Saturday, February 4, 2017

Another Visit to the Imperial City of Mainz, 28 January 2017

Mark Chagall windows in St. Stephen's Catholic church in Mainz
Mainz is on the Rhein about a 40 minute drive from Frankfurt. We have been there several times, and it is one of our favorite cities. There is a large market in the open spaces near the cathedral that is open every Saturday morning year round. It was cold on this morning, but the market was there and people were out buying cheese, meat, and fresh vegetables and fruit. When it is warmer, there are flower vendors, too.

Some of the group of senior couples we are usually with had not been to the Gutenberg Museum there, so we agreed to meet there. We had been before, but we rented audio guides this time and took all 6 tours available. Those 6 tours covered various parts of the museum including the vault with the most valuable items, the exhibit on paper-making, oriental printing, and block printing from the Muslim Middle East. There was more to see, but this was more efficient than wandering through the collections and reading plaques, some of which are only in German -- hard for Janet.

What an amazing development Gutenberg's invention of movable type was. It was a revolution that made the dissemination of knowledge possible in ways never possible before. It is certainly true that the Protestant Reformation might not have happened without the printing press. Luther published lots of tracts that promoted his ideas, and many of those (picture a pamphlet or small book printed 500 years ago) are on display in the museum. Gutenberg printed less than 200 of these magnificent Bibles, and just 49 survive. They are considered the most valuable books in the world even though none have been sold since 1978. The museum has two on display. Gutenberg printed them and left space for the large first letters and were added by illustrators. No two are identical because of this art work that was added after printing. Wealthy purchasers specified the type of illustrations they wanted and were willing to pay for.
Bust of Gutenberg outside the museum - no one knows what he looked like as all portraits of him were painted long after his death.
Completely different portrayal of Gutenberg -- flanked by Golden Arches? Just seems wrong.
Part of the museum complex is called "Zum Römischen Kaiser." It is a house that was built in 1664 and is a beautiful structure. There is a pass through from front to back that is covered in baroque decoration that is interesting to look at.

In honor of our friends the Newmans and the Jarrards, we had lunch at Mexico Lindo. The owner lived in San Antonio for a while and serves up reasonably legitimate Tex-Mex, including chips and salsa. And, they will bring you a glass of ice water without charging you for it. Everywhere else in Germany, you have to pay for water and there is never ice.

After lunch, Jeff persuaded the group to walk to St. Stephen's Catholic church. This church has beautiful stained glass windows designed by the artist Marc Chagall when he was 95 years old. Chagall is considered by some to be the premier Jewish artist of the 20th century. It was worth the walk. We entered the church to find a large space filled with soft blue light. It was amazing and conveyed a sense of peace and reverence. Every window in the vast gothic vault was blue.

Chagall's original sketches for the large windows behind the high altar
All of this in a church that was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1945. There were pictures of the church burning and then the aftermath on display which made for quite a contrast.

St. Stephen's burning in February, 1945

A tower and walls all that was left of a 14th century church
Inscription on the brass doors says that it was founded and dedicated about 1000, rebuilt in the gothic style in 1338, destroyed February 27, 1945, and rebuilt in 1959. The Chagall windows were installed in 1982.

Down the street from the church was a plaza with a fountain and some statues dedicated to Karneval or Fasnacht. That wild time is coming up shortly.

Fasnacht Fountain (dry in winter)

Close up of some of the fountain figures

Lots to look at on the fountain

One of the revelers portrayed on the fountain

Statue near the fountain

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