Showing posts with label nine-years' war. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nine-years' war. Show all posts

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A second chance for Bruchsal

Well, I have to say that I owe Bruchsal a big apology. It isn't what I thought it was - ugly and depressing. Nope, Bruchsal, so it seems, is a very nice little town. To be honest, despite its long history, I think the baroque Schloß Bruchsal and St. Peter's church are what make it worthwhile to visit. But that's okay, because those two places alone will make your visit something to remember.

But, I am so glad I gave it a second chance because despite my personal requisites for what makes a city livable for me, it sure as heck doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed by someone else. Following this recent visit I find myself so impressed that I humbly bow in apology for having spoken ill of the place since that first visit several years ago. (Of course, I have to throw in here that the spectacular weather probably didn't hurt.) So, if historical architecture and exquisite ceiling murals are on your lists of interests, then this former residence town of 18th century prince-bishops of Speyer is a must. 

Cherry orchard behind the garden wall of one of the several 
Bruchsal Palace dependencies. Today, several of these 
dependencies are apartments.

A view of the major dependencies which are located at the garden entrance of Schloß Bruchsal.
(The train tracks - not station - is directly across the road from here. If you know when to look,
you can see it zoom past your train window.)

There is a reason I brushed off Bruchsal a few years ago as a seemingly depressing place with little more to offer except for this little palace. It was a typical, dreadfully gloomy German winter's day with a bit of fog hanging about and obviously no leaves on the trees to be found. I had been making a habit of going somewhere out of Stuttgart every other weekend so I could take pictures and simply enjoy a day trip and get to know my new country. Upon arriving at the train station, which doesn't have much to boast to those passing through its doors, I walked out onto the street and was slammed in the face with YET another view of 1960's (give or take a few years) architecture. Having heard way too often as an excuse that the bland, drab buildings of this era were due to lack of money in all the rebuilding that had to go on post war, I rolled my eyes and thought oh no, not another such rebuilt town. (By the way, lack of much money does not mean something must be ugly, as if by rule.) 

Entrance through the garden.
Few enter through these gates, however, as the other side of the palace
is on the town side where a main road goes through.

Well, I started walking through this large town of Bruchsal and although the streets did appear quite clean and tidy, it just didn't have much appeal outside of simply being a place to reside. I walked to the palace, which, by the way, is not far at all from the station, and only viewed it from the street side, not the garden side. I walked into the main entrance and did in fact like the ceilings of the ground-floor entry of the corps de logis, but as I was not interested on that drab day to go through the entire palace on a tour, I went out front and walked around. It was "okay" but I wasn't impressed. The weather was depressing me, but I realize now that I was having more than just a bad day. 
There was hardly anything going on there. I walked about town, looking for a good hot coffee which I eventually found, but the town itself seemed so dull and had nothing to offer me as far as old beautiful buildings which I had hoped to see. But, here's the clencher: I began at that time to realize something about my own health in those days which a year or so later was to surface quite clearly; I was suffering from pretty deep depression. I am now convinced (and no longer depressed) that it was for this reason that I left Bruchsal with such a bad taste in my mouth. Nothing there pleased me. I had wiped it off my list of places to see; been there, didn't buy the T-shirt. 

But, I came back last weekend which was warm and very sunny. My experience in Bruchsal is worth posting here and telling you that if you should be in the area, the baroque  Schloß Bruchsal is absolutely worth your time. But, be sure to walk all around the grounds. Pay attention to everything. Read all the little plaques on the outside of doors. Further down here, you will see an aerial view of the palace and its dependencies. Everything that was destroyed in the Second World War has been meticulously and correctly rebuilt based on original designs by Anselm Franz von Ritter zu Groenesteyn as well as Balthasar Neumann. 

Inside the walls of the cherry orchard.

