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The fiduciary foundation Geistliche Hebungen (Ecclesiastical Funds)


For several hundred years, the churches of St. Nikolai, St. Marien and St. Georgen have characterized the skyline of the Hanseatic Town of Wismar. All three are closely linked to a fiduciary foundation known as the Geistlichen Hebungen (Ecclesiastical Funds). The foundation was set up by the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg in the mid-nineteenth century with the aim, amongst others, of maintaining and preserving the structure of the town's three main churches by means of the assets held by the foundation.

From 1832 until 1951, administration of the Geistlichen Hebungen was carried out - as provided for by law - under the responsibility of its two patrons, the mayor and his deputy. Since 1945, the Geistlichen Hebungen has been administered as an agency of the municipality and was later assigned to the Finance Department.

At some point after 1951, the Wismar Town Council - at the behest of the Rostock District Council - entered into negotiations with the Protestant (Lutheran) State Church to dissolve the Geistlichen Hebungen and divide its property assets. An agreement was concluded in 1961 and partly implemented; for example, the Heiligen-Geist-Kirche and the vicarages were refurbished and ownership transferred to the Church. However, the contract was flawed: it had been concluded contrary to Germany's Foundation Law and Civil Code, and was as such legally invalid. The Lutheran Church, in adapting to the political realities of the 1980s, had given their consent to a change in the law regards St. Nikolai, St. Marien and St. Georgen as 'property of the people', with the Town Council as the acquiring entity. Nevertheless, the structural decay these historically significant buildings suffered (which in the case of St. Georgen was nearly catastrophic) continued unabated throughout the entire existence of the GDR.

In 1990 as a consequence of the reunification of Germany, the aforementioned incorporation of the churches as 'property of the people' made a renewed agreement regards the assignment of assets necessary. The power of disposition during this time remained with the municipality. Since then the municipality has provided substantial investment - approximately 43 million Euros - in the reconstruction and refurbishment of the three churches.

A legal opinion published in September 2008 by the Bundesamt für zentrale Dienste und offene Vermögensfragen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (the Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues) declared St. Nikolai, St. Marien and St. Georgen in Wismar property of the town municipality. As such, the historical conditions of ownership of the churches was restored and subsequently the Geistlichen Hebungen resurrected as a fiduciary foundation committed to preserving, maintaining and using these outstanding architectural monuments for future generations. The groundwork for this historic step was laid with a resolution passed by the town's legislative assembly, the Bürgerschaft, in April 2008.

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