Bamberg is a great hub for daytripping. Munich is only two hours away by train and Nueremberg is less than an hour. The options go on and on. Trains are very regular and remember if you travel on regional trains you can use the Bayern ticket which will get you and your family (up to 5 people) to any towns within Bavaria for around 30 Euro. The ticket can be used from 9am to 3am on weekdays and for extended hours on weekends.
Other options are Wuerzburg (less than an hour) and Regensburg (less than two hours).
The frescoes on the Alte Rathaus are really quite stunning. They are the creation of one Johann Anwander a German fresco and Rococco painter of some note.
The frescoes were painted in 1755 when Anwander was aged 40 years. He died in 1770.
When I think that these works are more than a quarter of a century old, I can't help but wonder how they are in such good condition considering their exposure to the elements. I can only assume that they have been touched up from time to time maybe. Or perhaps not?
The amazing Old Town Hall (Alte Rathaus) sits in the middle of the River Regnitz, between the Obere and Untere Brucken. Pushing brazenly into the onrushing waters of the river's weir, the oldest part of the Rathaus juts out precariously over the water's edge. The 15th century half-timbered building falls all the way down the side of the bridge almost into the river itself. Hovering over the two bridges is the newer part of the Town Hall, built in the 18th century in a garish Baroque style. The colourful frescoes on the sides of the building are just fantastic, and make this one of the most unusual and most picturesque town halls in all of Germany, if not Europe. For me this sight alone makes Bamberg unmissable.
Inside is the Sammlung Ludwig museum.
Opening Times (museum)
Tue - Sun 9.30 - 16.30
Entry = 3,10 €
This eleventh century Benedictine monastery sits on top of one of the highest of the seven hills overlooking the city. The modern monastery was largely rebuilt after fire damage in 1610, and thus combines the architectural styles of the original Romanesque with the later, slightly less inspiring, Gothic. The monastery looks its best when viewed from the banks of the River Regnitz, by the Alte Rathaus, perched high up on a hill. The monastery itself offers fantastic views over the town.
In the cellars of the front courtyard you can also find the Frankisches Brauereimuseum, which shows off the fine history of Bamberg's brewing industry, from the time of the monk's first beers to the modern day.
Opening times (for the museum)
From April to the end of October
Wed to Sun from 13.00 to 17.00
Entry = 2 Euros (Adults) 1 Euro (Students/Children)
On the other side of Domplatz from the old palace is the unmissable Neue Residenz: a huge Baroque palace built between 1697 and 1703 for the Bishop Prince Lothar Franz, by the architect Leonhard Dientzenhofer. The building itself can be wandered around and contains, along with the princely bedrooms, the Kaisersaal concert hall, Chinesische Kabinette, Staatsgalerie, Staatsbibliothek, and the Rosengarten with its fantastic views of St Michael's Abbey on the hill.
April - September
Daily 9.00 - 18.00
Thursdays until 20.00
October - March
Daily 9.00 - 16.00
Closed on 24th, 25th and 31st December, 1st January and Shrove Tuesday.
Entry = 3€ for adults
It was still early spring so the roses were not blooming, but on this windy and rainy day I would still envision how beautiful this garden would be in just a few months. The Rose Garden is part of the New Residence located directly across the Domplatz from the Cathedral.
The Rose Garden in the Residence’s inner court provides a spectacular overlook of the city of Bamberg and over to the hill of Michaelsberg with the Michaelsberg Abbey. When in full bloom and on a nice day, this area would be a photographer’s dream with the flowers and the beautiful Abbey on the nearby hilltop.
To enter the Rose Garden, simply walk through the large open gateway to the inner courtyard – the garden is on the right side. At the time I was there, it was free to walk through and have a look around.
It took three trips to Bamberg to finally see the famous Prince’s Portal on the side of the Bamberg Cathedral. It is covered up in the wintertime to protect it from the harsh weather, so on my third trip in the spring, the portal was opened up for viewing.
The portal is considered both Romanesque and Gothic and was built in 1237 when the cathedral itself was built. Traditionally, this portal was only used for special occasions (there are two other portals on the east end of the cathedral that are regularly used) – even today, this doorway is not open to the public.