In the next few photos here, you will see what happens if you don't give up halfway from the gates to the palace. Even in winter, so long as the sun is shining (warning: good luck finding that in southwestern Germany), the palace will be worth the visit both inside and out. Exotic and elegant flower gardens? Um, sorry, no. Some spring flowers? Yes. You have already seen the cherry blossoms above which are thick and abundant; however, as you will see in the photos below, the palace is so colorful - dare I say like Candyland - that carpets of tulips or daffodils or anything else would almost clash with this place.  The prince-bishops and architects who designed and built Bruchsal certainly knew how to overcome dull German winters: just paint the residence in a variety of colors.

The closer one gets, the more the unsuspecting eye begins to register the amount of
colorful artistry on the walls of the buildings.

To the left can be seen a yellow-and-green-colored structure whose twin is on the
 opposite side of the main building.

History of the Prince-bishop's palace at Bruchsal

So, let's take a look at how this palace came to be. Schloß Bruchsal is actually a small part of the long and interesting history of the city and environs of Bruchsal. Although settlement in the area dates back thousands of years and the region was also known to the Romans, excavations within the city limits near St. Peter's Catholic church have uncovered traces of settlement dating as far back as 640 A.D. I'd say that qualifies the city as being rather old. 

I took a photo of this aerial photograph that is posted outside of the
palace to show the extent of the park. As I looked at this photo, I
realized that it is not quite up-to-date. The trees in the great park have
expanded their branches to create shade over the paths since this was
taken, as can be seen in the photograph below. Still, in this
photo, one
can still see 90% of all buildings associated with the palace, minus the
chapel steeple which is attached to the west wing of the palace as well
as a major gate which goes over the street in front at the left.
Photographs of those two edifices are further down in this posting.

The connection between Bruchsal the historical Bishopric of Speyer, which is located on the western side of the Rhine River in what is today the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz), dates back quite far. In 1056, Heinrich III gave the then settlement of Bruchsal to Konrad I, Prince-Bishop of Speyer. At the time, Speyer, like many ecclesiastic domains, held additional land besides that which made up their immediate parrish. Bruchsal was just one of a number of other towns under the rule of a prince-bishop. I would assume that the combination of church property or parrish, together with land or towns that I guess was not technically church/religious property, was the reason for the dual title of "prince" and "bishop". The ruler was not only a "prince" of the church, but also an "earthly" prince as well. These roles were almost always filled by the sons of nobility or younger sons of kings anyway.

Every time I look at this arrangement of buildings, I always think of a
Russian Tsarist Palace. Tsarskoye Selo?

Note that just about everything you can see in the form of decorations on the building in the
foreground is painted on. Nothing, except the half-columns, is actually three-dimensional.

In time, the city of Speyer became what was known as an Imperial City, which, as far as we are concerned here, meant that the ruler/leader of the city was not the bishop (though I must say, I cannot prove that in all cases). In time, the prince-bishop found it easier to live elsewhere, despite still being head of the cathedral there in Speyer. So, by the late 14th century, the prince-bishops had taken up residence in one of their other palaces outside of the city of Speyer.

Direct shot of the same building in the photo above this one. You can see that the figures
above the windows are in fact painted on, as is everything else.

The largest of the simple fountains at Schloß Bruchsal. The intricately painted façades
of the palace itself make too much extra in the park unnecessary and potentialy
somewhat interfering.

So how did all of this get started? In the first half of the 18th century, Prince-Bishop Damian Hugo von Schönborn commissioned a beautiful new palace to be built at Bruchsal to replace the one already there. At about the same time, he also commissioned the building of St. Peter's church which can be seen just above the city. In 1725 the construction of the exquisite palace was begun based on the initial designs of Anselm Franz von Ritter zu Groenesteyn. Beginning in 1728, the job of master architect and builder went to Balthasar Neumann, who completed the spectacular grand staircase which can be seen today. Bruchsal Palace has been restored to its original design following almost complete destruction in March of 1945 (See photos of its destruction here.)

For views of the inside of the palace and its ornate baroque artwork, click here for the official state website about Schloß Bruchsal.

Coat of arms of the Prince-Bishops of Speyer to which
Bruchsal belonged. Notice the large, almost flat,
ecclesiastical Cardinal's hat (which might remind
you of the large hats found in Asian rice fields)
hovering over the secular prince's crown. These men
were not only royal or noble, but also princes of the church. 

