- Travel and Places»
- Visiting Europe
Photos of Rothenburg, Germany - Historic Medieval City with Defensive Walls
I had the pleasure of visiting historic Rothenburg, Germany years ago with my good friend who lives in that European country. It is situated along the Tauber River and it is an old walled city.
Having stayed in touch with her since my single days of living in the Texas Medical Center nurses' dorm and sharing experiences of working in the operating rooms of Methodist Hospital we have also shared many good times together after she returned to her home country.
This is primarily because of her frequent visits back to the United States to visit family members of hers. Face to face visits as well as communicating by letters and infrequent telephone calls has kept this friendship alive and thriving.
Keep reading as I will be sharing photos and some of the information that I learned about Rothenburg on our trip together to that remarkable city.
Rothenburg, GermanyClick thumbnail to view full-size
Rothenburg goes back to the 10th century when a castle was first built on that location. By the 12th century the city walls were begun to be erected. An earthquake took place in 1356 which destroyed much of the city's fortifications but people continued to rebuild. The impressive St. Jakob's Church was completed in 1510 and is a landmark feature of Rothenburg today.
Situated on a plateau at 1,275 feet above sea level with the River Tauber 180 feet below the city in a valley this gave the residents of Rothenburg a good defensive site. The city wall with towers, gates and holes in the high walls gave good lines of vision to be able to see and fight against any marauding armies. People there endured many wars including The Thirty Years' War.
Fortunately, compared to so many other cities in Germany total destruction of this attractive locale was spared during World War II by the orders of an American general. What had been bombed was rebuilt in the old style and because of its uniqueness and historic nature it lures visitors today from all over the world.
My friend had visited Rothenburg previously and wished to share its captivating beauty as well as its antiquity with me on a one day visit. After wandering the cobblestoned streets and enjoying what we got to do and see in one day, I would love to spend more time there someday and absorb more of its unique charm.
Master Builder's House
Did you happen to notice the supporting figures on the front of the building on what is called The Master Builder's House in the photo above? It was built in 1596 by Leonhard Weidner in a Renaissance style and is considered to be the finest private residence in Rothenburg. The figures of men and women represent the seven vices and virtues.
Inside of the Master Builder's House (Baumeisterhaus, in the German language) is a beautiful private courtyard and today it serves as a restaurant. Not only did we take a look at it but my friend and I decided to have a meal there and enjoy viewing the interior architecture and decor a while longer while dining and taking a break from our walking around the city.
The Herterichs Well
Located in the marketplace (Marktplatz) is this well that supplied the city's water needs back in 1446. Sometimes called St. George's well, Herterichs well was lavishly decorated by Rothenburg's mason Christoph Körner in 1608 and is topped with a statue of St. George.
This site has seen much action besides the drawing of water for the resident's needs. According to some literature that I picked up it also served as the site of a gallows in the Middle Ages as well as a pillory where people would have had their heads and hands inserted into a wooden platform and remained there exposed to public scorn as punishment for supposed grievances or crimes.
It also was the site where shepherds danced to ward off the plague which was a frightening occurrence which killed many people in earlier times. Now a traditional shepherds dance is performed several times a year in Rothenburg paying respect to those past legends.
St. Jacob's Church
The high Gothic style of St. Jacob's Church (Jakobskirche, in German) dominates the skyline of Rothenburg. It was built in the 14th and 15th centuries and was consecrated in the year 1448. The citizens of Rothenburg were the ones who raised the funding for this massive church which took well over one hundred years to build and lots of manpower and expertise to construct.
The exterior is stunning with the lofty towers, steeples, pointed arches and slim windows rising up towards the heavens in honor of God. But it is the interior of this church that is a "must see" for any visitor to Rothenburg!
One could spend much time in this church marveling at all of the spectacular embellishments which contain among other things valuable stained glass windows. Some of them rise 46 feet in height above the main altar.
The Altar of the Twelve Apostles with carved figures and paintings is a gorgeous shrine in the nave (head) of the church flanked by seating for the choir on each side wall. The choir stalls which bear coats of arms of noblemen living in Rothenburg and who have supported this church throughout the centuries are interesting to see.
A massive 5,550 pipe organ must be something to hear when it is played. Unfortunately we did not get to hear it being played while we were visiting.
