Limburg with the colourful cathedral and Bonn – the former German capital

In November 2021, I make two stop overs. The first one was at Frankfurt. Now I visit Bonn, the former German capital and, on the way, I have lunch at Limburg with the beautiful cathedral. 

 

Lunch break at Limburg with the Limburg Cathedral

On the way from Frankfurt to Bonn, I have my lunch break at Limburg to see the cathedral. I am surprised to find such a colourful façade. 

I was here in summer 1965, at the age of 14 years, with my mother. I remember the cathedral to be grey, as on this postcard that I bought at that time.  

57 years ago, I pasted this postcard into my photo album adding the description “Limburger Dom”. 

I am puzzled. Now, in 2021, I do not recognize the cathedral at all. It was grey, and now it is colourful. From the wikipedia entry about the Limburg Cathedral, I learn why: “Between 1968 and 1972, the polychrome exterior was restored, using remains of the colour from the period before 1872 in order to reconstruct the old patterns”. Now I understand: In 1872, the medieval colours of the cathedral had been removed. The cathedral became grey, as I saw it in 1965. Three years later, in 1968, the medieval colours were restored to what they were before 1872. And this is why, I now find such a colourful cathedral.

From outside, the cathedral with its seven towers has a Romanesque appearance. Inside, I recognize early Gothic elements.  

The cross above the altar is the copy of the “Crucifix of Walsdorf” from the 13th century. The original is in the museum of Wiesbaden. The former rood screen (Lettner) separates the ambulatory from the choir (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.13). The modern windows that we see in the choir have been made by Hubert Spierling (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p. 18). 

Building the present cathedral started at the end of the 12th century, in Romanesque style. While progressing with the construction of the cathedral, more  and more early Gothic elements were used. The Gothic appearance is reflected by elements such as the triforiums…

… or the vaults. 

I look up into the cupolas. There is the fresco of the archangels Gabriel and Michael – if I understand correctly they are of Gothic origin.

Konrad Kurzbold died in 948. This is his tomb slab from the 13th century. He is venerated in the cathedral, because he is considered to be the founder of the original church built here and devoted to Saint George.

Around his tomb slab are guards such as this figure reading… 

… or the dog (I am pretty sure, this is a dog).

Behind Konrad’s tomb slab is the fresco with the roots of Jesus. It is from the year 1638 (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.15).

Also from the 17th century are the Hortus Deliciarum,…

… Christophoros (repainted in 1935),…

… and Samsung, pulling out a tree (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.12).

There are some frescoes from the early 13th and some from the 15th century. As an example, I take Christ at the tree of life from the 13th century (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.20). 

I like the play of light of this modern window with the plain and solemn altar, perfectly adorned with flowers that match the colours of the window. I cannot find out who the artists were.

I leave the cathedral and look back at it once more admiring the colourful façade.

The cathedral is located on a rock above the Lahn river. I take the steep streets of Limburg to get down…

… taking with me some impressions of the medieval timbered houses.

I pick up my car, return to the highway and continue north to Bonn.

 

Arriving at Bonn to meet my cousin and his wife

My cousin Peter and his wife live near Bonn. I settle in my hotel and visit them in their house. I am invited for an excellent dinner.

We study our family trees. On my mother’s side, my grand-mother and his grand-father were cousins, as I understand. Furthermore one great-grand-aunt of my mother married the great-grand-father of my father. Hence we are “distant” cousins and we are cousins “twice”. It was in the unfortunate 1930’s that our grand-aunt Helene studied our family tree back to the year 1300. She took much care of her relatives – among them my cousin and me. We met at a family event and stayed in loose contact thereafter.

The next day, my cousin and I take the suburban train to Bonn. Without my cousin, I would have never had the idea to visit Bonn.

 

Bonn – the former seat of the elector and the former capital of the German Republic

We start our visit on the left shore of the Rhine, at the “Alter Zoll” or bastion, the only part that remains of the former ramparts of Bonn. In the background we can see the Siebengebirge, a great recreation area for the citizens of Bonn.

In the 13th century, the electors of Cologne (Köln) chose Bonn to be one of their seats. They built this magnificent electoral palace of Bonn; it is now part of Bonn’s university. 

Currently it is under renovation. The white tents and the construction barriers create an uncomfortable atmosphere, especially, when it is raining as it does today. I will have to return to see the palace, when the renovation has been completed.

The palace garden (Hofgarten) is a green meadow. The Academic Art Museum (Akademisches Kunstmuseum) presents Roman and Greek statues. It has been constructed by the Neoclassical Berlin architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel; I have come across more of Schinkel’s works at Berlin. 

 

There are many world-class museums at Bonn; there is even a “Museumsmeile”. However, today, I want to explore the city. 

The Old Town Hall was built in Rococo style in the 18th century. It shines in pink and is decorated with gold. The last renovation took place between 2010 and 2011.