Bruchsal is not terribly far from the French border. Over a period of several hundred years, the city and much of the surrounding area were regularly subjected to French military dominance with  their invasions, occupations and, sadly, destruction. The last major French military activity in Bruchsal was in 1796 with the occupation of the city.

In 1803, with Napoleon's secularization of church territory with the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, the former residence city of the Prince-Bishops of Speyer was given to Margrave Karl-Friedrich of Baden-Durlach by the famous French emperor. In 1806, the emperor granted the margrave a boost in title status; quilted together a couple of other nearby territories and principalities, including Fürstenberg; and the Grand Duchy of Baden was born with the margrave as its first grand duke. 

This large building can be found across the street directly outside the main gate
of the palace. It was damaged in the war, but the main structure and interiors
of the building were left standing. Today, it is used as a government building.

Direct view of the building. The red bricks on the facade are actually all painted on.

Fortunately, this gate-like building found outside of the gates of the
palace complex is original, as it survived the war relatively unscathed.

The tower steeple of the palace chapel lost its cupola in the bombing and was burned out;
however, the rest remained and was restored in detail.

The end of hereditary monarchy in Baden, along with the hundreds of years of the rule by the House of Zähringen (of Baden), came to a close in 1918 with the end of the First World War. Some of the dependencies of Schloß Bruchsal were already being used as apartments and government offices for some time even during the grand-duchy period. Now, the beautiful main house would become  a museum for all to visit.

I found this fountain across the street from the palace a real delight.
The snails with water spouting from their antennae beneath the face
of what looks like a little child spewing water out of its mouth as well
were too good to pass up.

The original buildings here were constructed to house a hospital, built and patronized by the
prince-bishop at the time and the Duchess of Orléans in the 18th C. It is located along the
 street next to the palace and is part of the entire complex.

Some shots of other finds in the city of Bruchsal are below. I'm sure I could have added more here, but I figured I would leave something for you to discover when you go.

When walking away from the palace and simply exploring around the town, you will easily find not only a number of historical markers that you should make a point of reading, but a number of nice buildings both public and private as well.  

I left the palace and found myself heading, minus map or compass, through the pedestrian shopping district, across a very small bridge of some historical significance, and upward.

I passed the houses in the photo to the left and kept on walking, enjoying the buildings I was finding. It was becoming clear to me at that point that although the inner city had been badly damaged by the bombing, its circumference had not. It was also up here that I came across one of Germany's many beautifully manicured cemeteries with its perfectly laid-out flowers and shrubs planted directly on top of and around the graves themselves - very different from North American cemeteries and such a visual pleasure to walk through. 

St. Peter's Catholic church - built by Prince-Bishop Hugo
von Schönborn  of Speyer around the same time as Bruchsal Palace
 in the first half of the 18th century.

How to get to Bruchsal from Karlsruhe main train station: the trip is anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes depending on whether you choose a local tram or a regional train. Many people who live in Bruchsal work in Karlsruhe so a number of options are available every hour.

Via Autobahn from Karlsruhe: take the A5. Signs are everywhere for Bruchsal.

How to get there from Stuttgart main train station: there are two or three trains each hour ranging from around 25 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes depending whether you choose a regional (RE) or inter-City (IC).

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hirsau, historic religious treasure in the Black Forest. Former abbey and ducal hunting lodge

The Aurelius Church, consecrated in 1071

Hirsau was not on my itinerary. I had planned to take the train from Stuttgart by way of Pforzheim to visit Calw, the birthplace of Hermann Hesse, walk around, take some photos and then come on back home to Bad Cannstatt all in the same day. As it turned out, Hirsau was the best part of my day. Calw was interesting in its own way, cradled snugly into the low foothills of the Black Forest on its eastern side, and it probably deserved more time than I felt like giving it, but I saw the ruins of Hirsau from the train window as it made its way to Calw, and all I could think of while there was to make sure I left enough time to stop by Hirsau on the way back. So I hurried up in Calw, promised to come again to see it in more depth (it is indeed worth the trip), and made my way back to Hirsau.

