... of the Alps.
Now this is, from an art historian's point of view, Landshut's top sight. The Residenz in the old town was built in 1536-1543 as the first palace in pure Italian Renaissance style North of the Alps.
Duke Ludwig X. left the castle on the hilltop and built a palace in the middle of the town in the then most modern style. First he started the front wing, the "German" one, by the street. Then he travelled Italy and saw the developments in architecture there, and changed his plans. The model for the back wing of his new palace was Giulio Romano's Plazzo del Te in Mantova.
Seen from Altstadt street, it looks like a big four-storey white box. The beauty is behind the rather plain facade. The palace consists of two parallel wings. The front wing towards Altstadt is known as the "German" building, the back wing as the "Italian" building. Together with two smaller side wings they surround the inner courtyard, a courtyard that could belong to any noble palazzo in any city of Northern Italy. The halls and rooms of the Italian wing contain amazing Renaissance frescoes.
The interior can be visited with guided tours only. Apart from the historical rooms, the building contains the ceramics department of the town museum. The courtyard can be accessed for free as long as the front gate is open, i.e. during the opening hours of the museum and the cafe.
Guided tours of the interior: The beginning of the next tour, usually at the full hour, will be shown on a board with a clockface by the entrance; check there or enquire at the cash desk. These tours take you through all rooms on the beletage of the "Italian building", those with the fnatastic renaissance frescoes. Then you proceed through the left side wing and the chapel to the "German building", which has been refurbished around 1800 to accommodate a member of a sideline of the Wittelsbach dynasty who lived here.
Tours are in German. We had two Americans in our group, they were handed printouts with the basic information about the rooms to take along. Our guide spoke a little English but not too well, so I helped with the translation and the answers to their questions. We were a small group of 8 or 10 people so there was time for questions and discussion.
Photography is strictly not allowed inside the rooms, hence no pictures here.
The tip of the island between the two branches of the Isar, opposite Ländtor by the pedetrian bridge, is a pretty park nowadays. Nothing tells us any more that this was more or less an industrial area until the 1970. The water power was used to drive water mills. Only in 1975 the large mill was demolished and the ground was turned into a park.
Rauchensteiner Estate, the small yellow palace, originally used to be a sawmill, too. In the 19th century it was embellished to its neoclassical shape. Behind it there is an old storage which is now used for art exhibitions.
The house with the painted facade is located in Altstadt, pposite the church of St Martin. The name "Landschaftshaus" indicates that this was the meeting place of the estates of Lower Bavaria. The representatives of the nobility, the clerics and the cities assembled to negotiate their issues with the Duke.
The facade was painted in 1599. It shows the most important personalities from the dynasty of Wittelsbach. Their names and titles in Latin appear in writing over each figure.
On the wall of St Martin's church, on the Southern side, there is a tombstone or rather epitaph with three crests and the fine portrait of an elderly man, which is protected behind glass. This man was the "master of the church". In Landshut this is interpreted as: He was the master builder.
Which makes me wonder: is Steinmetz his family name or his profession (stonemason), so was he the master builder or does "master" refer to a function like administering the finances?
The inscription says:
"Anno d[omi]ni m cccc xxii
starn Hanns stainmezz in
die laurentii maister der
kirch[e]n und czu spital und
in salczburg cze ?????? cze
strawbi[n]g und cze bässbu(r)k????
dem got gnädig sey Amen"
"In the year of the Lord 1432
died Hans Steinmetz (stonemason) in
the day of St Laurentius (= August 10) master of the
church and the hospital and
in Salzburg in ?????? in
Straubing and in ???????
whom God be merciful Amen."
(Transcription and translation by yours truly. Sorry, I cannot decipher the two placenames and I don't know the area well enough to guess.)
Once upon a time there was a graveyard around St Jodok: All churches in Landshut had their own cemeteries until 1805, when they were closed and a new one was opened outside the town for hygienic reasons. What's left of the graveyard are many tombstones which have been attached to the outer walls of the church. Have a look at them. Most of them are rather small but show fine stonemasonry: inscrtiptions in elegant fracture letters, sculpted reliefs with religious symbols, ornaments, or even pictures of biblical scenes.
Photo 2: Tombstone of the pewterer Sebastian Schimpl, who died in 1598, and his wife.
Photo 3: This stone marked the family tomb of a miller's family who lived in Danzermühle outside the town. The inscription is a chronogram. The enlarged capital letters in Latin script can be read as Roman numbers: MDCLLLLV = 1805, the year of the graveyard's closure.
Photo 4: The relief shows the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning, with the terrified Roman watchmen, the angel sitting on the cover of the tomb, the three women approaching from the town gate, the city of Jerusalem in the background and sun and moon above the roofs.
