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!

 

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Frankfurt – an old family friend is my guide

A long-year family friend at Frankfurt and a cousin at Bonn are both in their eighties. I want to visit them on my way to Berlin, mid-November 2021.

My first stop is at Frankfurt, the business capital of Germany on the Main river.

At Frankfurt, I have been invited by Dietrich and his wife. Our grand-parents were friends, after that our mothers were very close friends and now we, the grand-children, are friends. We are long-year family friends.

A hundred years ago, Dietrich’s grand-father had acquired some paintings of my grand-father-artist Hermann Radzig-Radzyk, for instance the Kirchberg at Schreiberhau, now Szklarska Poręba, in Silesia…

… and the valley at the county of Klatsko (Glätzisches Land), also in Silesia.

Immediately, I feel at home in the house of Dietrich and his wife. I am surrounded by my memories of my family, and the welcome is hearty.

 

Charming small Italian restaurant run by two sisters from Naples

We have dinner at the charming small Pizzeria La Paesana, run by two sisters from Naples. Their nephew made the pretty felt pizzaiolo that now decorates the pizzeria of his aunts. Well, the pizzaiolo has lost one eye – that makes him look even friendlier – he seems to twinkle at me.

The small restaurant is an excellent welcome to Frankfurt. I have tasty wild boar noodles with a slightly sparkling Lambrusco, my friends have pasta Carlo Magno with Gorgonzola – it is said that Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse or Carlo Magno) loved Gorgonzola, the sisters tell us. That was around the year 800 AD – what a cheese tradition! 
(According to the wiki entry about Gorgonzola, it is said that Gorgonzola was first produced in 879; but this could well have happened a little earlier, when Charlemagne lived, and if not, it is a nice legend).

We will meet Charlemagne later again in the city centre of Frankfurt. 

 

My first impression of the city – Hauptwache (main guardroom) and skyscrapers touching the morning clouds

Dietrich takes me to the S-Bahn. We leave the underground station at the Hauptwache (main guardroom). Saint Catherine’s Church appears behind the stairs. 

The baroque guardroom, built in 1730, was the headquarter of the city’s soldiers. It was also a prison. It was destroyed in the Second World War and reconstructed thereafter. 

The Hauptwache is surrounded by modern buildings, with the Commerzbank building fading in the mist of the late morning. 

 

The lifeline of Frankfurt am Main – the river Main

The lifeline of Frankfurt is the Main river. We approach it near the pedestrian bridge “Eiserner Steg” with the inscription in Greek saying “the sea has the colour of wine and, on this sea, we are sailing to meet other people” (auf weinfarbenem Meer segelnd zu anderen Menschen).

From here we can see the Commerzbank building again, now under blue sky in the sun, surrounded by many more modern buildings reflecting in the Main river . 

This is the Cathedral Saint Bartholomew, also reflecting in the Main river.

Across the Eiserner Steg we reach the urban district Sachsenhausen. We stroll along the waterside promenade and meet these two ducks, also citizens of Frankfurt, sleeping comfortably on one leg. 

The skyline, again with the Commerzbank tower, appears behind the island (Maininsel) that shines in golden autumn colours. 

Returning to the city centre using the Old Bridge (Alte Brücke), I make a photo of both the modern business skyline and the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Barthomolew. 

Frankfurt has charm, definitively, when seen from their lifeline, the Main river. 

 

Timbered houses at the Römerberg and the Old St Nicholas Church (Alte Nikolaikirche)

Away from the Main river, the old city centre is located on the Römerberg. It is bordered by timbered houses and the Old St Nicholas Church. 

We enter the Römerberg under the banner that plays with German words: “Vieles geht besser, wenn die Maske jetzt sitzt” (translated literally: “much will “go” better, when the mask “sits” meaning”, when the mask fits).  

On the Römerberg, the first fairs took place in the 11th century. Frederic the Second of Hohenstaufen granted the right to run fairs to Frankfurt in 1240. 