Various important persons stood on the gilded stairs, among them Charles de Gaulle, John F. Kennedy, and Mikhail Gorbachev.

 

The Minster of Bonn (Bonner Münster)

The Minster of Bonn (Bonner Münster) is nearby. The original church was devoted to the legendary Roman legionnaires Cassius and Florentius (both martyrs of the Theban Legion – like Mauritius who is famous in Switzerland). Building the minster started in the eleventh  century, in Romanesque style. Construction lasted until the middle of the 13th century, in early Gothic style. In 2017, the church was closed for total renovation. While the renovation is still going on, the church has just been reopened in October 2021.

In the nave, the lower arches are still Romanesque, the upper arches and the vaults are Gothic.

The representatives have ventured to combine modern art with the traditional Romanesque-Gothic architecture: Five modern artists present their works to underline the idea of “light and transparency” (see “Weiter Raum: Bonner Münster wagt Begegnung mit moderner Kunst“). 

I like the atmosphere created by the combination of modern and traditional art – a pity that the exhibition of the modern works will end in January 2022. 

I recognize him, this is Nepomuk (1345-1393), the priest that denied to tell king Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia  about the confessions of his wife, the queen, and that was sentenced and thrown into the Vltava (Moldau). He is present on so many bridges in Europe.

At the charming Romanesque cloister, we take a break from busy Bonn.

It is interesting to note that Emperor William II of Germany had his Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin modelled after the Minster of Bonn.

This photo of the Memorial Church at Berlin has been taken by me in 2019; I found it on a panel in the church museum. Today, the ruins of this church are a memorial and a modern church has been built around it.

 

Behind the train station, we say hello to the Neanderthal man who lived 40’000 years ago

My cousin looks forward to showing me one gem of the museums of Bonn, the Rheinische Landesmuseum. Here, we say hello to our ancestor, the Neanderthal man (Neandertaler) who, 40’000 years ago, lived in the Neandertal and has resided in this museum since 1877.

The Neandertal was a beautiful canyon between Düsseldorf and Wuppertal (north of Bonn) that became a quarry in the 19th century. Workers detected some bones and threw them away. The owners of the quarry rescued 16 larger bones and handed them over to researchers who identified them as belonging to a stone-age hominid. Later, more bones were found in the area and three fragments complemented the bones found earlier by the workers – they complemented them exactly. The bones are in the glass case and a reconstruction of the Neanderthal man stands behind the bones. 

The Neanderthal man is being examined in a multidisciplinary project. DNA analysis shows that he has contributed about one to four percent to our genes, I read on the site of the Landesmuseum. 

The exhibition explains, how the Neanderthal man lived. One example is his ingenious way of gluing wood and flint to produce tools. He used birch pitch, as this sample demonstrates. 

We walk through the other departments that explain the history of the area, and we admire a lady teacher with her young pupils that listen with attention.

I want to come back to Bonn to explore more of its museums. Basel praises itself of being “the city of museums”, and now I have discovered a second such city, namely Bonn, with the Museumsmeile and many more museums. Beethoven was born at Bonn  in 1770, and also his house is a museum. 

We have lunch at the friendly Vietnamese restaurant Cay Tre in the city centre at Friedrichstrasse. In the evening, we share an excellent dinner at the Golf Club restaurant of Sankt Augustin.  Bonn is a somewhat hidden gem in Germany. 

 

Good-bye Bonn 

In the morning I enjoy the well prepared breakfast at my hotel, laughing with the napkin under my plate. 

In the right hand lower corner I find the announcement “¿Quiere Usted crecer ocho centimetros? – … con el grandioso  CRECEDOR RACIONAL… quedará convencido del maravilloso invento, última palabra de la ciencia.” (Do you want to grow by eight centimetres? … with the great RATIONAL GROWER… you will remain convinced of the wonderful invention, the last word of science). The product is sold in Buenos Aires, Entre Rios 130. Or it WAS sold there, may be, it no longer is. Anyway, I am not sure, whether this “CRECEDOR” would work for me… and then – eight centimetres is not really the full size of a head, is it? I love to study my napkin during breakfast.

Good-bye Bonn and good-bye Peter, I thank you and your wife for your hospitality.

 

On the way to Berlin with a short stop near Helmstedt

I leave the hotel and, on the highway, I reach the former inner German border near Helmstedt (ehemalige innerdeutsche Grenze 1945-1990). 

Then, in November 2021, I thought, such borders have disappeared completely, and I could not imagine that they have ever existed.

Now, it is March 2022, and, while writing my blog, I look at this photo with deep concern. Let us hope that these times do not return!

 

Sources:

One thought on “Limburg with the colourful cathedral and Bonn – the former German capital

  1. You are a wonderful guide and I feel I have visited too!

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