There are impressive memorials for those lost at sea the world over, especially in port cities. In the 1950s, the German sailors who still sailed around Cape Horn first launched the idea of setting up such a memorial in Hamburg. In 1980, these sailors came together with various Hamburg ship and boat captains to found the club that finally established such a memorial on the Elbe, right in the middle of Hamburg's famous Fischmarkt. Thanks to the importance of seafarers in many Hamburg families, as well as for the prosperity of the city in general, the initiative was well received and sponsors and donations made the Madonna der Seefahrt (‘Madonna of Seafaring’) possible.
The Madonna looks seawards
Designed by the sculptor Manfred Sihle-Wissel, the approximately four-ton Madonna der Seefahrt was inaugurated on 6 May, 1985. The Madonna is a simple, crouching female figure. A large wave seems to reach for her, but the woman looks unwaveringly seaward into the distance, her eyes searching for emerging ships. The Madonna symbolizes the sorrow and suffering of families who have had sailors torn from their midst by an angry sea.
Annual memorial service
Every year on Totensonntag (a Northern German religious holiday commemorating the dead, which translates to ‘Sunday of the dead’), a commemoration ceremony takes place at the Madonna der Seefahrt. Relatives of those lost at sea and many representatives of maritime institutions come together. A devotion is read, wreaths are laid, prayers and blessings are spoken for those who died a sailor's death. The Windrose shanty choir offer musical accompaniment.
The Madonna der Seefahrt can be found at the St. Pauli Fischmarkt. The memorial is within walking distance of the S-Bahn station Reeperbahn (S1, S2, S3), the U-Bahn station Landungsbrücken (U3) and the bus stops Pepermölenbek (bus line 111) and Hafentreppe (bus line 112).
For more information on the Fischmarkt, visit Hamburg Tourism.