Across the street from the Fulda Cathedral is the Schlossgarten – wonderful oasis of color in the center of town and a delight to walk through on our spring day. As we entered the garden we immediately were struck by the colors of the spring flowers, contrasting nicely to the green grass and blue skies, with the fountain in the middle. There was a sign giving us directions around the gardens and we commenced to stroll around the length of it.
A more formal garden was closer to the cathedral end of the gardens and as we walked beyond that we came to a pretty pond with fountains on one end of it and mother ducks watching their ducklings closely as they learned to swim. Benches provided people a place to sit and relax while enjoying the peacefulness of the gardens. At the opposite end was a pavilion; this was where we turned around and walked down the other side of the gardens, past the rosarium and back to our starting point.
On one side of the gardens is the Stadtschloss (and why the gardens are called Schlossgarten), which was formerly the episcopal palace and is currently the home of the city council and a museum with intriguing rooms and collections of porcelain. On the other side of the gardens was the Orangerie, a building which has been used for festivals, and the very Baroque Floravase sculpture. There is a restaurant in the building, Café Orangerie, but we did not stop to try the food.
We stopped at the parish church of St. Blaise on our way to see the Altes Rathaus, which is just behind the church. The Church of St. Blaise is the mother parish of all the Catholic parishes in Fulda. It was built in the late 1700s in the Baroque style and uses the former Gothic tower (current northeast tower) of the previous church building. The former church had been demolished during the Counter Reformation and the new church was begun. Prior to the Gothic style church, the church also had a Romanesque style church on the same site, designed to provide religious services for the local merchants that supported the town and the monastery. Above the main door in the front of the church are the coat of arms of Fulda. The exterior is distinctive with its red and white colors.
The interior is a three aisled nave with a high altar designed similar to the Fulda Cathedral’s high altar which has statues of St. Boniface and St. Blaise on either side of it. On the ceiling are frescoes depicting Christ throwing the moneychangers out of the temple, the Sermon on the Mount, and King David playing his harp. Smaller medallion frescoes of some of the apostles line the sides of the nave.
There are several statues within the church, including wooden Pieta and a St. Christopher, as well as an old Gothic baptismal font dating from 1483.
Church is open Monday through Saturday 1000-1700, Sundays/Holidays 1200-1700.
Across the street from the Fulda Cathedral and on one side of the Schlossgarten is the Orangerie, a Baroque hall used by the former Prince-Bishops for parties and gatherings. Today it is still used for festivals and houses a café where you can eat inside or outside on the terrace.
On the steps in front of the Orangerie and overlooking the formal Schlossgarten is the Floravase – a beautiful and very Baroque garden sculpture depicting a woman on a vase with three cherubs around her feet holding a very thick rose garland. While we were visiting, this part of the garden was being used for formal group photos. Fortunately, after our walk through the gardens, the group had dispersed and we were able to get a good look at the sculpture.
Many towns in Germany seem to have a “Witches Tower” and Fulda is no different. The tower in Fulda was part of the town’s original fortifications built by Abbot Marquard I in the 10th century; however, in the Middle Ages when hysteria reigned and women were accused of witchcraft to explain bad things happening in the town, the Fulda tower was turned into a prison for these accused women.
A sign on the tower reads: “For the approximately 270 victims of the witch hunts in the Bishopric of Fulda in November 2008, a memorial complex on the Old Dompfarrlichen cemetery was consecrated.”
The tower is a block away from the Fulda Cathedral on Kanalstrasse.
Fulda’s only Gothic church can be seen at the Severikirche, which is located only two blocks from the Altes Rathaus. As we approached the church, it looked like a miniature of one of the larger Gothic churches (without buttresses) in other cities with its stone exterior and rounded apse. The church was built in the 1400s as the chapel for the wool weavers’ guild, later to be part of both the Franciscan and the Benedictine orders.
The church is very small; I would call it more of a chapel compared to the other churches in town. A simple single nave with a small apse houses the altar and the windows are clear, making the interior with its white walls very clean and bright. A simple wood relief series of Christ’s Passion are on the left side wall.
We could only see the church from the foyer – there was a locked metal gate blocking our path, but the church was small enough that we were still able to get a good look at the interior.
The Paulustor is a former gate that was formerly between the city castle and the main guard but was moved in 1771 to its current location on Pauluspromenade, the main road between the front of the Fulda Cathedral and the Schlossgarten. It is named Paulustor due to the statue of St. Paul on the top of the gate, which is flanked by statues of the city’s patron saints: Saint Faustino and Saint Simplicius. The road narrows to just one lane going through the gate; cars are guided by traffic signals, taking turns through the slender gate.
St. Michael’s Church is a fascinating Romanesque church that has a unique feature – the central portion of the church is held up by a single column below in the crypt. Above this column is the transept that has a circular ring of eight columns supporting the floors above.
St. Michael’s is a small Carolingian chapel that was built back in 822, although the side nave and circular area were added in the 11th century. It is said that this is one of the oldest church buildings in Germany and is the former burial chapel for the monastery. Its interior contained painted wood statues of saints while the side chapel appeared to have more modern (17th century and beyond) artwork.
To visit the crypt, which is mostly bare except for the single column in the center, use the steps to the right of the nave, turning at the circular column gallery. The narrow stairs lead to the damp musty crypt area that is well lit and holds a small altar.
St. Michael’s Church is located next to the Fulda Cathedral – it can be found to the right of the cathedral as you are looking at the cathedral. There are steps leading up to St. Michael’s Church.
