The capital of the state of Thuringia is Erfurt. It is the main city that is nearest to the geographical center of modern Germany. It’s located 100 kilometers south-west of Leipzig, 150 kilometers north of Nuremberg and 180 kilometers south-east of Hanover.
Mariendom or the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Severikirche or St. Severus Church have become a landmark of the city. These are both impressive examples of German Gothic architecture and tower over the city. Part of this cathedral is the “Gloriosa”, the “Queen of Bells” dating from 1497 and praised for centuries all over Europe for its magnificent resonance. The interior has an impressive Gothic chancel with a series of 13 colorful stained-glass windows. These windows are 13 meters high and count among the greatest works of medieval stained-glass art. The cathedral has many other noteworthy works of art. A wide open-air stairway leads up from the market square to the St. Severus Church.
The Cathedral Square is surrounded by many historical buildings which have survived many city fires and the artillery attack in 1813. Two wonderful examples of the buildings in this area are The Grune Apotheke dating from the 18th century and the Haus zur Hohen Lilie dating from 1538. Today you can find a busy open-air market in the square. On the right side of the square is a passage way that leads the restored structures of the Grose and kleine Arche and the Haus zum Sonneborn.
An interesting example of secular architecture is The Kramerbrucke or Merchants’ Bridge. This arched stone bridge was constructed in 1325 stretching across the Gera River. It is the only bridge north of the Alps to be built totally with houses which are still used as residences. During medieval times there were two churches built at either end of the bridge. One of the churches the Agidienkirche still exists today.
The Agidienkirche forms on Wenigemarkt with its archway eastern access to the Kramerbrucke. This church was one of the two former bridgehead churches. The 33 meter high Tower of Agidienkirche which is also referred to as the Red Tower offers spectacular views over Erfurt.
Visitors can turn down into Michaelisstrasse as the street stretches from the Karmerbrucke Bridge and is known as the “stone chronicle of Erfurt”. Here you can find many historical houses and the main building of the old university. Today you can still see part of the former university library including the famous “Amploniana” collection. The street branching off is called Allerheiligenstrasse or All Saints Street and here you can find the Humanistenstatte Engelsburg that was once the meeting place of the famous Erfurt circle of humanists around the year 1511.
The Augustinian Monastery has valuable stained glass windows that date back to the beginning of the 14th century. Martin Luther lived here as a monk from 1505 to 1511.The monastery complex includes an important library with rare books and a permanent exhibition about the life of Martin Luther. Today the monastery is used as a parish church and as an ecumenical.
The neo-Gothic Town Hall at the Fischmarkt was built between 1870 and 1874. There are many wall paintings inside the stairwells and the Festaal (main function hall) that depict legends and scenes from Luther’s life as well as pictures illustrating the history of Thuringia and Erfurt. The Festsaal is often as a place for concerts, lectures and receptions.
At one time The Statthalterei was the residence of the governors of Erfurt and was built by the electors of Mainz. Today it is the seat of the President of Thuringia and the Staatskanzlei. The chancellery was designed by Maximilian von Welsch and built in the Renaissance style between 1711 and 1720. Of special architectural interest is the western part of the Baroque facade along with the official portal. Guests here included Schiller, Herder, W. v. Humboldt and Wieland, also the historical meeting between Napoleon and Goethe tool place here.
The Anger was once the market place for the dyers’ trade. It is the main market square located in the Old Town. In the 1970s the Anger which is lined with many buildings that are both of historical importance and of architectural interest, was redeveloped into a shopping boulevard. St Anger 1 you’ll find the large shopping gallery. It is a most attractive part of the city. On the corner of the Anger and Trommsdorffstrasse are The Ursuline cloisters. In 1808 Czar Alexander I made his home at number 6 and during the Thirty Years’ War Queen Marie Eleonore of Sweden lived at number 11 where she received the news of the death of her husband Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden.
Built of three patrician houses the Emperor’s Hall was used as the university’s ballroom in the 18th century. It is the oldest center for cultural events and congresses in Germany. The building was also once used as a playhouse for travelling theater groups and the place for Goethe and the Weimar Theater company that he directed. The world premiere of Schiller’s “Don Carlos” was performed here and the performance was attended by Schiller himself. The Congress of European Princes and Heads of State also took place here attended by Czar Alexander I of Russia at Napoleon’s invitation. Many other historical events took place here.
In 1833 two 16th century buildings Haus Zum Goldenen Hecht and Haus zum Grosen und Neuen Schiff were joined together to become the Haus Dacheroden located at Anger 37/38. Its main entrance has one of the most beautiful Renaissance portals in the city. It is now a major center for cultural events like temporary exhibitions, discussions, readings, lectures, concerts and celebrations.
The residents of Thuringia are very proud of what is referred to as “the garden of Thuringia” also known as the Ega. This is a lovely horticultural park. Of interest is the 500-year-old Cyriaksburg Castle which is now home to the German horticultural museum with watch towers and ancient fortifications. The central focus of the Ega is the Large Flowerbed with many lovely flowers. In the greenhouses you can see tropical plants, cacti, orchids and other plants. The recent attraction to the gardens is the butterfly house which is the first of its kind in Thuringia. Children love to come here to play, paddle, paint and enjoy lots of different craft work in the largest children’s playground in Thuringia. Near the playground is a children’s farm. You can find regional exhibitions here with themes like art and culture, science and technology and nature and the environment.
Located in the middle of the Petersberg citadel grounds is the Peterskirche. Between 1103 and 1147 Hirsau Benedictine Monks built this pillared basilica. Parts of this church are used for exhibition space for the forum for concrete art. Here you can also view international collections of paintings, graphic art and sculpture.
After the Bartholomaus Church was destroyed only The Bartholomaus Tower on the Anger remained. It has 60 bells and is one of the largest carillons in Germany. The scale range is 5 octaves, the largest bell being about 2.4. tonnes and the smallest bell 20 kilograms.
Visitors can see wonderful wood and stone sculptures at The Anger Museum located in the middle of the Old Town at the crossroads of the Bahnhofstrase and the Anger. The building was built between 1706 and 1712 and was used as a packing and weighing station. It counts as one of the most important early 18th century buildings. The museum was founded in 1886 to house the artwork the city of Erfurt inherited from one of its most famous sons, the Romantic painter Friedrich Nerly.
The last water mill in Erfurt is still in use and located on the banks of the Gera River near the Town Hall. Here you’ll find a water-driven grinding mill and exhibition rooms displaying historical machines. The museum also features an illustrated history of Erfurt’s water mills and the history of hydraulic power. Up until 1982 the mill was used to grind grain into flour or animal feed today the new mill has been converted into a museum
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