Erbach in the Odenwald – the ivory city with medieval charm

In August 2022, we are on our way from Berlin to Switzerland, via Thuringia and the Odenwald.

Now we are in the Odenwald, where today we have seen the Castle Wildenburg and the Abbey Church of Amorbach. On our way back, we stop at Erbach, the city of ivory carving. 

We park our car and cross the river Mümling lined with half-timbered houses.

We stand on the Market Square. The protestant City Church of Erbach (1750) can be accessed through the gate called “Städtelbogen”.

The City Hall is from 1545. The statue is called Räibock and commemorates the day labourer Johann Adam Fleckstein (1849-1917). He was a known character at Erbach. He worked as a carpenter, as a messenger or he waited at the train station to serve incoming passengers as a porter. The citizens liked his odd humour. He wears a servant’s cap and a carpenter’s axe and a saw. 

A second monument decorates the Market Square. It is Duke Franz I zu Erbach-Erbach (1754-1823). He was probably the most important duke of Erbach. 

The dukes of Erbach resided in the Castle, built from 1736-1902 (first in Baroque and later in neo-Baroque style). The castle we see today was built reusing foundation walls and the oak posts of the former moated fortress from 1140 that later was reconstructed as a Renaissance castle to finally become the Baroque castle of today.

The donjon from the year 1200 has remained, the Gothic pinnacle is from 1497. 

Today, the castle presents the antique collection of Duke Franz I and the collection of ivory artefacts.

In 1783, Duke Franz I introduced ivory carving to Erbach after having travelled through Europe for six years. On his educational journey, he saw collections of precious ivory works and also learnt how to process ivory. Back at Erbach, he set up his own ivory workshop.  Ivory became an important economic sector at Erbach. The rose of Erbach won a prize at the World Exhibition of Vienna in 1873. Erbach attracted artists, became the German ivory centre and founded the school for ivory carving in 1893. Because trading elephant ivory has been restricted since 1973, the artists now use mammoth ivory that mostly comes from Siberia in Russia. While in former times, ivory shops could be found in almost all streets of Erbach, I now only find Jürgen Schott’s workshop on the internet. 

On the Market Square, we visit the shop of Jürgen Reimer, also an ivory artist. I like the finely carved animals. 

Nearby, I notice this boy telling his father “Vadder-do!” meaning “Dad – this way!”. It seems to be urgent for dad.

Where does “Vadder” (father) have to go to so urgently? The children’s town rally offers three options for the answer: (1) the church, (2) shopping (3) the toilet. Now, it is your turn to guess…

We have a different solution; we take a seat on the Market Square in front of a nice restaurant to round off our visit with a coffee.

We leave the charming medieval city, again crossing the river Mümling.

From our two hours visit, I will keep good memories of the historic ensemble of the medieval city of Erbach. May be, I would have to return to explore more medieval streets, the pleasure garden with the orangery along the river Mümling and the workshop of Jürgen Schott.  

Tomorrow, we will return to Switzerland, after four wonderful weeks of travelling: Riedlingen, Ulm, Nebra, Berlin (here I enjoyed the eye twinkling of the City Cleaning Service and commented about the Heidelberger Platz), Thuringia with Neustadt an der Orla, Castle Burgk, Schleiz, Plothener Teiche (ponds), along the dams of the upper Saale, Lehesten, Lauscha, Weimar, Rudolstadt, Erfurt, Arnstadt, Eisenach, Schmalkalden, Steinau an der Strasse, and the Odenwald with Lindenfels, the Castle Wildenberg, Amorbach and now Erbach. 




One thought on “Erbach in the Odenwald – the ivory city with medieval charm

  1. Carved ivory is so fine and beautiful, such a shame that it had to be at the expense of elephants’ beauty too!

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