Another possibly unique sight in Aschaffenburg is the Pompeiianum - a complete replica of an ancient Roman villa transported to central Germany. It's based on the House of Castor and Pollux, a painting of a villa found at the entrance to Pompeii. There's probably nothing quite like it north of the Alps, and it's not just a front like the Italian village in Portmeirion. Behind the corn yellow facade there's an interior of columns (with Pompeii red bases) formed around a central patio. It's just like you've seen Rome in the movies.
A walk along the riverside is a highlight of any visit to Aschaffenburg, but only on the east bank of the Main. The east bank curves under the old town and palace, and is protected from the noise of passing river traffic by a narrow and wooded island. The west bank is a car park disturbed by noisy barges.
The promenade stretches from Willigis bridge past the palace and too the end of the palace gardens.
Palaces in Germany are typically a long way from any town, or at least far from the centre of a big city. They are pastel layer cakes surrounded by acres of parks and landscaped gardens. They are elegant, imperial monuments to the country's former nobility. But in Aschaffenburg the colossal Schloss Johannisburg is none of these. It sits right in the centre of the town, so tightly pressed between the Altstadt and the river that its gardens amount to little more than a strip of grass and polished gravel. I'd hazard to say it is unique in all Germany - I certainly haven't seen anything quite like it.
Schloss Johannisburg is a red sandstone monolith - as daunting a structure as the castle it replaced. It seems as if a giant cannonball could be fired upon its walls and its lead weight would simply rebound into the Main river below, leaving the palace walls without even a mark. It's not a beautiful palace, it's an imposing one - in fact the word imposing, like a picture, doesn't really do the building justice. You have to stand in its courtyard, pass by under it from the river promenade, or gaze upon it from the Willigis bridge to get a true impression - preferably while listening to Bach's Easter Oratorio.
Aschaffenburg may be small, but it has its own theater - and one with quite a history too. Founded in 1811 it's a sign of how wealthy and cultured this town is, and continues to be, that they originally built the theater with seating for a thousand people. Even today, rebuilt after allied bombs severely damaged it, the theater seats nearly five hundred.
Church of our Lady the Mother of God
This is Aschaffenburg's oldest parish church, and contender for longest church name in the world. It's most striking feature is its magnificent baroque facade, which I neglected to photograph. But you can at least see the fine Romanesque-Gothic tower which overlooks Theaterplatz.
In the granite Theaterplatz is a sundial created by artist Christian Tobin. The shadow casting gnomon stands six meters high and carries a silver orb which tracks the time - not always easy in cloudy Germany.
The central Stiftplatz is overlooked by Aschaffenburg's oldest church: The Collegiate Church of St. Peter and Alexander. It's a grand building, mixing Gothic and Romanesque features that blend perfectly with the meticulously laid out square. It was founded by the crusading Duke Otto of Swabia, before passing into the hands of the the powerful Archbishops of Mainz. It almost goes without saying that it was heavily damaged by Allied bombers during World War 2.
The stiftmuseum is in an adjacent building in the complex, which holds in its treasury a part of the vast wealth accumulated by its owners.
A thin strip of grass stretched along a rocky outcrop above the Main river, the palace gardens contain two of Aschaffenburg's most important sights, and some of the best views of the palace itself. Here you can find the pleasant St. Germain Terrace, perched above a small vineyard, the bright yellow Pompeiianum and the whitewashed Capuchin monastery.
The Herstall Tower is dated 1545 and carries the coat of arms of Cardinal Albert of Brandenburg who died that year. It's one of only two remaining towers from the town's original fortifications. Today it marks the beginning of Aschaffenburg's pedestrianised shopping area.
Johannisburg Palace and Museum
The Johannisburg Palace dominates the city and overlooks the Main river. The former second residence of the Mainz electoral archbishops (until 1803) the Palace was built in a four-winged structure but it retained the Keep of the old castle that was previously on this location. While the palace is impressive it loses some of it historic glory when you enter the museum and see the model of the palace at the end of WWII. The place was almost totally destroyed by American forces since the town was considered a fortress by Hitler and the Palace was the command post for the local commander.
The best part of the Palace is the museum located inside it. For a fairly cheap admission price (5.50 euro) you see some impressive models, art pieces and historic furniture. You start on the 1st floor with three models of what the old castle might have looked like, what the old Palace looked like and what the Palace looked like at the end of the war. From there you go into several rooms filled with cork models showing the most famous ruins of Rome. Take a moment to look the detail work Carl May and his son Georg put into each of them. Very impressive. I love the Colosseum the best.
From there (if I remember correctly) you enter the art galleries with numerous works by German and Dutch painters. These include works by Lucas Cranach and the elder. You then head up to the second floor (actually the third floor) to view the princely apartments with their original neoclassical interiors and furniture.
Plan on spending at least an hour in the museum and maybe much longer depending on your interests.
- Museum Visits
- Castles and Palaces
Nikolaus Georg Reigersberger lived in this house. He was executory officer in the city of Mainz and responsible for litigation on witches. In 1648 he became chancellor of Mainz and on October 24 in the same year he was joint signatory of the treaty called the "Peace of Westphalia".
The Sandkirche was built in 18th century and is the only church that has not been destroyed in World War Two. The interior is in Roccoco style. The high altar made of marble and the ceiling frescoes worth a visit.
Stifskirche St. Peter und Alexander
The Stifskirche "St. Peter und Alexander " is the oldest building in town. It was erected in 10th century but experienced numerous reformations. In 19th century it was symbol of the arcbishops and electors of Mainz. Do not miss to visit the church - the decorative ornaments and the stainted windows are overwhelming.
In the centre of Aschaffenburg is this baroque palace from the mid 17th century. The castle hosts today the Scientific Museum as well as the town archieve. In the ground floor varying exhibition of local and regional artis can be visited. In the upper level is the town library where you can read scripts of the past centuries.
The current castle was build on the ruins of the former mediaeval fortress which was destroyed in 1552. Elector Johann Schweickard von Kronberg gave the order in 1604 to build a gorgeous castle of red and yellow sandstone.
In World War Two the castle was heavily damaged and it took almost twenty years to rebuilt. Now you can visit the castle.
Go through the castle cafe and enjoy a Mass (a litre of beer) in the beergarden. If you do not like beer try the excellent selection of regional wines.
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