It is mid November, time to set up the Christmas tree in front of the old town hall. 

This is not the Standesamt (civil registry office), but the Standesämtchen. The ending “chen” combined with “ä” indicates that it is the “small” registry office which, in Southern Germany, adds a friendly and welcoming touch to it. Actually it is not a small civil registry office, but a restaurant that carries the name “Standesämtchen”. 

Modernity and tradition are joining. The Old St Nicholas Church reflects in the glass wall of the Evangelische Akademie (education institution and conference house). 

As a matter of fact, Frankfurt has been in ruins after the Second World War. The houses around the Römerberg, originally from the 15/16th century, have been reconstructed in  the 80-ies, except the Wertheim building nearby that survived the air raids. 

The late Gothic Old Saint Nicholas Church from the 15th century only suffered minor damage by the bombs of the Second World War.  

 

The Cathedral St Barthomolew behind the Römer

From the Römerberg, we can see the Cathedral of St Barthomolew.  

The cathedral can be seen from the Main river, too. 

The cathedral is also called “Kaiserdom” (Emperor Cathedral). Actually, it is a “Königsdom”, because the kings of the Holy Roman Empire were elected here since 1152 and crowned since 1562, until the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist. No “emperors” were crowned here, kings were crowned here. Furthermore, the cathedral has never been a bishop seat, though it is called “cathedral”.

The present Gothic cathedral is mainly from the 14th and 15th century, reconstructed in the 1950’s after having been severely damaged in 1944. 

The modern organ matches the gothic vaults. 

Reading about the cathedral at home, I would like to return to explore the collection of altars from all over Germany and the chapel, where the elections of the kings took place. 

 

New Old City (neue Altstadt), reconstructed based on the medieval ground plans

Between the Römerberg and the cathedral of St Bartholomew, the old city has been rebuilt along the medieval ground plans – this is now called “neue Altstadt” or “New Old City”.

The area is not without charm. However, to me, the houses look a bit, as if they had been cut out of cardboard. 

They are neither really old nor really modern. 

 

Kaiserpfalz – meeting Charlemagne again, the emperor who enjoyed the Gorgonzola cheese

Here, he is again, Charlemagne who is said to have loved the Gorgonzola cheese. In a way, he is the founder of Frankfurt. That is why, I assume, he stands on the old bridge crossing the Main river. He looks downstream, severely frowning.

In 794, it was Charlemagne who the first person to mention Frankfurt or “Franconofurd”. At that time, he held a synod of bishops and an imperial assembly here. 

Charlemagne was at Frankfurt in 794. However, later he probably never returned to Frankfurt. It is assumed that his grand-son, Louis the German, founded the first cathedral and made Frankfurt an important royal palatinate. The ruins of the palatinate are presented in the New Old City.

This is, what the royal palatinate (Königspfalz) might have looked like in the 9th century. 

The painting is on display in the museum.

 

Church St. Leonhard

The Church St Leonhard is bordering the Main river. The beginnings go back to the early 13th century, and the Romanesque structures have been largely preserved. In 1323, the church acquired a relic of Saint Leonhard which made it an important pilgrimage site. 

In the early 15th century, the choir was reconstructed in Gothic style while the Romanesque apses remained in place. Around 1500, the nave was enlarged.

The Gothic main altar was acquired around 1850. The middle part is from Swabian Bavaria. The predella is supposed to have been crafted at Memmingen in the late 15th century; it shows the martyrium of Ursula. The two candle holders are Baroque angels from 1614.

Late Gothic frescoes decorate the walls of the choir, to the left the Annunciation scene, to the right Christ carrying the cross. Some of the stain glass windows in the choir are from the 15th century. 

The altar of Marie comes from Antwerpen (about 1480). The centre part is dedicated to Marie (her death, her ascension, her coronation). The predella shows the Last Supper.

