburg ob der Tauber is situated along the Ways of Saint James to Santiago de Compostela. Over 1000 pilgrims arrive at St. James Church each year. World-famous: the impressive Holy Blood Altar by Tilman Riemenschneider. This is something you can’t miss – but a detailed visit of St. James Church, built from 1311 to 1484, is worthwhile for many other reasons. We’ll tell you why.

St. James Church in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The Holy Blood relic in the altar by Tilman Riemenschneider

A relic in a Protestant church? It might seem strange at first sight, but it actually makes sense. The Riemenschneider altar was not destroyed during the shift of faith (St. James was once an early Christian church and till 1554 a catholic one). The wooden altar in the western high choir represents the last supper. The relic is in the cross above the detailed carvings – wine from the mass, the blood of Jesus, was poured on a cloth. The altar offers several other surprising features: It’s recommended that you participate in one of the daily church tours of St. James so you don’t miss any of the altar’s secrets.

Statue of St James in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The first eye-catcher is the Herlin altar

Apropos miss: this happens to quite a few hurried visitors with the entire Riemenschneider altar. Because when you enter St. James Church, what you see is not this altar but the church’s main altar in the eastern choir section. This one was made by Friedrich Herlin and is no less significant than the Riemenschneider altar. The main altar of St. James is also known as the Twelve Apostles altar (1466). Its wings depict the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela. Here you can also find the oldest representation of Rothenburg’s Marktplatz. If you look closely, you’ll recognize the Ratstrinkstube and city hall of Rothenburg with the old Gothic façade before the fire in 1501.

Impressive in the mornings: The windows in the east choir

Visitors who enter St. James Church during sunshine in the morning can hardly believe their eyes. Then the windows in the east choir are illuminated in a wide range of colors. Here too, it’s worth looking at the details: In one of the windows, you can see the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. Instead of manna, there are also pretzels falling to the travelers from Heaven, so that they can survive the journey through the desert. A divine miracle, just in a Bavarian-Franconian style.

The organ concerts at St. James

The Rieger organ in St. James is one of the largest in Bavaria. Short, free organ concerts are held in the church all year. During the Advent period, there are also opportunities to listen to 30-minute concerts – an impressive experience. Another distinctive feature: The organ of St. James can be played on both sides – towards the church nave as well as towards the west choir with the altar by Tilman Riemenschneider. What also sets St. James Church apart: the two towers were built with different heights.

Organ in St. James Church of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Opening times St James Church Rothenburg:

Opening hours untile October 30th: 10 am – 6 pm
Opening hours October 31st – November 24th: 12 pm – 3 pm
Opening hours November 25th – December 31st: 10 am – 5 pm
Opening hours January 1st, 2023 – March, 31st 2023: 12 pm – 3 pm