One of my favorite buildings in Fulda is the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), perhaps because I really enjoy the half-timbered buildings of Europe. The Altes Rathaus is a large building set on a corner of a pedestrian zone and currently houses clothing shops. A carving above one of the windows showed the date of 1611, but the tourist information sign says it was built in 1531 (confirmed by my tourbook). The Altes Rathaus is impressive with its half-timbered walls, red roof and towers.
Across the street from the Fulda Cathedral and next to the Schlossgarten is the Stadtschloss, which was once the royal apartments and Episcopal palace). Today the Stadtschloss is where the city council meets as well as having parts of the building open to the public.
Inside the Stadtschloss are several rooms popular with visitors, including a hall of mirrors and the former royal apartments. The building is also where a large collection of Fulda porcelain is on display. Another display is about the inventor of the CRT (cathode ray tube) used in televisions, computer monitors, and other electronics display machines – its inventor, Karl Ferdinand Braune, was from Fulda and earned the Nobel Prize for his work.
Admission to the Stadtschloss is €4 and a guided tour is available for an additional fee, although the museum does have a combination ticket for €6 that includes both admission and tour.
The Fulda Cathedral was built in the 1700s in the Baroque style on the site of the former Ratgar Basilica and burial site of Saint Boniface. The German architect Johann Dientzenhofer was commissioned by Prince Adalbert von Schleifras, whose coat of arms can be seen above the main portal and above the high altar (I was intrigued by this rather ornate coat of arms and had to research the ownership of it). Fulda’s church did not receive cathedral status until 1752 when the Fulda Diocese was created, turning the Prince-Abbotts into Bishops.
Because Saint Boniface is entombed in the Fulda Cathedral, the church has been a pilgrimage site for centuries and is still visited by pilgrims today. Boniface’s tomb is located behind and below the high altar – enter from either side of the high altar via the steps that lead down to the tomb. There is a small chapel in the tomb area. On the day we were there, a group of young children, probably 8-10 years old, were visiting; their sincerity of worship was refreshing.
The cathedral is has a triple nave and its interior is designed loosely on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, although much smaller. The white walls and baroque sculptures and painting give the nave a bright refreshing feeling. The dome in the center of the transept is 39 meters (127 feet) high; the architect was inspired in his design of the dome by the Gesù Church in Rome – although I prefer the Fulda dome better as it is brighter and lighter in keeping with the rest of the cathedral. Around the corners of the base of the dome are frescoes of the four Evangelists. I enjoyed seeing the evangelist Matthew’s foot sticking out from the fresco, appearing to rest on the painted cloud beneath it (Matthew is in the fresco to the right of the high altar under the dome).
On the right transept there is a statue of St. Peter, which appears to be a duplicate of the statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica – complete with worn toes from frequent rubbing and kissing by the faithful. A small sign on the side of the statue states it was a gift to the Cathedral by Pope Leo XIII.
In the back of the cathedral was a wonderful looking organ. The cathedral offers 30-minute concerts each Saturday at 12:05 (cost is €3,50 per person). As we were leaving the cathedral, they were setting up for the day’s concert. I’m not sure if they clear the cathedral before the concert in order to have only paying customers enjoy the music. To visit the cathedral at other times is free.
I doubt there is no city more “Catholic” in all of Germany than Fulda. I don’t even think Cologne and Munich even come close, although they have nice cathedrals too. The county of Fulda and the surrounding region still have the largest numbers of seminary colleges, nunneries, and monasteries of anywhere in Germany. If you read that popular novel about the woman who became pope, then you must visit this place. This is where the novel took place. Centuries ago, the Fulda area was so religious that families and farms were disbanded and the members were sent to monasteries or nunneries. In the 12th century, they had to recruit people from other parts of the country, because the religious zealism reached the point that people were no longer having children for religious reasons. Many of the names of the small towns around the Fulda area still remind us of this period, because the towns’ names end with “Zell”, which was the smallest monastery community under the Lord Bishop’s rule in Fulda.
In 1700 the Fulda Lord Vicar Adalbert von Schleiffras officially appointed the famous Baroque Master Builder Johann von Dientzenhofer to Court Architect. Dientzenhofer’s first assignment was to build a “modern” cathedral to replace the old Carolinian Charity Church.
My friends and I went to St. Blasius church once because there was "international rosary" (the rosary said in many different languages) happening as part of the pre-World-Youth-Day events. This church was built in the 18th Century and is in the late baroque and late gothic styles.
The most important landmark in the city of Fulda is the baroque cathedral in the middle of town. Because it houses the grave of St. Boniface, it is also a popular pilgrimage destination. The interior of the cathedral is very beautiful and one of the things that I loved the most about it, was how the altar and surrounding area glowed in the white walls. The statues and carvings were also quite impressive.
Apart from the Baroque quarter, you also find a lot of medieval buildings in the city center. Narrow lanes instad of wide avenues, little half-timbered houses instead of palaces, chapels instead of cathedrals. Little shops and workshops of craftsmen.
In the picture you see the Witches' Tower, the best kept tower of the former city walls. It was formerly used as a women's prison.
**more old city photos and info in the TL**
The Marienkapelle is in the Dom in Fulda.
It is a side chapel that is bigger than many churches! It keeps with the extreme baroque theme of the rest of the Cathedral.
Usually this chapel is used for smaller services by the public such as weddings and funerals.