Category Archives: Museum

What Inspires a Novel? #video #history #MondayBlogs

 

 

The Weissgerbergasse is a street in the old town in Nuremberg, Germany. It means Tanners’ Lane in English. It is the inspiration for the Tannery Row, a setting in the opening scenes of the historical novel, The Master and the Maid.

This medieval street was named for its inhabitants, namely the Weissgerber. They were tanners who specialized in a tanning process using salts and alum to create soft, white leather for gloves, aprons and bookcovers.

Tanneries needed a lot of water and many of the houses on Tanners’ Lane have their own wells. They also made lots of dirty water so the street is close to the Pegnitz river and downstream away from the main town. Tanning hides was a very smelly business, and judging by these townhouses, a lucrative one as well.

In spite of the intense bombing of Nuremberg in 1945, the Weissgerbergasse was mostly unaffected. There are now about 20 of these painstakingly renovated half-timbered houses. They are part of Nuremberg’s Historical Mile, a tour of the city’s most important sights.

Today these town houses are occupied by hairdressers, art galleries, boutiques and cafes. The Weissgerbergasse 10 has been dated by experts as 1389 and belongs to the Altstadtfreunde, an organization dedicated to historic preservation in Nuremberg.

Der Meistertrunk

Georg Braun; Frans Hogenberg: Civitates Orbis Terrarum, Band 1, 1572 

The Master Draught

The Thirty Years War was a many-faceted conflict fought in Central Europe, neatly fitted into a nutshell starting with what they call the Defenestration in Prague in 1618 and ending with a series of treaties called the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Many factors figure into this weary, bloody, long-lasting era of human destruction. The most popular reason for the war was, of course, religion: the subject itself is heated, arguers are passionate about their beliefs so it’s easy to wave a spark into a flame. The Holy Roman Empire was Catholic. The emperor was intolerant of those that embraced the teachings of Luther and other forms of the Protestant religion. And the Protestants wanted to be free to practice as they liked.
Add a few princes who are promised territory and power and then some people who have lost their homes and are hungry and have little choice except to follow the regiments, plundering and pillaging if they want anything to eat. What you get is terror that spreads across the countryside like wildfire. Historians will also cite what they call the Little Iceage and the scientific data that backs up the theory. Temperatures were, on the average, colder during this span in the early modern period. That meant crops were failing and the people were that much worse off than they had been. Food was scarce, prices were high. 
Franconia took a beating during this time. By the end of the war, large tracts of land were completely devastated and depopulated. Those who were left died in the years after of disease or starvation. They say the population of the German territories was reduced by about a third but many people also fled. Exact numbers are impossible to quantify.
In Franconia today, remembrances of this time period are still evident. Many cities and villages have streets called something like Schwedenschanze, in English, Swedish Entrenchment. And streets named after the Generals Tilly or Mansfeld, and after the Swedish king, Gustav Adolf. And there are towns who honor their local famous legends, like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the historical festival weekend including a play called The Master Draught, written by Adam Hörber, celebrated every year since 1881 over the Whitsun weekend.
The setting is Rothenburg in October 1631. General Tilly, leading an Imperial army of 60,000 men, lays siege to the Protestant independent city-state Rothenburg, threatens to burn it to the ground and execute the city council. But there is one way for them to save themselves. Their Mayor Georg Nusch is asked to down a mug of wine measuring 3.75 liters in one go. Then the troops will leave them alone. He somehow manages that and saves the city.

The four-day Whitsun weekend is full of reenaction, colorful period dress, horses, troop encampment, food, beer, and regular performances of the play The Master Draught that premiered in 1881 and has been put on every year since then. For more information, please visit: 
The Master Draught:  http://en.meistertrunk.de

The Tucherschloss

Das Tucherschloss in Nürnberg. Stahlstich um 1854. (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Porträt- und Ansichtensammlung)
Sites of Nuremberg:
Medieval and early modern Nuremberg was considered a free imperial city, an independent city-state, until its absorption into the Bavarian kingdom in 1806. As an independent city-state, Nuremberg was free to rule itself without being subordinate to the surrounding territorial leaders. The only one they had to answer to was the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. 
In Nuremberg a closed caste of merchant families, termed ‘patricians’, ruled the city. (The term patrician comes from ancient Rome, meaning either a member of the upper class or a hereditary title given to the aristocracy.) Only members of these families could be part of the city council. These families were strictly documented and numbered between 37 and 42.

One family name that has survived this time period as more than just a street name or a plaque on a monument is the name Tucher. The Tucher family can trace its roots back to the 14th century and are still present in the Nuremberg landscape today. The first Tuchers were probably in service to the count of Castell and the first documented family member joined the Nuremberg city council in 1340.
A couple of good marriages here, a few successful business decisions there and the stance and the assets of the family grew. The early modern period saw the Tucher family as one of the most influential and richest families in Nuremberg, their businesses spreading throughout Europe.

During this time period, many of the merchant patrician families in Nuremberg withdrew from their businesses, opting for the lifestyle of the landed nobility. The Tuchers also owned quite a bit of property around Nuremberg but the Tucherschloss in Nuremberg was the main residence. Let’s take a closer look.
Built between 1533 and 1544, this Schloss on the Hirschelgasse is the inspiration for the home of the fictitious character from The Master and the Maid, Sebald Tucher. The building was for the most part destroyed in WW2 but was rebuilt in the sixties and now houses a museum. It is open to the public. An exhibition of photos of the war destruction and the reconstruction is on display until April 2016. 
Here’s a link to their website:  https://museen.nuernberg.de/tucherschloss/

Museum Monday

Merian Franken 1648

The City of Forchheim:  The year is 1634. War rages though the German territories. Swedish troops rumble through Franconia, Germany. No village is safe or even left standing. Was any place safe in what became known to modern historians as the Thirty Years War? Yes, there were cities where the walls were impassable so that even under siege they could not be taken. At least not by land. One of these cities is Forchheim in the Upper Franconia region of Bavaria.
Forchheim was in its time the only new Baroque fortress to be built in southern Germany. During the Margrave Wars, in 1552, the city was occupied by the Margrave of Kulmbach, Albrecht Alkibiades. Having taken the city back in 1553, the Hochstift Bamberg decided to strengthen Forchheim to serve as its southern stronghold in order to protect the lands surrounding the Prince-Bishopric of Bamberg. And so construction began. After 1553, the city was never conquered. Ever.
The fortification of Forchheim slowed in the beginning of the 1600’s. Small reinforcements were made but the walls were for the most part finished. During the Thirty Years War, Forchheim was strategically situated and served as a assembly station for new troops. The walls proved themselves capable of holding back the Swedish troops and their canons.
My museum tip for #museummonday: the Erlebnismuseum Rote Mauer. In this literal ‘hole in the wall,’ the city of Forchheim has opened a casemate (sometimes erroneously rendered casement, a casemate is a fortified gun emplacement or armored structure from which guns are firedWiki) and turned it into a museum. The multimedia exhibitions recreate what daily life during the Thirty Years War could have been like, explaining the construction and the workings of the fortification and illustrating period artifacts like weapons and clothing.

Please visit the informative website from the city of Forchheim:  http://www.forchheim.de/content/erlebnismuseum-rote-mauer
For more information about the walls of Forchheim (in German):  https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festung_Forchheim