Exploring Thüringen – Erfurt with the Krämerbrücke

In August 2022, we visit Thuringia on our way from Berlin to Switzerland.

Now we are at Erfurt, primarily famous for the Krämerbrücke (“merchants’ bridge”), and much more…

 

The Krämerbrücke (merchants’ bridge) is a bridge that looks like a shopping street

The Krämerbrücke (Merchants’ Bridge) is a shopping street crossing the river Gera. It is a tourist hot spot. 

From the side, this “shopping street” turns out to be a bridge, as seen from the south …

… and from the north, with the Ägidien’s Church above the Wenigemarkt. 

The river Gera bends here, split into several arms. The trees stand on a small island with a path called “Dämmchen” (literally “damlet”). 

The first bridge here was built in 1156, and, in 1325, it was made from stone. The Krämerbrücke belongs to the medieval Via Regia trade route network of Europe, from the river Rhine to Silesia (and beyond). The ford in the river Gera eases crossing (=Furt, Erfurt is called “Er-Furt”). 

The Krämerbrücke is not the only “shopping street” bridge in Europe; think of the Ponte Vecchio at Florence and think of Le Pont des Marchands at Narbonne (same name as at Erfurt: Merchants’ Brigde). 

 

The Petersberg – the nucleus of Erfurt with a monastery (~700) and the Carolingian Imperial Palace (~800)

The Gera ford was favorable for settlements, already in prehistoric times.

On the Petersberg (Peter’s Mountain), the Benedictine Peter’s monastery was founded in the year 706, with the church Saint Peter and Paul. It was a missionary centre that brought Christianity to the area. In 802, medieval documents mention a Carolingian Imperial Palace on the Petersberg.

In 1664, the archbishop of Mainz converted the Petersberg into the citadel that we see today. With its eight bastions, the construction is based on Italian knowlegde about fortress building. In the liberation war of 1813, the citadel and the monastery were damaged severely.

This is the entrance to the citadel, … 

… next to the bastion with the inscription “Erfurt”. 

In the background, we see the military barrack and in the foreground St Peter’s Church. 

We leave the citadel, with the view of the cathedral and St Severus’ Church.

Under the citadel, there is a vineyard, and wine is sold here. 

However, this place seems like a tourist trap to me. I decide not to buy wine here.

 

The Cathedral Hill (Domhügel) with St Severus’ Church (Severikirche) emerged shortly after the settlements on Peter’s Mountain

From the citadel on Peter’s Mountain, there is a wonderful view of the airy Cathedral (Dom) and the more solid St Severus’ Church (Severikirche).

The Cathedral Hill (Domhügel) was settled shortly after the Peter’s Mountain. In 836, medieval documents mention a convent for nuns (it does no longer exist) and St Mary’s Church. In the same year, 836, bones of St Severus arrived at Erfurt.

Let us first look at the Cathedral. Replacing St Mary’s Church, the Cathedral was built in 1154 and completed in Gothic style. 

This is the view of the nave with the organ and with the Gothic paintings on the columns.

I have focused on the painting of the adoration of the Magi. It has been completed in 1522. 

The medieval windows in the choir are the originals from around 1400, almost completely. 

This is the unicorn altar from the beginning of the 15th century. It shows Maria with the unicorn. She is surrounded by Saints.  

Beside one of the gates, the apostles invite to enter the church – I have selected the six apostles with Peter as their leader holding the keys.

Beside the second gate, we see the wise and foolish virgins – I have chosen the foolish virgins (törichte Jungfrauen); their gestures clearly show desperation, as they have missed to fill their lamps with oil, and now, the gate to paradise is closed for them. 

Above the entry, the Archangel Michael is killing the devil.

These are just a few outstanding examples taken from the marvellous Cathedral.

The relics of St Severus arrived in 836, and they also needed a church. The church we see today was built in Gothic style, in the late 13th and in 14th century. Compared with the airiness of the Cathedral, the church looks like a fortress to me. 

