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Archive for February, 2016

Benedictine Monastery in Bursfelde

Bursfelde_Kirche_von_SOHalfway on our route to Beverungen we will visit the Benedictine Monastery in Bursfelde and have a look inside. The monastery was founded in 1093 by Heinrich dem Fetten as burial place and place of commemoration through prayer for his family. Even though the monastery was connected to the Imperial Abbey of Corvey nearby, through changes in the political climate and ownership, its relevance declined in the following four centuries to the point that no monks are recorded residing there by 1402. During the reformation process in the 15th and 16th century the catholic-based monastery become even more secluded until the Duchess Elisabeth von Brandenburg – who had converted to Protestantism – ruled for her under-age son and effected major changes regarding the reformation and finances. As the rulers – and their beliefs – changed, the monastery changed confession as well. After the Peace of Westphalia was proclaimed in 1648 the monastery became protestant again and stayed that way until today. No matter under which flag they sailed, the monastery had always been a centre of learning and until today that influence can be seen in the remaining library and modern day activity of the Theological Centre of Bursfelde Abbey.

Bad Karlshafen

Carlsbahn003Shortly before our final destination we will drive through the picturesque town of Bad Karlshafen and get to see the distinctly different style of the reconstructed Huguenot Baroque buildings.

The city was founded in 1699 as an ‘exile city’ to provide a spiritual home for religious refugees during the reformation process in the 17th century in Europe. Here they were mainly Huguenots from France who were welcomed and sheltered by Karl from Hessen-Kassel. In 1730 the Huguenot apothecary Jacques Galland discovered the brine springs which shaped the economic future of the town. Initially used to produce salt, it ultimately led to the town becoming a spa destination for the application of therapeutic brine baths.

As the Baroque architecture was a practical manifestation of the Counter-Reformation and intended to persuade everyone of God’s splendour and the Catholic churches’ magnificence, it will be interesting to observe how that was put into practice in this particular town.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Important trading post to the North

1024px-Hann_muenden_weserursprung_ds_wv_06_2011Officially the city was mentioned the first time in a document from 1183, but it’s location at the confluence of the two rivers Werra and Fulda into the Weser – a main transportation route to the North Sea – would have meant that it had been settled a bit earlier.

Another hint to its earlier foundation is the name of the village Gimundi (802), in the location of today’s Altmünden. A linguist would be able to explain how it could have transformed to become today’s Münden, let it suffice to say, that they think it is a reasonable deduction and carry on discovering this little jewel of Medieval and Weser Renaissance architecture.

Trading wealth

1024px-Hann_Münden_Rathaus_2007Than as now cities, communities and their owners had to be quite creative to come up with ways of financing their building projects and quite often opulent lifetstyles. An obvious one for places on major trading routes was imposing trading tariffs, road tolls and staple rights. The right to impose these ‘council rates’ had to be ‘earned’ and were highly sought after. A city’s wealth would radically improve, which in turn could radically change the townscape. Hann. Münden is a classic example of this: in 1247 Münden was given the staple rights to the rivers and a building and trading boom ensued in the following centuries until 1823 when the system was changed and the staple rights became redundant.

Weser Renaissance

20130810_192834_Wanfried_SchlagdTo facilitate trading numerous jetties, packhouses and markets were built along the rivers, in the now famous and unique Weser Renaissance style. On our cycle tour along the river Weser, we will see plenty examples of this particular architectural style, which seems to be very appealing to many people. In a book from 1964 its author Jürgen Soenke claims that its appeal is due to its roots: the waterway landscape and its inhabitants created the buildings and because they were folk people, it has ‘folksy” features.

During your guided tour through Hann. Münden you will be able to see the beautifully preserved town hall and other buildings showcasing that style. We are very lucky that as the result of the Thirty Years’ War everyone in the region was too poor to build new buildings and just repaired the old ones, thus retaining the original designs and look of this period of time.

Last but not least

800px-Münden_Rinnstein_im_StraßenbelagFor a very long time the name Münden caused lots of mix ups, as it was often mispronounced and mistaken for Minden ( which happens to be on the Weser as well) or Munich! So the local railway added Hannoversch to it, but that did not solve it as it was too long to be printed on the tickets, and depending on how you pronounced it could be mistaken for other towns in Hannovers’ vicinity. Ultimately they abbreviated it to “Hann.”, denoting its locality ( near Hannover) but making it distinctly different. This writing has been officially adopted by all city councils since then, but the locals still call it just Münden!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Once upon a time….