St Jodok, the second largest church in the old town, is the parish church of Freyung quarter. Like St Martin, the big one, it is entirely built from bricks. The original church was built in the 14th century, badly damaged by a fire in 1403 and rebuilt, then renovated and extended again and again over the centuries. Its present shape is partly early gothic, partly the result of a refurbishment in the 19th century. The neat traceries of the windows and white framings tell of the latter. Altars and other furniture inside are mostly 19th century, too, just a few pieces are older.
The interior has a light, 'sunny' appearance thanks to the orange-yellow colour of the vaults. A pleasant church. The side entrance in the South is open in the daytime.
St Jodok is the dominant building in the quiet and pretty Freyung square (see separate tip).
Dreifaltigkeitsplatz ("Trinity Square") is one of the oldest parts of Landshut and originally belonged to the grounds of the castle. The most striking building is the large yellow Herzogskasten, a medieval storage building. Citizens had to pay their taxes in kind here. The natural goods were then stored in here as supply for the castle's inhabitants. The facade is once more a 19th century refurbishment. Nowadays the building contains a post office.
The small park next to Herzogskasten has a monument of Duke Ludwig the Rich, ruler of the Duchy of Bayern-Landshut in the second half of the 15th century.
The "square" is actually a triangle. The short side is Herzogskasten and the connecting street to Altstadt. The two other sides have old houses with pretty gables in pastel colours just like most of the old town. Part of it is a parking lot, the street in the middle is quite busy, so watch out for traffic.
At the "point" of the triangle, a side street to the left leads up to Trausnitz castle and to the bottom of Ochsenklavier stairway.
Seligenthal ("valley of the blessed") was founded as a convent of Cistercian nuns in the 13th century. The abbey prospered, in the 18th century they were able to refurbish the church and erect new convent buildings. In the secularization of 1803 the convent was closed down but the nuns were allowed to stay, and three decades later it was reopened under the conditions that the nuns ran a school to educate girls.
The convent is still inhabited by nuns, many of them are teachers themselves but the school also employs "worldly" teachers. Nowadays it is a modern school for girls and boys, state recognized, with kindergarten, primary school and high school. The school uses the former convent buildings around the courtyard. The back wings of the complex are the secluded home of the nuns and not accessible.
The main attraction is the abbey church with its baroque, or rather rococo, interior. There are some big names involved, like Johann Baptist Zimmermann who painted the frescoes in the vaults of the ceiling. In the middle ages the church was designated as burial place of the Bavarian Wittelsbacher dynasty.
To access the church you have to walk into the courtyard through the gate arch from Bismarckplatz. This is school ground but can be entered - at least, no one stopped me, the church was open, and they have information for tourists inside the church, so they expect visitors.
The famous sculptor Fritz Koenig (* 1924) donated his life's work to his hometown Landshut as a foundation, under the condition that a museum would be built to accommodate and present his works of art. The museum was opened in 1997. Its permanent exhibition presents Koenig's works, temporary exhibitions are also dedicated to other artists. To anyone interested in art, I highly recommend this museum.
Quoting from the town's website about the museum:
"The objects d’art included in the exhibition provide an extensive overview of the major themes that Koenig has worked on in the last sixty years: The depiction of the frailty of human existence torn between love, death and the knowledge of the transitory nature of himself and everything around him.
Another focus are the works created for public spaces, starting with the "Pietà" (1962) in Berlin-Plötzensee, comprising the "The Sphere" (1968-1971), that used to stand on the plaza of World Trade Center, and including the model for the Holocaust memorial (1994) in Berlin. These works allow the visitor to experience the international development of sculptural art by enjoying the opus of Fritz Koenig.
The exhibition has been designed by the artist himself."
Violence and death are a frequent topic in Koenig's work. Koenig created the memorial in Mauthausen concentration camp (a model is shown in the museum). His design for the Holocaust memorial in Berlin came second in the competition and was never carried out in full size - unfortunately, as the small scale model in the museum is impressive enough. Koenig also did the memorial for the terror victims in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and of course the abovementioned fountain in World Trade Centre.
Another frequent topic is horses, as Koenig and his wife breed Arab horses. The horse-themed sculptures are less depressing...
The museum was built into the slope of Hofberg, the hillside underneath Hofgarten and the castle. The large concrete halls of the museum are invisible from the outside. All you see is a stretch of restored town wall with an entrance door.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10.30-13.00 and 14.00-17.00
Entrance fee: adults 3.50 €, children and concessions 2 €
Ländtor is the only preserved town gate. It leads right down to the bank of the Isar. It received its name because it lead to Schifflände, the ship landing, or rather raft landing because the Isar is shallow and transport had to be done with rafts. Only the inner gate is still there, the outward gate tower and bailey have been demolished in the 19th century to make room for the road and bridge. Nowadays the neighbour of the gate are two department stores (Karstadt and C&A). The facades of these modern buildings have thankfully been covered in bricks to adjust them to the historical gate.
Along the Isar bank a stretch of the town wall is preserved, though houses were built onto and over some parts. The gate as well as the wall were built from bricks, just like the big churches, because there are no stones suitable for building in the area.