The most important artefact in the St Severus Church is the sarcophagus of St Severus, created in 1365. The bones of St Severus, bishop of Ravenna (342-344/46), are kept here.

The so-called “Taubenwunder der Bischofswahl des heiligen Severus” (pigeon miracle of the bishop election of St Severus) is presented  on the sarcophagus. I can clearly see the pigeon above the head of St Severus. Dumont (p. 121) describes the pigeon miracle: When the cloth maker Severus joined the bishop election, just as a spectator, a pigeon settled on his head. This was taken as a sign of God, and Severus was elected bishop.

St Mary’s altar was created in 1510. Mary is surrounded by Saints (from left to right: Maria Magdalena, Katharina, Barbara and Ursula)

I like these expressive sculptures of Saint John the Baptist … 

… and Maria with Jesus on her arm, both surely Gothic as well.

These are a few details of the beautiful St Severus Church to give you an impression.

 

Erfurt – city of merchants and blue dyestuff producers (Waid) on the Via regia: Exploring the old city centre

At the foot of the two hills (the Peter’s Mountain and the Cathedral Hill) and along the bow of the Gera arms, the city of Erfurt evolved. The first market was on the Cathedral Square (Domplatz).

Today, a festival is being prepared: On 19th of August 2022, “Die Ärzte” will be here during their summer concert tour. Their music is called “planet punk” – interesting. The sound tests are deafening for us. I wish a great evening to the young people that will enjoy the concert.

When the Krämerbrücke (Merchants’ Bridge), the city expanded along the bow of the river Gera. Beyond the trade business, Erfurt was successful in producing textiles and, in particular, the blue dyestuff called “Waid”. The dye was extracted from the Isatis Tinctoria or woad plant (Waidpflanze). The city flourished until 1500; both clerical and civil Erfurt benefited. The decline started, after Vasco da Gama had discovered the sea route to India. Now, the blue dyestuff indigo was imported from India, which destroyed the market for the blue dye made out of woad. 

Market places evolved around the Merchants’ Bridge (Krämerbrücke).

The Fish Market west of the bridge was rebuilt after the fire of 1472. Some Renaissance buildings line the market.

This is the Town Hall.

The red house in the middle is called “Zum Breiten Herd” (“wide stove”, Renaissance from 1584).  

The second remarkable Renaissance building on the Fish Market is called “Zum Roten Ochsen” (1562). Above the gate, the ox shows clearly, this IS the house of the “Red Ox”. 

Strolling through the small streets of the old city centre, we find charming half-timbered houses.

This is another example of half-timbered houses along the Marktstrasse.

The half-timbered Renaissance house Sonneborn (1536) is now used for weddings; it is the civil registry office. What a picturesque setting for the wedding photos. A shop next door offers the required photo services. 

The Sonneborn house was probably used to store woad dyestuff, and so was the Waidspeicher Haus (woad storage house).

The fountain tells fairy tales. Just right for the child that has left his (or her) pushchair next to it. 

 

Anger, the main market for blue woad dystuff

The Anger is a surprise for me. “Anger” denotes a square. It is an old German word for “a shared village green, perhaps with an oven or a fish- pond”. However, the Erfurt Anger is a street that ends as two squares, and it follows the bow of the Gera. It is a pedestrian area with trams, rolling along prestigious buildings from four centuries (16th to 20th century).  When Erfurt flourished until 1500, this was the place where the woad dyestuff was primarily traded.

We entered the Anger north-east. This is, where it begins, dominated by the main postoffice (Postamt), a Neo-Renaissance building (1895).

Another remarkable building is the Baroque Kurmainzischer Packhof (1711), now an art museum. 

The square narrows down and looks like a street. 

One of the charming business buildings are Anger 23 (a mix of Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau) with the posh fashion house Papenbreer on the ground floor.