The magnificently carved statues on either sides of the door have definitely experienced some eroding due to weather with the right side worse than the left. In fact, some of the figures seem downright creepy now. So there is no wonder why the portal is protected during the winter.
On the either side of the door are prophets and apostles with the Last Judgment scene above the door.
If you have already been inside the cathedral, you may recognize the two female sculptures on either side of the portal – Ecclesia and Synagogue. These are copies of the two original sculptures which now are on display on the south side of the east choir. The two sculptures were taken inside in the early 1900s as a protection from the weather.
The two other portals on the east side of the cathedral are named Adam’s Portal (on the left side) and Mary’s Portal (on the right). While not as elaborate as the Prince’s Portal, they are interesting – I like Adam’s better than Mary’s for the quality of workmanship in the sculptures. You enter the cathedral through the right (Mary’s) and exit through the left (Adam’s).
Klein-Venedig (“Little Venice”) is another Bamberg site that most of our guide books said were must-see places. It was getting late in the evening and the sun was going down so we only glimpsed Little Venice from the Untere Brücke by the Altes Rathaus. It is a picturesque row of beautiful half-timbered buildings along the Regnitz River. I can imagine that it is much prettier with the sun shining in warmer weather when the flower boxes would be overflowing with colorful blooms, although I am not sure I would go out of my way to see the area.
The buildings used to be fishermen’s houses in the 19th century and even today there were many boats along the river in this area. In August each year, Little Venice hosts a fishermen’s jousting contest.
Update: My second photo is from another trip to Bamberg and captured in the early morning hours as the sun was shining. It was very early spring so the flowers and trees were still not blooming...maybe next time I'll see that!
Kunigunde was Holy Roman Emperor Henry II’s wife. Henry, founder of the Bamberg Cathedral, was canonized a saint after his death along with his wife. Kunigunde was a remarkable woman who, as legend tells, passed the test of innocence by walking across red-hot plowshares when she was accused of adultery. After her husband died, she ruled the empire for two months until his successor was named, holding onto the regalia in order to ensure a reliable succession. She is buried with her husband in the double tomb at the base of the east choir in the Bamberg Cathedral.
This statue on the Untere Brücke by the Altes Rathaus is dedicated to this woman that was loved by the town of Bamberg. It is a 1992 copy of the original 1750 statue that was part of six statues on the bridge. The sign near the statue reads:
Co-founder of the diocese of Bamberg
Copy of the statue from 1750 by Johann Peter Benkert
(the original in St. Jakob's Church)
The only remaining figure from original six of the bridge destroyed by flood in 1784”
The Rathaus or the Old Town Hall is the famous landmark of Bamberg. It was rebuilt by J. M. Küchel in 1744-1756.
Deleted text on Barbara’s request
though it had a link
In the chapel to the left of the west choir is a magnificent wooden altarpiece depicting the nativity in the central panel with smaller side panels showing the flight into Egypt, the adoration of the Magi, the birth of Mary, and Jesus in the Temple. This altarpiece dates to 1520 and its history is connected to the German Protestant Reformation that was occurring around that same time.
The altarpiece was original made to be the high altar at the Carmelite Church in Nürnberg. It was created by Viet Stoss, whose son, Andreas, was later to be Bamberg’s prior of the Carmelite monks. When Nürnberg switched from Catholic to Protestant in the Reformation, the altarpiece was brought to Bamberg by Andreas Stoss around 1530. The altarpiece actually belongs to Bamberg’s Church of Our Lady (Obere Pfarre), but is on permanent loan to the cathedral, where it has been on display since 1937.
The limewood carvings in the altarpiece are quite good and very detailed. The shrine and frame are made of fir. As it happens too often, a beautiful work can be altered during early “conservation” work when inappropriate chemicals are used, the altarpiece went from a rich honey yellow color to its current dark shade during work done in the 19th century.
It has been noted that the angel in the nativity scene is carrying a cross – foreshadowing the eventual crucifixion of Christ.