The Holy Blood Altar
There are other carvings of note and great beauty, but the stunning masterpiece of this church and one in which people come in droves to see is The Holy Blood Altar located upstairs in the west choir area.
Why the name? There is reputed to be a relic holding 3 drops of Christ's blood placed in rock crystal and inserted into a gold plated cross.
The amazing artistry of the noted woodcarver and artist Tilman Riemenschneider is the attraction that is worth the small amount of money charged to see it. Carved out of lime wood it must have taken a huge amount of dedicated time and effort to hand carve and assemble this gigantic altarpiece that is three dimensional and that one can walk around and admire from all sides. The Last Supper is portrayed along with scenes of Christ entering Jerusalem and his night spent in the Garden of Gethsemane among other things.
For those who truly wish to see this magnificent piece of artistry take a look at the video inserted here. Any woodcarvers or lovers of wood carving artistry will be amazed!
Tilman Riemenschneider and his famous carved altar inside of St. Jakobs Kirche (church) in Rothenburg
Medieval Towers and Gates
Pictured below is a photo of one side of the 13th century Sieber's Tower (Siebersturm) which was the defense on the southern side of the city before it was extended even further out. As the city grew more defenses were created. Rothenburg now has a series of gates and defensive towers along with its wall which encompasses much of the city.
Notice how narrow the old cobblestoned streets between the buildings are? Obviously they were built long before the invention of gasoline powered automobiles. The majority of people park outside of the major parts of the city and walk to get around. The few cars that navigate the streets do so carefully amidst all of the many pedestrians.
A few tourists choose to get around by horse drawn carriages or with bicycles. My friend and I chose to do our sightseeing by walking and having good sturdy shoes on our feet to facilitate that process.
This is the name in German for Town Hall. As students of architecture can readily see this impressive Rathaus has three different styles that being Gothic, Renaissance and with a Baroque arcade.
Due to several fires over the years (one in 1240 and another in 1501) this building has been rebuilt several times and the Renaissance and Baroque styles have been additions to the original Gothic part of the building which blend into a harmonious style seen and appreciated today.
Residents and visitors alike can get some great daily exercise by hiking around the city's defensive walls. With steps going up and down in some places it can be a good aerobic workout.
Unless you live there and are so desensitized to the spectacular scenery with the numerous portals looking out towards the countryside and also the views looking inwards and down upon the red roofed town with its varied scenery one is likely to stop and take many photos and/or stop and gaze at the eye catching and wondrous sites around each twist and turn in the wall.
Below are some of the photos taken along the portion of the fortification where my friend and I did some exploring.
Scenery in Rothenburg viewed from City WallClick thumbnail to view full-size
City Councillors' Tavern
This interesting building (in German, called 'Ratsherrntrinkstube') draws crowds of people six times every day when at specified times figures appear in the two windows and recreate a drinking feat which supposedly saved the city of Rothenburg from total destruction back in 1631.
The story is told that during the Thirty Years' War General Tilly conquered the town. Ordinarily it would have been plundered and destroyed as was the custom back in those times. However so the tale goes if someone could consume a large tankard of wine in one gulp the city would be spared. A former mayor of the town stepped up to the challenge and saved the day!
My friend and I stood among the crowds and watched this show which happens at the top of each hour from 11 AM to 2 PM and again at 9 and 10 PM each day. Tilly is in the window on the left with Nusch (the former mayor) in the window on the right.
For people needing to know what time it is there are three clocks on the gable of the City Councillors' Tavern. A sun dial is at the top with an eagle just below it. Next comes a calendar clock. The city's official timekeeper clock was built in 1683.
Rothenburg on the Tauber
There is obviously so much more to see and do in this intriguing German city dating back to the middle ages. One could easily spend many days there as I wish we could have done after having been introduced to this wondrous medieval city.
In addition to the fascinating architecture there are multiple other churches and sites of interest to see as well as institutions such as the doll and toy museum and the medieval crime museum which could wile away many hours.
There are numerous choices of lodgings and eateries. Perhaps with luck my wish will come true and I will return someday to see more of this engaging walled ancient city of Rothenburg on the Tauber. Thanks to my friend I at least got to see this much and will always cherish the memories.
Would you like to spend some time in Rothenburg, Germany?
I still own this book & would recommend it heartily if planning a trip to Rothenburg. Makes a nice souvenir also!
© 2012 Peggy Woods