Experience Germany Like a Local

© 2015-2017 Polar Bear Studio LLC, All images unless otherwise noted, text, and website design, all rights reserved. Email Us

Deciphering the Roemer in Frankfurt am Main

Deciphering the Roemer in Frankfurt am Main

Before the stadium-sized exhibition halls Frankfurt am Main, Germany has today, there was the Römer, or Roemer for the umlaut-allergic. Roemer refers specifically to the City Hall complex that grew from a labyrinth of fancy merchant homes that were bought in 1405 by the city and retro-fitted for the city council’s needs. It was here that the first trade fairs were held, in the myriad of halls, nearby square, and neighboring streets, until the trade fairs couldn’t fit anymore. The Roemer resides in the center of the city on the Roemerberg, a square made out of Fachwerkhäusern, half-timbered houses.

The Frankfurt eagle symbol is used frequently on the facade of the Roemer in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Why the Roemer? Like most good nicknames, no one is sure why the Roemer is called the Roemer. Some allege Italian visitors for the trade fairs stayed there and thus named it the German word for Romans, Roemer, or perhaps because of the building's ties to the Holy Roman Empire and its election of Kings. After a King was elected, the coronation dinner was held in the Roemer in the Kaisersaal, or Emperor Hall. The Roemer hosted the Kings of the Holy Roman Empire from 1562 to 1792.

Typical for neo-gothic, or gothic revival architecture, all structural elements are decorated. Four Kings, such as Friedrich I, are on the Roemer facade in Frankfurt.

Comparing Germany’s Town Halls
Frankfurt am Main’s city hall complex is unlike any I have seen in Germany, and certainly completely different from earlier posts about the Rathaus in Bremen and the Neues Rathaus in Munich. That being said, it is built in the same architecture style as the Neues Rathaus in Munich, Gothic Revival. Both the Roemer and the Neues Rathaus in Munich were built or remodeled at a time when Germany was seeking to revisit the glory days of the time period belonging to Bremen’s Rathaus. If you missed those posts, and you like this one, I encourage you to check them out: Architecture Style Guide to the Neues Rathaus in Munich, and The Epic German City Hall All the Other City Halls Wish To Be.

Typical for Gothic Revival, on the Roemer facade in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, you’ll see pointed arches, decorative patterns, and embellished structural elements.

Symbolism on the Roemer
Typical for Gothic Revival, you’ll see pointed arches, decorative patterns, and embellished structural elements. Without a tour guide, the symbolism on the Roemer’s facade is missed by many visitors.

Symbolism Guide for the Roemer | Typical for Gothic Revival, on the Roemer facade in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, you’ll see pointed arches, decorative patterns, and embellished structural elements.

Top to Bottom, the Frankfurt am Main Roemer Iconography, Highlights and Descriptions

• Lantern cupola on top has not been refurbished after the bombings of World War II, it is as it was originally built in the 1700s.
• Clock built by Frankfurt clock-maker Hans Hochgesang in 1452-1454. The time can be read from inside the Kaisersaal as well.
• Two Eagle Sculpture reliefs, the single Eagle on the left is for Frankfurt, the double-headed Eagle on the right is for Germany.
• Four Holy Roman Emperors, all who had a significant impact on the city of Frankfurt am Main. From left to right, Frederick I, the first king elected in Frankfurt in 1152, Ludwig the Bavarian who extended the city’s trade rights in 1331, Charles IV for decreeing the Golden Bull of 1356, and Maximilian II, the first ruler crowned in the Frankfurt Cathedral in 1562.
• Below the balcony are coat of arms of various families of Frankfurt.
• Wall relief commemorates the 1900 remodel, “House of the Romans, bought and rebuilt by the city of Frankfurt am Main in 1405, and the town hall of the Reichstag and Imperial elections 1886 to 1900 by Max Meckel, newly manufactured.”
Wall relief commemorates the 1900 remodel, “House of the Romans, bought and rebuilt by the city of Frankfurt am Main in 1405, and the town hall of Reichstag and Imperial elections 1886 to 1900 by Max Meckel, newly manufactured.”

On the neighboring building front to the left of the Roemer, the Alt-Limpurg house, be sure to see the ‘Frankfurtia’, Statue, or as Germans know her, Francofurtia, the female embodiment, protector of the city of Frankfurt. She's holding the sword of Charlemagne in her right hand and the Pfarrturm, church tower in her left.

On the neighboring building front to the left of the Roemer, the Alt-Limburg house, be sure to see the ‘Frankfurtia’, Statue, or as Germans know her, Francofurtia, the female embodiment, protector of the city of Frankfurt. She's holding the sword of Charlemagne in her right hand and the Pfarrturm, church tower in her left.

Finally, on the far right side of the Roemer facade, the Frauenstein and Salzhaus, look for the three surviving wall reliefs that were salvaged from the World War II bombings. They serve as a reminder for all of what was lost. Currently, there is a Frankfurt Tourist Information Office located in this part of the Roemer.

