Speyer does have a lot of fascinating architecture of all Romanesque, gothic, baroque and renaissance, all and everywhere.
If you like the details, and especially beautiful old doors – take your time and wander around to find some of the hidden gems.
There are a lot !
Here some nice examples of old and beautiful doors:
Photo 1: this is the side entrance of the (Palatine) museums’ administration building, just off the museum at Cathedral Plaza itself.
Photo 2: is at the house on the right side after you have passed Altpörtel (the old gate tower) coming from the east.
Photo 3: is the side entrance of the townhouse at Cathedral Plaza.
(More to come ..)
.....inside the cathedral itself.
After my visit I wrote this:
>Those which form the pillars, at least, are all decorated. Chisel marks, maybe to make them look more decorative or maybe for 'keying' if they were plastered (don't know enough about German church architectural history).
and I have now had it confirmed that the marks were indeed for 'keying', preparing the surface for the whitewashed plaster which once covered the interior.
Someone had to chisel all those marks, and their neat efforts deserves your notice. :-)
You won't be expecting these. Tucked away in the wilds of the Domgarten I stumbled upon them unexpectedly and didn't find out till I saw the sign what they were.
In fact they are statues of Konrad II (1024-1039), Heinrick III (1039-1056), Heinrick IV (1056-1106), Heinrich V (1106-1125), the Salian kings. Also there you will find Gisela who took over when her husband Konrad II passed away.
The statues are not that old and their background is murky which serves to explain the poses. Turns out Hitler (we will not mention the war) had given the order to produce them, as the nazis wanted to use the Cathedral for their distorted political purposes and to declare a national nazi monument.
Adolf needed the Salian kings to declare himself their “heir”, but the statues failed to meet his expectations. This resulted in the banning of the sculptor Ludwig Cauer, and the statues were given to Speyer to be hidden somewhere in cellars. Thanks to the massive protest of Domkapitel, the Cathedral was not raped to become “Reichsdom”, but the statues still had the stigma of their original planned purpose and were a significant discussion point for Speyer’s officials over the years.
Now they have found a home in the Cathedral’s park. I didn't find them offensive but very interesting. I think they should stay.
No, anyone can go and see Mittelalterliche Judenhof, when it's open.
In the Medieval age, Speyer’s Jewish community was the most important one north of the Alps. Merchants and bankers, typical Jewish activities, were the key professions that led them to settle here (coming from France and Italy).
Bishop Rüdiger Huntzmann and King Heinrich IV supported their move to settle in Speyer.
The community had a busy life until early 16th century, when they vanished, though the reason is still disputed.
The synagogue was later destroyed during the War of the Grand Alliance, as were their other buildings. The Mikwe (ritual bath), was left untouched.
Today, the ruins are preserved to allow a glimpse into Jewish life during Speyer’s Medieval (and later) days. The Mikwe is said to be the biggest and best preserved ritual bath in Germany and it lies some 10 m below ground.
For ritual baths it is necessary to have water which is “natural”, as from a spring. That’s why these baths are usually below surface, as to collect ground water.
Left and right of the stairs leading to the bath are benches for gathering and dressing rooms are located beside the pool.
Above the ground, you can still see some of the walls of Speyer’s synagogue.
April to October: daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission fee: 2 €.
Phone: ++49 – 6232 – 291971
Address: Speyer, Kleine Pfaffengasse
Directions: From Domplatz, walk into Kleine Pfaffengasse. It is approx. 150 m on your left then. Look for the sign that says “Judenbad”.
Coordinates on GoogleEarth:
49°18’59,37’’ N; 08°26’22,71’’ E
Under the direction of Elector Carl Theodor (1724-1799) a garden complex was created in Schwetzingen based on the example of Versailles and is unequalled anywhere in Europe.
The Schwetzingen Palace gardens consists of two parts:
• the symmetrically designed French baroque garden with the Arion fountain in the center and
• the English landscape garden. This lies around the large pond and its arced canals in planned naturalness.