I wonder, what Bismarck has to do with this building; his statue stands on the pedestal, and I can see no relation to “Peter Pane”.

Well, I learn, Anger 33 was a hotel, where Bismarck stayed overnight in 1850. In 1900. The hotel was torn down and replaced by the Neo-Gothic building, now called “Bismarck House”; this is how Bismarck joined Peter Pane. 

Between the “newer” buildings, the Bartholomäusturm (Bartholomew Tower) stands out. It is, what remains of the church named after Bartholomew. 

In front of the tower, the Waidbrunnen (woad fountain) reminds of the once successful dyestuff production and trade at Erfurt.

The Anger ends as another triangular smaller square with this Neo-Renaissance building 39/40 (1899). The fountain with the obelisk is called Flora Fountain.

Across is the Late-Gothic Wigbert Church.

What an interesting setup. The Anger is a square that starts as a square, continues as a street and ends as a square. I am quite scared by watching the trams amidst the pedestrians.

It is about ten a.m., and it is hard to find a place for coffee that would strengthen me after having driven for one and a half hours to get to Erfurt from Eyba. The Anger seems to be an area to do shopping and business, the places to rest must be somewhere else at Erfurt.

 

Having a rest – delicious lunch at Pavarotti and a pleasant cup of coffee with ice cream at the Red Elephant

Well, we find nice places to rest.

Lunch we have on the Fish Market, at Pavarotti’s Italian restaurant. My spaghetti dish is delicious. We are served by one of the best waiters I have seen for a long time, what a pleasure to watch him. As the chief waiter, he serves us with great attention, AND he manages the other waiters discretly, practically unnoticed by the clients.

Later, we have coffee at the “Roter Elephant” (Red Elephant”) in the small streets of the old city centre.

What a charming place! The Red Elephant has asked children to paint red elephants. The children’s drawings decorate the restaurant.

Nearby, I find the shop “for spendable omas”. I have two spendable grandmothers (omas) in my family and think of them.

 

Not to miss out – Jewish treasure, in particular the wedding ring

In the cellar of the old synagogue, we visit the exhibition of the Jewish gold treasure that was found accidentally by construction workers in the year 1998. The treasure weighs 28 kg.  The masterpiece is the wedding ring that was only worn during the marriage ceremony, an outstanding goldsmith artefact. Two hands laid into one another at the bottom of the ring, Gothic arcades on the top with two griffins and dragons, finely chiselled.

No photos allowed; I included the link.

 

Round off – walk to the Augustinian monastery

It is almost five o’clock. We round off our visit at Erfurt by walking along the river Gera looking at Schildchen’s mill, …

… more half-timbered houses, …

… and dogs enjoying the water.

The Augustinian monastery has already closed its doors, but …

… we meet the custodian. “We come from Switzerland”, we tell him, and, for us, he reopens the door to the church …

… and to the chapter room with the vaults …

… and the (original) tiles. 

He disappears, and now we seem to be locked in. We circulate around the cloister looking for an exit … 

… and, after some time, we find a door that opens.

We have a quick evening meal near the Merchants’ Bridge. Strengthened, we pick up our car close to the Anger and return “home” to our castle at Eyba near Saalfeld for another quiet night.

 

Overview map of our tour in Thuringia

Erfurt was a long drive from Eyba. Tomorrow, we plan to see Arnstadt, which seems to be a shorter drive away from Eyba.

 

Sources:

  • Heidi Schmitt, “Thüringen Reiseführer”, Michael Müller Verlag 2020
  • Dina Stahn, “Bädeker Reiseführer Thüringen”
  • Hans Müller, “Thüringen”, Dumont Kunstführer 1998
  • Martin Schmidt, “City/Trip Erfurt Weimar”, Reise Know How, Peter Rump GmbH, Bielefeld 2022
  • Website of Erfurt: https://www.erfurt-lese.de/sehenswuerdigkeiten/

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