A bit left of the gate there is a fortification tower (photo 5). Next to it I spotted a pub with a small beer garden by the river, now closed for winter, but this should be a pleasant spot to sit and enjoy a drink on a summer afternoon or evening.
The main hall of the town hall is painted with frescoes that depict the "Landshut Wedding" of 1475 when Duke Georg the Rich of Bavaria married Hedwig (Jadwiga), the daughter of King Kasimir IV of Poland. Fesitivities lasted several weeks, this was one of the biggest social events of the late middle ages. The festival is reenacted every couple of years, next time in 2013. These reenactments involve the whole town and are very important to everyone, it has gained Landshut worldwide fame.
When the town hall was refurbished in the 19th century, the Landshut wedding was selected as topic for the frescoes in the great hall. Four artists from Munich painted the frescoes on the two oblong walls of the hall. They must be read as one single picture of the wedding parade with the bridal carriage, the bishop, the emperor and all the noble guests and finally the citizens of the town.
Also note the impressive wooden ceiling, the gallery and the seats along the walls with their elaborate woodcarvings. All this is, however, not "medieval" but very 19th century.
The hall is open to visitors on weekdays (Monday to Friday) for one hour per day from 14.00 - 15.00. Entry is free and there is no need to register or anything, you can just enter: Walk into the main door and past the tourist office, then up the staircase to the first floor. The entrance to the hall is the wooden door on the left of the upper landing, which should be standing open.
Landshut's town hall consists of three medieval houses that were connected. The facade with the three gables still indicates the three parts. The town hall, the centre of the citizen's administration and representation, is located in the middle of Altstadt market street, roughly opposite the (younger) town residence of the Bavarian Duke.
The "gothic" facade, however, ought to be eyed with some suspicion. It looks too neat and too perfect to be medieval. And indeed, it is a 19th century addition, dating from 1861 when the whole town hall was refurbished. Shortly after the frescoes of the Landshut wedding in the main hall were begun.
Useful for visitors to know:
# The tourist information office is located on the ground floor of the town hall. Opening hours March-October Mon-Fri 9.00-18.00 and Sat 1.00-16.00, November-February Mon-Fro 9.00-17.00, Sat 10.00-14.00
All contact data is on their website.
# The question the tourist office people have to answer every few minutes: Yes there are free public toilets. They are in the back of the town hall. Walk out the door, round the town hall building along Grasgasse, then keep right where the WC sign points into the small lane behind the town hall.
# The hall with the frescoes (see separate tip) is open on weekdays for one hour (14.00-15.00).
The so-called Hofgarten (court garden) on the top and slope of the hill by the castle included the gardens and hunting grounds of the ducal court. Nowadays it is a park with many beautiful trees of a wide variety of specieses, local and introduced. The walk through Hofgarten is the most pleasant way up to the castle. At the top there is a small zoo with some animals, a duck pond etc. (photo 3). Playgrounds and meadows invite to play and relax.
From the old town, the access and climb to Hofgarten begins behind the sculpture museum.
Information boards can be found in many places that explain the historical and also the natural and geological background. Texts are in German only, but even if you don't read German, a glance at the historical photos and images on these boards can be interesting to see what it looked like in former times. There usued to be several garden buildings, a tea-house and such which are now gone.
Photo 2 shows one of those pictures, a stag hunt on the steep slope which was then bare, without trees. The area was fenced off so the poor stags and ibexes had no chance to escape and the oh so brave hunters could easily shoot them all.
Photo 4: For those interested in geology. On the way up you'll understand why Landshuters had to use bricks to build their churches and houses. This landscape was shaped during the last ice age. The material of the hills, and this applies to about everywhere in the surroundings, consists of pebbles and small stones, connected by a mortar-like material - not suitable for building. These can best be seen if you keep left at the beginning of the ascent and walk the boardwalks of the so-called Teufelssteig ("devil#s ascent") which takes you along the steepest part of the slope.
Schanzl is an openly accessible viewpoint in Hofgarten, right outside the castle walls. The name indicates that this was part of the fortifications. A sentinel posted here could control who was coming up from this side. Nowadays it is a place to enjoy the view of the old town.
Getting there from the castle or from Hofgarten is a little detour on a dead-end path which is signposted.
The official name of this brick-paved passage is Fürstentreppe, the "Princes' Stairway", however, everyone in Landshut knows it as Ochsenklavier, the "Oxen Piano". Why? Because the pattern of the bricks roughly resembles a keyboard and because this path was built for the ox carts that had to transport everything that was needed in the castle.
It is the shortest footpath up but a bit tricky to walk, especially down, because it is not really a stairway. It is a rather steep ramp with slightly elevated horizontal rows of bricks every foot or so. This may work well for the hooves of oxen, but it does not for human shoes. Watch your steps.
Warning: This path is not suitable for people with walking difficulties.