The baroque garden is divided into the parterre, hedge zone and forest section. An unusual feature in Schwetzingen is the circular parterre formed by the "Zirkelbauten" (Quarter-Circle Buildings) and the vine-covered galleries, which distinguishes it from all others of the period.
The Schwetzingen gardens, like all baroque gardens, are oriented on the center axis of the palace. The main avenue is the reference point for all parts of the gardens. This idea embodies the concept of the absolute ruler: All parts of the state are based on him; his glory shines like the sun over everything; his entire surroundings reflect his importance.
With his building and landscape architects Nicolas de Pigage and Friedrich Ludwig Sckell, Carl Theodor, with his love of art and the good things in life, realized a garden complex which shows the intellectual history and fashions stretching from the baroque to the Enlightenment to the Romantic period.
One of the things that blew me away was the mosque. This is a Nicolas de Pigage special. Started in 1779 and finished in 1796 the Eastern influence of this dominant work at first seems in contrast with the some of the other architecture but the closer you get the more at home it seems with its environment.
I loved it!
• The gardens, with their use of antique mythology (e.g. in the Temple of Apollo and the figure of Arion on the dolphin), becomes a Baroque stage for courtly life.
• The reasonable, rationalistic view of the Enlightenment is reflected in the geometry of the circular parterre.
• In accordance with the ideas of the Romantic period, the concept of the gardens approaches nature with its imitation of natural moods and landscaped areas.
In all ages a multitude of fountains, cascades, lakes, ponds and channels bring movement into the gardens.
One of the features not mentioned here is the Roman Castellum, a fake water wheel and aqueduct that caught my eye and had me wondering initially.
It's located on the extreme right hand side of the garden. You can actually climb the tower and it has fine vistas over the gardens.
It is still apparent today that the irregular complex of Schwetzingen Palace in essence dates back to a medieval castle altered in the Renaissance period.
The standardization of the palace facades facing the city plus the garden corresponds to the baroque concept. Above all the expansion of the city side with the low "Communs" or wing buildings connected on the sides result in the appearance of an "Ehrenhof" (Court of Honor) which opens toward the city so typical of a baroque palace complex.
Beginning in 1748 the so-called "Zirkelbauten" (Quarter-Circle Buildings), which encompass the garden parterre of Schwetzingen Palace, were constructed in accordance with the plans of Guilleaume d’Hauberat and Franz Wilhelm Rabaliatti.
They were supposed to be for plant storage but were converted to entertainment areas.
The wall and ceiling in the "Speise-/Jagdsaal" (Dining/Hunting Hall) are adorned with ornamental rococo plasterwork with flower garlands.
In the 19th century only the interior appointments of Schwetzingen Palace were adapted to changing tastes. The furnishings of a Carl Theodor no longer corresponded to changes in fashion. In the late 18th century a shift in the shapes of furniture and the decorative elements to orientation on the example of classical antiquity had already taken place. Linear instead of curved shapes, strict division with columns surrounding straight-lined areas and as adornments laurel wreaths instead of flower garlands. The appointments of the suite of rooms of Duchess Hochberg, the second wife of Margrave Karl Friedrich, show such elegant classicist forms.
Since I'd never heard of the place you may well wonder how I got here. Well, all thanks here to fellow VT member Trekki who, in her trusty early model BMW, took us there. I was disappointed I hadn't even been aware of the place so I owe her my eternal gratitude for opening my eyes to this one.
Schwetzingen was the summer palace of the Palatine court and its gardens are some of Europe's finest. Unfortunately, because I usually travel when you can get cheap air fares, it wasn't at its splendid best but there was more than enough to impress me.
The first two pics show the French influence and the Arion fountain while the English style is apparent in the next two pics.
The last shows the French style again, this time looking back to the main palace.