Slavenburg_radduschWhen Würzburg was officially mentioned in a donation from one duke to another in 704 AD it already could look back on a long history of successful settlement in the area. Archeological findings support the existence of a refuge castle on the site of the Marienberg Fortress as far back as 1000 years BC. These refuge castles were built to protect the general populace from marauding soldiers or bandits and usually occupied higher, easy-to-defend ground. During the following centuries the area was populated by a range of Germanic tribes and finally settled by the Franks in the 6th century.

Christianity takes hold

MarienburgIn the 7th century the missionary Saint Kilian settled in Würzburg and began his work preaching and converting the local Duke Gosbert. Unfortunately Gosbert was already married to his widowed sister-in-law Gailana and was told, that this marriage was against the Christian principles that Saint Boniface vehemently fought for. When Galiana heard this – according to the martyr mythology of St. Kilian – she used her husband’s absence and had Kilian and his two companions assassinated. But that did not stop Christianity and under Hedan II’s rule a chapel was built on the hillside dedicated to the Virgin Mary. A site which was believed to be the original site of pagan worship to a mother goddess. Even though the original chapel was replaced due to destruction or changes in architectural tastes, by the Middle Ages the mount and the fortress became known as Marienberg (Mary’s Mount). As the centuries passed – bishops came and went, tastes changed and war damages needed repairing – the look of the mountain top fortress evolved considerably. When WWII wrecked its havoc over Würzburg large parts of the Marienburg Fortress and others were destroyed by bombs and fire. Restoration of the Fortress started in the 1950’s and was finished in 1990.

As with a lot of other historic buildings in Würzburg, restoration was done in the style of the original design of the time, which makes it harder for the lay-person to denote what is truly original and what is restored. Which should be kept in mind when reading the historical and architectural comments to any of them.

A living record

altstadtWürzburg had been a centre for the Catholic Church since its earliest days and as such always had a huge political, intellectual and financial influence on the lives of its citizens. Quite often those decisions had a very bad impact on the rest of the populace and revolts would break out. Whether they were aimed against the ruling clerics (Würzburg guild document), unpleasant neighbours (who got accused of witchcraft), occupying soldiers (Sweden 1631- 34) or members of particular classes (German Peasant’s War), they always ended up changing the city’s structure and appearance, over time creating an incredibly rich tapestry depicting its evolving society.

After your arrival stroll through the old city centre and get up close with history!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

 

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Pfarrkirche St.KillianBaroque architecture

Before heading off to Volkach we make a little trip to Theres, a small community that has an interesting selection of buildings from the Baroque period. As this period covered 200 years of building history, the range of designs and decorations are quite remarkable. This can be seen mainly in the numerous churches and wayside shrines in the region. Because a lot of church properties were privatised in the early 19th century, many of them are now privately or commercially owned and operated. Interesting examples to view are on the main road (Bundesstrasse 17)) the Catholic vicarage from 1750, St. Killian church (1728/30)  and along the cycle path the Crucification group attributed to Johann Peter Wagner.

Untertheres_KreuzigungsgruppeTraditional wine growing region

We are now moving into the driest and hottest wine growing region in Germany and will discover what kind of wines this climate can produce. Our trip will take us through the village of Fahr, home of the ‘world famous’ Bocksbeutel. This intriguing bottle shape is protected in Europe and used for only a few specific wines.

The name is of particular interest, as its origin can be referenced to two different words: one denominates a bag to protect prayer or song books (Booksbüdel) while the other implies that it looks like a ram’s scrotum (Bokesbudel). As both explanations can be reasonably proven, it seems that both contributed to its modern day usage.frankenwein

Our destination for today, Volkach, has been the historic wine growing centre of the region since the 17th century and has renewed its fame for making excellent white wines, especially, but not exclusively, Silvaner, whose reputation suffered a bit from the Liebfrauenmilch debacle in the 70’s. Modern wine makers now are using its subtle flavours to produce elegant wines that are easily matched with foods and becoming more and more appreciated. Other varieties that grow well here are Müller-Thurgau, Riesling and Traminer, all very specific and interesting tasting grapes. And for those of you who want to know more specific details about the huge range of wines and grapes here’s a very interesting and informative web site.

Maria_im_WeingartenEven in the Middle Ages Volklach has been a very popular tourist spot due to its numerous food markets, parish fairs and pilgrimages to the local church Maria in the vineyard. This has continued through to the 20th and 21st century with a lot of local wine and food festivals catching the visitors’ eyes and palates. Let your travel guide advise you what’s on special and enjoy the delicacies.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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