In 1944, the Church Saint Nicholas was only moderately damaged; sister Margarita prevented a devastating fire. Between 2011 and 2019 the church was completely renovated.

Reading the booklet acquired in the Church of St. Nicholas, I understand, there is more to see in this church, I would like to come back.

 

Goethe was born at Frankfurt

In this large, yellow house at the Grosser Hirschgraben, Goethe was born (1749-1832) . He lived in Frankfurt, until he left to study law at Leipzig in 1765.

Well, the yellow house was destroyed in 1944, and it was reconstructed after the war, exactly as it was before. 

Next door is the Frankfurter Goethehaus (House of Goethe) with the Deutsches Romantikmuseum (German museum of Romanticism). I liked the highly modern oriel interpretation. 

Again next door is the Volksbühne, a theatre, with two more modern oriels swinging along the façade.  

 

Town Hall and Local Court (Ortsgericht)

From the Goethe House we cross the busy Berlinerstrasse and reach the Local Court of Frankfurt (Ortsgericht), … 

… leaving it through the gate with the fresco showing the wine harvest. 

We now look at the rear side of the town hall, …

… with the town hall tower seen from under the Seufzerbrücke (Bridge of Sighs, a skywalk) at Bethmannstrasse. 

 

St Paul’s Church (Paulskirche)

Behind us, we can see the oval shaped classicist Saint Paul’s Church, completed in 1833. In 1848, the first German national assembly was held in Saint Paul’s Church. However, the attempt to found the German nation failed, as the Prussian king did not accept the emperor crown to reign over all German states. Nevertheless, the constitution elaborated by the assembly was accepted by most German states; it can be considered to be the roots of the German democracy (see Stadtführer, p. 38). 

The building was reconstructed after 1945 to become a national memorial. This is the new cupola seen from inside.

A monumental frieze makes the representatives of the 1848 assembly revive.

 

Sight seeing makes hungry – the Kleinmarkthalle (small market hall) is close

Around lunch time, I am usually hungry. We make a “pitch stop” at the Kleinmarkthalle (small market hall) near the city centre. 

We climb up the stairs to get an overview from the gallery.

We walk around and enjoy the stands with enticing pasta,…

… apple wine (called Ebbelwei here), …

… meat offered by a citizen of Frankfurt that is obviously from Turkish origin (I love to see the mixture of nations here),…

… beautifully arranged fish… and much more.

We join the waiting queue at Dietrich’s favourite sausage stand of Ilse Schreiber, where we buy two sausages from Hessen (the state that Frankfurt belongs to). We have to eat our sausages outside, because inside the building we have to wear masks, outside, we can take them off, which is much more convenient for eating sausages. 

 

Good-bye Dietrich, now I am heading north to Bonn, with a stop over on the Grosser Feldberg

Thank you, Dietrich, I have spent two wonderful days with you and your wife. I have learnt much about Frankfurt, and there is more to see in Frankfurt with its museums, with the modern business centres, with the carefully preserved or reconstructed medieval sights and with its lifeline, the Main river.

Now I am heading north to Bonn.

In the mist, I start driving to the Taunus mountains north of Frankfurt. My car climbs and climbs, and eventually, I am above the clouds. I stop on the local mountain of Frankfurt that is called Grosser Feldberg. I am on almost 900m. The view is superb. 

The Brunhildi’s rock (to the right of my shadow) is mentioned in a document of 1043. 

The rock is said to have been the “lectulus of Brunhilde” or “the little bed of Brunhilde”. Saint Hildegard of Bingen has spent one night here, and the rock has kept the imprint of her head, as legends tell. Around 1800, the rock was reinterpreted as the place, where Brunhilde was sleeping, until Siegfried liberated her. The rock became part of the German legend of Nibelungen. This is, what the panel near this peculiar rock says. 

I continue north – it is about two hours to drive to Bonn. On the way, I will have another stop at Limburg. 

 

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