Note the deer, or Hirsch, in the Wappen
(coat of arms) of Hirsau

People do in fact live in the historical houses around the former monastery grounds, but over all it felt more like a ghost town which leaves any history lover to the devices of his or her own imagination.  The summer season had not fully set in at the time of my visit, so there was hardly anyone else wandering around there. It also didn't hurt that it was a week day. 

The Church of St. Aurelius, built almost 1,000 years ago. It was spared the fires that consumed the Monastery of Hirsau just across the Nagold River there.

So what's so special about this place? I had certainly never studied anything about Hirsau Abbey, or St. Aurelius for that matter, in my German history courses at university. And there are definitely many places throughout this country which are older and also boast their own rich histories. The answer? A lot, really: besides dating back to possibly around 830, having ruins through which to wander today, telling its own significant story, and simply providing a lovely place in the beautiful Black Forest to wander and photograph, it was once an especially important Benedictine abbey, destroyed by the French in 1692 during the Nine-Years' War (as was the village where I presently live) and never rebuilt. But I invite you to keep reading here, and I'll tell you what I learned as I meandered about, read the plaques and allowed my imagination the freedom to be colorful while envisaging monastic and medieval life 1,000 years ago.

The Nagold River, which begins in the northern Black Forest at Urnagold and 
joins the Enz River in Pforzheim.

Hirsau Abbey (also referred to in history as Hirschau Abbey) is located approximately three kilometers north of Calw in the northern Black Forest, a little over 22 miles (35 km) west of Stuttgart, the state capital. It sits directly on the Nagold River (pictured above). The bridge that straddles the Nagold there dates back to Carolingian times (see below). The first church of St. Aurelius was founded there in 830 by Count Adelbert of Calw. It was established in order to house and honor relics of the Armenian saint St. Aurelius, which the count's son, a bishop, brought from Rome. Once the monastery itself was completed, a small group of 16 monks from Fulda, in what is today Hessen came to take up residence there. 

Carolingian-era bridge across the Nagold

Now, I got a little confused while trying to figure out the two different churches and monastic communities I was reading about. Hirsau Monastery (or Abbey) contained the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul. St. Aurelius Abbey was centered around the Church of St. Aurelius, which housed the Aurelius relics. The first St. Aurelius church was consecrated in the first half of the 9th century. Archeologists have found evidence of another church or churches in this immediate that date back even earlier. The first church of St. Aurelius was partially destroyed and rebuilt in the Romanesque style. This second church was consecrated in 1071. Only 20 years later, however, did the "newer" Hirsau community spring from its St. Aurelius origins, and the community moved across the little river into the larger monastic complex which was now to be known as Hirsau. This is explained further as you read on.

Hirsau Abbey ruins nestled in the Black Forest

Hirsau Abbey soon began to flourish. In time, one of the largest monastery edifices constructed in the southwest Germany was built there: the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul was immense. It was consecrated in 1091and was a Romanesque structure with three naves.  It is indeed a great loss that this original structure was completely destroyed, as it was the model on which so many other German Benedictine monasteries were built; monasteries which were also to follow the Cluniac Reform (more on this further down) that Hirsau Abbey had introduced into the German lands under the Abbot William between 1071 and 1091. However the Church of St. Aurelius, the patron saint in whose name the monastery was established in the first place, still stands (see first two photographs above). (It must be noted, however, that what is seen today of that little church was renovated after a partial destruction in 1584, so not all of it is original. The fact that it had been used as a barn at some later part of its history probably helped to save it from complete ruin. It is restored and used for church services today. (Photo below)

Interior of St. Aurelius today

A variety of beautiful window 
frames still remain 400 years 
following their destruction

Renaissance-styled Jagdschloß of the Dukes of Württemberg

In 1092, the successor to Abbot William, who had died the year before, left the Aurelius Monastery and moved his monks the short distance across the river to the newly finished Sts. Peter and Paul Basilica, leaving the older monastery complex as a subordinate priory (Ref: Calw Tourist Office). The ruins of the Sts. Peter and Paul monastery area is where I spent most of my time for these photographs.