"Yesterday "Accademie" was held especially for us. It lasted from 5 o'clock in the evening until 9 o'clock at night. I had the pleasure of hearing not only good male and female singers, but also an admirable flutist, Mr. Wendling, and the orchestra is without a doubt the best in Germany, and many young people, and definitely people of good character; neither drunkards, nor gamblers, nor slovenly scoundrels, so that both their conduct and their production are to be held in great esteem. My children put all Schwetzingen into motion."
Leopold Mozart on 19 July 1763 from Schwetzingen to a friend in Salzburg.
It gives you some idea of the influence of royalty but, unfortunately, I have no pictures of that event. However, let me indulge with snaps of the Apollo Temple, set amidst the woods to the right centre of the gardens. This splendid edifice is not overwhelming but blends nicely into the garden though is noticeable from afar.
Rhein, Rhine, I don't care how you spell it; it's still a busy river.
Now, I should mention here that I come from a country with the world's slowest flowing river and the one that flows into my home town's port often is going backwards due to the tidal influence. So, for me, watching a river tearing through the countryside is a novelty and, every time I go to Europe I love to sit and watch the rivers for a time.
So it was that Rosemarie and I, chaperoned by Trekki, ended up having lunch in an atmospheric pub down by the river.
The weather (see pic 5) initially threatened then shortly after delivered. In fact, there were flurries of snow while we looked outside from our cosy world.
Watching the river traffic motor by fascinates me. How they manouvre those long craft into a stiff current never ceases to amaze me.
Though the river is the reason for being for Speyer and other towns like it, you may well overlook it as I suspect most tourists do, because it's hidden pretty much behind the cathedral.
If there is any way you can gain entrance to this church whilst you are in Speyer (ask at the Tourist Information office) then do so.
We were lucky enough to have a tour during the 2008 VT Euromeet.
Although the church is not especially old (built 1701-1717) its interior has been preserved exactly as it was. Wooden panels cover the ceiling, and flow along the galleried walls, all covered in detailed paintings of Biblical scenes. The artist was Johann Christian Gutbier.
The abundance of paintings is almost overwhelming, and all the more surprising given that this is a Protestant (Lutheran) church. I always associate Protestantism with a lack of interior decoration, but perhaps that is more of a UK thing (thanks to Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans).
Definitely worth investigating the possibility of access.
Trinity Church (Dreifaltigkeitskirche) is not open to the public except by arrangement (it has wonderful painted wooden panels and ceiling). It dates from the early 1700s, but if you walk round to the left-hand side you will find evidence for a much older building tucked away.
This was, I believe, the original place of worship on the site and is certainly Medieval (the window arches give it away. There's a plaque explaining its history on the wall (in German though).
It's easy to walk straight into the main building, or just look at the large memorials in the porch.
But do check around the inside of the structure, because there are some lovely (mainly animal) small carvings. They are the sort of thing I imagine secondary masons would produce; those not considered good enough to work on the really impressive stonework, but still very skilled men (they were always men).
Worth looking for.
If you have time (and I highly recommend to take the time), you should stroll around in the backstreets of Speyer’s old town. Maximilianstraße (the one that runs between the Cathedral and Altpörtl) is surely the town’s vein, but… from my experience the backstreets do have much more charm, maybe because you can walk there in high season without being run over or squeezed in the masses.
The parts of Speyer I am talking about are north and south of Maximilianstraße, lovely old houses, tucked in the tiny streets, marvellous details, which tell about the history, some renovated, some not.
For example, if you are at Memorial Church (Gedächtniskirche), southwest of Altpörtl, try and find your way back to the Cathedral by walking through the backstreets. Don’t worry, you won’t get lost – the Cathedral is towering the town and you’ll see her once in a while.
Or walk north of the Cathedral, through Hasenpfuhl, an old district (would translate into rabbit puddle), with Speyerbach running through it, the old fishermens’ quarters.
I’ll do some more walks in Speyer’s backstreets and will report of course :)
A showcase for local architecture, the Archaeologisches Schaufenster was closed when we visited, but it was immediately opposite our hotel, in Gilgenstrasse 13, so we could look at the items dispayed in glass cabinets outside, showing archaeological finds from the region.