On our second day in Wurzburg we had to manage our time carefully as we not only had to be out of our hotel by 11am, we actually needed to be on the road by then to our next Romantic Road stopping point, Rothenburg. We had booked a tour of the centre of Wurzburg for 10am and so we decided to have an early breakfast so we could hit the streets and see some of Wurzburg that we hadn’t been able to get to the previous afternoon.
The map of our walking route for the morning to the left had us visiting the only site in Wurzburg that has received a UNESCO World Heritage Listing. The World Heritage site explains…
“Located in Southern Germany, the sumptuous Würzburg Residence was built and decorated in the 18th century by an international corps of architects, painters, sculptors, and stucco workers under the patronage of two successive Prince-Bishops, Johann Philipp Franz and Friedrich Karl von Schönborn.
The Residence was essentially constructed between 1720 and 1744, decorated on the interior from 1740 to 1770 and landscaped with magnificent gardens from 1765 to 1780.”
I mentioned in the first blog about Wurzburg that the Prince Bishops of Wurzburg lived in the Marienberg Fortress for many centuries before deciding to move their court to a palace in the city. The Prince Bishop in power was an absolute monarch who decided that his court needed to be reflected in the beauty and opulence of his palace, that is, something comparable to Versailles! The palace and grounds were not completely finished until the early 19th century, in time for Napoleon and his wife to sleep in the building on their way through Germany. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed in the Residence in August 1845.
One of the very sad aspects of a tour of German cities is the historical back stories of many of their public buildings. In 1945, the allies bombed Wurzburg’s city and suburbs and up to 80% of the centra area of Wurzburg was destroyed. This included magnificent buildings such as the Residenz. Due to amazingly persistent work of the locals, so much of what was destroyed in 1945 has been rebuilt and the Residenz is just one example of such reconstructions. The advisory body of UNESCO stated that “The Residence is at once the most homogeneous and the most extraordinary of the Baroque palaces.”
Due to time pressures, we were not able to join a tour group of the palace but we were able to walk the beautiful gardens of the Residence. One of the impressive sculptural groups in these gardens, below right, is called the ‘Abduction of Prosepina’. The story comes from Roman mythology concerning the abduction of a daughter of the Gods, Prosepine, who is taken by Pluto the God of the Underworld while gathering flowers.
From the Residennz, we walked back toward the Tourist Bureau to meet our morning tour group. We discovered to our disappointment that we had misheard our starting time and the Guide and group had already gone. Rather than informing us that it was our bad luck, the lady at the bureau set out to find the group with us trailing along behind her. We caught up with the group at a nearby church called the New Munster on the other side of the plaza next to the St Kilian Cathedral.
Our guide cheerfully welcomed us to the group and attempted to catch us up with what had happened so far on the tour. The new Munster dates back 1065 and survived a 1000 years with renovations in the 18th century. Like the rest of the center of Wurzburg, it was left in ruins after the 1945 bombing. One of the things that interested me in this church was the story of the three Irish monks who had come to this area to convert the locals to Christianity in the 7th century. Their statues were placed up the front of the church near the altar rails. They were St Kilian, the priest St Colman and their deacon St Totnan. If we had done our background research, we would have found their statues also on the old bridge that we had crossed yesterday. St Kilian might not have achieved an early martyrdom if he had not been so forthright in telling the local King that marrying his brother’s widow was against sacred scripture. While the King was out of town, the widow Geilana sent her soldiers to the town’s main square where the Irish monks were preaching and, when found, they were beheaded
A Cathedral was built on the spot of the Irish Monks’ martyrdom and the relics of the monks were dug up and preserved in a large glass case in the crypt. On St Kilian’s feast day, the relics are paraded through the streets of Wurzburg before large crowds.
Attached to one side of New Munster there is a cloister where our guide took us next. Like all such monastery areas, this cloister was a very peaceful place to spend some time discussing the church before we headed back out into St Kilian’s Platz. On the way over this square we encountered a curious statue of a fully bandaged man gazing at the sky. According to our guide, this platz had been renewed some years before but had created in the process a set of stairs that they believed would be dangerous for old folk. An unaesthetic hand rail was suggested but the powers that be decided a sculpture such as the bandaged man might alert pedestrians to the ‘dangerous’ steps they were approaching!?
The tour group must have visited the St Kilian Cathedral as the first stop of the morning…we moved on from our bandaged man into the main street and moving towards the Saints’ Bridge. Luckily for me I had visited St Kilian’s on the previous evening while my colleagues were drinking at a nearby restaurant as well as listening to the band that was playing in the area in front of the cathedral. This building erected to celebrate the life of St Kilian is believed to be the third church on the site, two others having been built in the 8th and 9th century. It has been renovated and remodeled over the centuries, only to be ruined by the fire bombings of 1945.
One of the stops on our morning tour was the Rathaus room where photos of the wartime bombing of the city were displayed. (We had also had a look in here on the previous night.) On the left below are the ruins of the Cathedral in 1945 and the photo on the right shows a photo from not long after the bombing where the Cathedral is still largely standing with the ruins of the New Munster Church nearby.
On the left above is St Kilian’s Cathedral in 1945 after the bombing. Much of it completely collapsed a year later. On the right can be seen the centre of the old town of Wurzburg with a view of the damaged new Munster near the still standing cathedral.
On the way down the street that runs towards the Saint’s Bridge there is a square that contains a very unusual fountain. It is a ‘ground-level’ fountain that has an apple eating nymph, a thirsty faun and a group of tritons. I thought the photo below captures well both the fountain and the confused looking woman who seems to be non-plussed by what she is observing!
APPENDIX 1…Wurzburg Music festival
While we were staying overnight in Wurzburg, we were lucky to discover that there was a music festival happening in the streets of the old town area. We found ourselves in a bar just across from the band playing great music (on right above). 10 metres to the left was St Kilian’s Cathedral and I suspect the Irish monk would have enjoyed the music.