At the base of the east choir in the Bamberg Cathedral is the double tomb of Holy Roman Emperor Henry II and his wife, Kunigunde. Henry II was the founder of the cathedral and, along with his wife, was canonized as saints.
The marble tomb was sculpted by Tilman Riemenschneider in 1513. On the top of the tomb are effigies of the couple, laying side by side, Henry with the instruments of his rule. Around three sides of the tomb are five reliefs that depict various events in their lives: Henry’s cure from illness, Henry’s soul being weighed after his death, Henry’s death with Kunigunde beside him, Kunigunde with unhappy construction workers, and Kunigunde walking across red-hot plowshares as a test of her innocence against the charge of infidelity.
Visitors can walk all around the tomb; the best views of the top of the tomb are from the top of the steps on either side of the tomb that lead up to the east choir.
Sitting on his horse, the Bamberg Rider looks down the nave of the cathedral from his position on one of the nave columns. This equestrian statue was made around 1235 by an unknown artisan. It is unknown who the rider is, although this has been debated for centuries. Current thought is that the rider may be King Conrad III. Whoever he is, it is obvious from his horse and clothing that he is nobility.
The Bamberg Rider has become the symbol of Bamberg and can be seen in many places such as the Bamberg Tourism logo. Even Playmobil has created a special Bamberg Rider child’s toy that can be purchased at the Tourist Information Center.
I’ve been in many cathedrals and this is the first time I’ve seen an equestrian statue on the inside of the building.
The Cathedral of St. Peter and St. George in Bamberg is a late Romanesque structure that sits atop Domberg, one of the seven hills in the town. It was founded by Holy Roman Emperor Henry II in 1004 and consecrated in 1012. The cathedral was destroyed in a fire in 1081, rebuilt in the early 1100s only to suffer destruction by a fire again in 1185. The cathedral we see today is the second reconstruction, completed in 1237. During the 17th century, the building was updated with a Baroque interior only to be restored to a neo-Romanesque look in the late 1800s.
The four towers on the exterior make the cathedral easy to spot from just about anywhere in the city. The interior has two aisles beside the nave and two choirs, one east and one west. Pope Clement II, who was bishop of Bamberg prior to becoming Pope, is buried in the west choir. His tomb dates back to 1240 and is the only Pope buried north of the Alps. Pope Clement was buried in Bamberg at his request.
I have created additional tips for other famous artifacts and artworks in the cathedral: the tomb of the cathedral’s founder Henry II and his wife Kunigunde, the equestrian Bamberg Rider statue and the Altar of the Virgin Mary by Veit Stoss.
Upon entering the cathedral, I purchased a small booklet that provided me with some additional historical details of the building and the significant artworks. The booklet also had a good map of the cathedral. For only €1, I got my money’s worth since I used it as I looked through the cathedral.
I did not get to see the Prince’s Portal – the side door with beautiful sculptures around the portal. It was January and during the winter months the portal is covered with a wooden box to protect it from the harsh weather. On my next visit to Bamberg in the spring, this is top on my must-see list. However, because we were there in early January, the cathedral was still beautifully decorated for Christmas.
The Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) is probably the most famous building in Bamberg as it is uniquely placed on a small island in the middle of the Regnitz River between two bridges, the Untere Brücke and the Obere Brücke.
There has been a bridge in this location since at least the 1200s and the original town hall was built here in the mid-1300s; however, a fire destroyed that structure and the current one was built in 1440. What we see today is not how it looked at the time of rebuilding since the town hall was renovated in the mid-1700s with a Baroque and Rococco style. This updated styling is especially prevalent on the sides of the building with the beautiful frescoes and the stucco details over the archway on the Obere Brücke side of the town hall. The frescoes are extremely colorful and richly detailed, a trompe l'oeil technique that gives the viewer the impression of marble columns and statues along the sides of the Altes Rathaus.
Because of the unique situation of the Altes Rathaus, I recommend that visitors spend some time viewing it from three different bridges – the two that the town hall is built upon and then a third bridge next to the Obere Brücke from which you can get a good view of the entire building. It is from this third bridge that many of the pictures we see today are photographed.