Let's look a little bit into the Cluniac (also Clunic) Reform that I mentioned above because this is what really put Hirsau Abbey on the map of history. It was initiated in Cluny, France in the 11th century as a result of various problems endemic to the monastic orders of the day. Due to a variety of reasons such as war, local politics, plague, etc., monasteries at this time had allowed themselves to become more subject to local lords and princes than to the pope or even their own founding principles of solitude: refraining from being an integral part of worldly matters and living.  In many cases, the land on which monasteries sat belonged to a secular lord. This often caused issues when the monks wanted to select their new abbots. The land-owning lords felt it their right to interfere in the process if it served their own needs thus taking away the autonomy the monastery itself needed in order to function outside of the daily events of the world. Not being a part of the world was exactly what monastic life was intended and secular interference diminished this fundamental monastic purpose. In time, many religious orders became less rigorous in true monastic living and customs and became more involved in the politics of the day in order to survive – again, something completely counter to their reason for existing in the first place. 

Two photographs below of the main gate to the former Ducal Jagdschloß, or Hunting Lodge/Castle. This also served as a bell tower. Bells have been restored to the tower and chime the hours beautifully throughout the day even now. This has been restored and a bit altered since its destruction by fire in 1692.

In 910, Duke William the Pious of Aquitaine enabled the Monastery of Cluny (of the Benedictine Order) to return to true monastic living. Due to his donation, the monastery became completely autonomous, owing allegiance to none other than the pope himself. They could once again focus heavily on what monks had originally set out to do several hundred years before, i.e., prayer, enhancing the beauty and solemnity of the Holy Rites, the singing of the Psalms, and celebrating Holy Mass, etc. It was, if you will, a Renaissance of the monasteries. Many other Benedictine monasteries throughout central Europe began to follow this renewal of monastic living. You can read more here about the Cluniac Reform. But, where does Hirsau come into the picture? 

The Chapel of Our Lady (Marienkirche), which is just outside of the ruined cloister, is still in use today.

When the Abbot William of Hirsau (not to be confused with Duke William) learned of the Abbey of Cluny and what was going on there, he sent some of his own monks to find out more. When they returned, he too began the process of returning monastery life to what it was originally ordained to be. The reforms had the blessings of the pope in Rome. Less secular interference and influence returned monastic focus to the Vatican See. The Church would become stronger at the local level. Abbot William sent monks out to share this with other monasteries in what is today Germany. As the monastery at Hirsau was the first of these German orders to take up these reforms, it was the "Hirsau Reforms" that was to become known throughout Germany, and it was this name that was often used instead of the "Cluniac Reforms" in this part of Europe. 

Note: I must add that in my humble opinion, the reference to "Hirsau" rather than "Cluniac" Reforms was not meant to deflect any credit away from Cluny. As word spread in the medieval days, and the ones who brought the reforms to the other Germanic monasteries were initially from Hirsau, I would imagine that it was simply a matter of associating the news with the Germanic brothers from Hirsau who brought it. 

View of the single remaining  tower 
of the Basilica ruins
Here, the Bell Tower and the ruins of the ducal hunting residence can be seen outside of the cloister grounds. Almost all of the window and door arches remain in the cloister wall.   Although there is no longer an active monastery here, the serenity of the grounds can be quite meditative if you are lucky to be here on as quiet and empty a day as I was.      
The ducal hunting-lodge ruins are in the background      

In the following two photographs, the ruins of what must have been an imposing edifice in its day: the Church of Sts Peter and Paul. The architectural supports pictured here would have supported the outer walls of the rounded altar area of the church. The Marienkirche, or Chapel of Our Lady, can be seen in the background of the second photograph below. This church was restored for use in the latter half of the 19th century. While I was walking the grounds, I could hear lovely music coming from the Marienkirche. It is a two-storied church. Unfortunately, I was not able to enter it, and as of this writing, I have yet to find any photos online of the interior, though I am sure they exist. Just another reason to return to Hirsau.

