Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Ancient Wallled-City of Büdingen, 4 February 2017

From the upper end of the city looking along the wall of the old city
We drove a short distance on this Saturday to Büdingen for a guided tour of the old city and lunch in a small cafe. The city is ancient and was never damaged by war in any significant way. Our tour guide was a charming, intelligent woman who deeply loves her little town and its history. She relished sharing the long history of the city with us and was especially proud of its long history of religious toleration. It is a protestant town that over the centuries had Jewish and Catholic residents. The citizens got along for the most part. The town also opened its arms to French Protestants who were driven out of their homeland (Hugenots). The arrived in Büdingen and felt they had found their promised land. They knelt before the gate to the city and gave thanks that they had found their "Jerusalem." The main gate of the old city is still called the Jerusalem Gate. Our guide walked us to the cafe after our tour. We invited her to join us, but she said that she had plans to go "wandern" in the hills and woods. Germans love to hike and there are whole groups called Wandergruppen - a sort of club that organizes hikes in the country and in the cities. One of those recently asked to include our chapel in Offenbach as part of their hike. Our executive secretary, Brother Nau, met them and took them through the building with the help of our two young missionaries Elder Davis and Elder Fuller.

Bridge across the now dry moat through the Jerusalem Tor
Jerusalem Gate from inside the old city. The towers and the gate or now a museum full of geological exhibits.
View through the gate toward the "new" town where the Hugenots settled when they arrived.
Elder and Sister Kay, Elder and Sister Steineckert and our guide at a model of the city
A portion of the earliest town wall now part of a house. A woman who lived here was tried for witchcraft but refused to confess even after repeated torture. The ground level now has a small museum devoted to the 1950s - odd combination of medieval and 1950s rock and roll. We passed on the museum.

Note the large frog sculpture on the face of the building. 

After a few centuries the buildings sag a little. The town was built in a wet, swampy valley. The castle and the old town rest on centuries-old oak planks, placed horizontally across vertical beech piles. The water level has to be kept high enough so that no air can reach these foundations.

Bronze model of the old city. the extension in the foreground is the "new" town settled by French Hugenots
Street in the old city
Area between the older city wall and the expanded wall is now a garden (bare this time of year)

The garden area is also a car park inside the old city wall

A section of the old city wall used as part of someone's home today

Oldest wall to the left

The gardens must be lovely in the spring. A doctor who was much loved by the townspeople, developed an extensive herb garden to use in medicines. The garden fell to ruin but was restored by the town in the 1990s.
A model of the old city inside one of the towers we visited.
The model represents the city in 1640. It was built and painted by two city residents over 3 years and more than 5,000 hours of labor.
Interior of the tower looking up. In the middle ages there were multiple floors above where defenders could position themselves to defend the city wall.
Tower at the Jerusalem gate

In a dungeon room looking up. There was no door originally. Prisoners were lowered into the cell through a hole in the ceiling. 

Prisoners were chained to the stone ball so that they could not escape (fat chance).
Janet anxious to leave the dungeon

Sister Mumm taunting everyone from the top of the stairs
View from a tower slit down the moat
Year carved in the stone of the prison cell in 1561.
Last stop on the tour was the old church (protestant). Here we heard the legend of the frogs. A young women was sent to Büdingen in an arranged marriage. She was a teenager and just wanted to go home. The people and the count loved her and wanted her to stay. Rather than say she was a homesick girl, she said that she couldn't stand to stay because the frogs made too much noise at night. The citizens organized a massive frog hunt and eliminated the frogs, the noise, and her excuse, so she stayed, had a large family and served the people. Well, that's the story anyway.
The old church was positioned east and west. There was a latter addition north and south. 

The newer addition from the outside
The interior, like most protestant churches is relatively unadorned except for the Moravian star in the ceiling. There was a story about the star, too, that we can't remember.

The woman on the right of the epitaph frieze is the teenager who couldn't stand the frogs.

Detail from the frieze
The count looks much older than his wife

Beautiful stone carving of the count's hand resting on the hilt of a sword

Standing in triumph on a lion
Gathered for lunch in a little cafe called the Hexenstübchen (The Witches Little Room). It was warm and cozy, and they had great soup.

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