Note the ruins to the left in the photo. These supported the walls of a side chapel just off the left side of what was the main altar of the huge church.

View of the side-altar chapel ruins from the other side, with the Marienkirche in the background
Marienkirche from the side of the Jagdschloß
Two floors, two chapels

Remnant walls of the cloister. The door led to the Summer Refectory, where the monks ate.
The monks dormitory would have been on the floor above this.
For an example of a monastery that has survived almost completely intact over the past 300-400 years, see my earlier blog, Bebenhausen, Where it all Ended. Scroll down on this page and you will see photos of Bebenhausen which are no doubt quite similar to how the cloister at Hirsau very likely looked once upon a time.

Fortunately, this one of the two Basilica towers survived the blaze.  Note the relief 
with the monk in the middle looking out into the distance. After the destruction 
of the monastery in 1692, this tower was used as a prison!

The cross marks where the altar stood in the Basilica

A view of the refectory kitchen ruins
A view out of the bell tower of the main gate

Hirsau today, beneath the walls of the former monastery ruins, nestled in the beautiful Black Forest.

Another view of the cloister ruins of Hirsau Abbey

These two arches will lead you into the monastery grounds. There are other accesses, but this is how I got through.

Another way in, around back. 

The other side of the arches shown in the photograph above. Some of the other buildings which have popped up on the grounds over the years since the monastery was destroyed in 1692 can be seen here. Some of them are replicas of buildings destroyed in the fire; others may be original. 

To the left are the ruins of the former Jagdschloß, or hunting castle, of the Dukes of Württemberg with the bell tower in the foreground. The Renaissance castle was built on what had once been an abbot's residence. At the time the ducal residence was built, the monastery was no longer Catholic, as the Reformation had already taken place by this time and the territory was now Lutheran. The ruins to the immediate left of the tower are of the former
priory kitchen.

A number of beautiful examples of Fachwerk (half-timbered) structures 
can also be found here.

Following the Protestant Reformation in 1532 and during the reign of Duke Ulrich of Württemberg, Hirsau became secularized. It was during this time, between 1586 and 1592 that Duke Ulrich built his hunting residence. Lutheran abbots were appointed to lead monastic life. In the mid-1600s, it became Catholic again, but only a few years later following the Treaty of Westphalia, Hirsau Abbey became Lutheran once again and remained so until the destruction of the abbey in 1692 at the hands of the French troops under the command of General Mélac during the War of the Palatinate Succession (also known as the Nine Years' War). It is indeed a sad ending to a once great and leading monastery. It has never been rebuilt.

A closer view of the ruins of the Jagdschloß of the Dukes of Württemberg

How to get to Hirsau: Unless traveling by car, one arrives at Hirsau train stop on the small line that actually dead-ends in Calw, which is the next stop due south after Hirsau. The stop is just across the River Nagold from the monastery-hunting lodge area; the walk onto the monastery grounds is only a matter of minutes. As this is in the Black Forest, and as the photos show, it is all wooded and very beautiful. It is also possible to walk from Hirsau to Calw along the Nagold. 

Via train from Stuttgart, you will need to check online at for train times. I would strongly recommend looking for the connections that take you via Pforzheim Hauptbahnhof (train station), where you can change to a local line that takes you directly to Hirsau. It's a nice ride through the Black Forest, and the total time is less than 90 minutes.

Hirsau train station 

There are other train routes which require a connection via bus, which aren't all bad, but it might take a bit longer. The S6 to Weil der Stadt leaves Stuttgart station (underground) as well, but you will need to change to the 670 bus at Weil der Stadt to get to the monastery. However, depending on which train or bus you use to get to Weil der Stadt, you might have to make another transfer at Calw.

Via car from anywhere in Germany (or the entire world, for that matter) use your navigator because I don't have a car and you could be coming from anywhere. The least I can do here though is to tell you the "navi" info:

State: Baden-Württemberg
Town: Hirsau (or even "Calw", since it technically belongs to the Calw municipality)
Postal code: 75365

Buckle your seatbelts because it's gonna be a historically beautiful ride!