Finally, on the far right side of the Roemer facade, the Frauenstein and Salzhaus, look for the three surviving wall reliefs that were salvaged from the World War II bombings. They serve as a reminder for all of what was lost. Currently, there is a Frankfurt Tourist Information Office located in this part of the Roemer.

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive the newest posts each week and exclusive access to free planning resources like ‘Packing List & Tips for 2 Weeks in Germany’ and ‘Everything You Need to Rent a Car in Germany’.

Thank you for reading!



Comments

A Self-Guided Walk Through Frankfurt

Fourteen of the fifteen tallest buildings in Germany are in Frankfurt, which is nicknamed Mainhatten for this reason.

Skyscrapers characterize the cityscape of Frankfurt am Main, my “other” home away from Florida. Fourteen of the fifteen tallest buildings in Germany are in Frankfurt, which is nicknamed "Mainhattan" for this reason. Despite a great subway system to get around, I recommend exploring Frankfurt on foot. This way, you can take in all the details of the exciting architecture in the heart of Frankfurt, and at the same time walk off that good German food or beer.

What You Need to Know About Visiting Main Tower in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

1. Main Tower (Neue Mainzer Str. 52-58)
Let’s start with a good view of the city first by taking the elevator to the top of the Main Tower. There are two ways to enjoy the 360 degree views of Frankfurt's skyline: you can either take the elevator up, for 7.50 Euros, to the observation deck OR enjoy a cocktail and/or meal at the fine dining Main Tower Restaurant & Lounge, located on the 53rd floor of the tower. If you dine at the restaurant, the cost of the elevator ride will be credited against your bill, so hold onto your receipt, or if you make a reservation the elevator operator will not charge you for the ride. To read more about the Main Tower, check out our earlier post, “What You Need to Know About Visiting Main Tower in Frankfurt.”

2. Hauptwache (An der Hauptwache 15)
Within a ten minute walk you will reach the Hauptwache, a 17th-century guard-house. It housed the municipal police and also contained a prison back in the day. Particularly impressive is the architectural contrast of the 300-year-old building with the skyscraper backdrop of the banking district. When Prussia annexed the city in 1866, Frankfurt also lost its military significance, and with it the city armed forces. The Hauptwache was turned into a cafe in 1905, which has remained there ever since. Prices are more expensive than other cafes in Frankfurt, but it is a great spot for people watching.

3. Paulskirche/St. Paul's Church (Paulsplatz 11)
Keep walking south until you see the Paulskirche, an elliptical building made out of sandstone. This church is very important for the history of democracy in Germany. During the German Revolution in 1848, it was the meeting place of the first all-German parliament since Paulskirche was the largest and most modern building in Frankfurt. In March 1944 the Paulskirche burned completely after a bomb attack and was the first historical building of Frankfurt to be rebuilt after the war. You can see pictures and different flags used for Germany inside, there is no entrance fee. Read more about it in our earlier post, “The Most German of German Churches.”

Standesamt Mitte (Bethmannstrasse 3) Frankfurt am Main, Germany civil registry office, named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice

4. Standesamt Mitte (Bethmannstraße 3)
Stepping out of the Paulskirche, you will see the Standesamt Mitte (Frankfurt civil registry office) building across the street. This is where the citizens of Frankfurt come for birth certificates, naturalization, name changes and much more. Definitely worth a quick picture, especially with the covered bridge across the street called Seufzerbrücke. This bridge is nicknamed the Bridge of Sighs, and was built in 1898, based on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy.

Roemer of Frankfurt am Main, Germany

5. Römer/Römerberg (Römerberg 27)
Cross the street and keep left to get to the Römerberg including the Römer building. On the corner is the Frankfurt Tourist Information, in case you have a specific question or need a map. When you walk into the market square, take a minute and look around at all the beautiful buildings. One of the most impressive ones is the Römer building with its characteristic triple facade, which was built in the 15th century. This landmark is the city hall of Frankfurt and the seat of the city council and mayor. This is where couples get married, too and you might run into one of them while you are there.

Alte Nikolaikirche, or Old St. Nicholas Church, to the left of the Roemer, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

6. Alte Nikolaikirche (Römerberg 11)
Looking at the Römer, to your left is the Alte Nikolaikirche (Old St Nicholas Church) built in the 12th century. Because of its central location, this Lutheran church is open all day for visitors and there are often bilingual worship services. Check their posting board for the current hours.

Eiserner Steg, crossing the river Main, first erected in 1868 and rebuilt after World War II.

7. Eiserner Steg
Keep walking past the Alte Nikolaikirche and you will get to the banks of river Main, a great place to rest and watch the boats and kayaks go by. Right in front of you is a bridge called Eiserner Steg (Iron footbridge), first erected in 1868 and rebuilt after WWII. Walk to the middle of the bridge and enjoy the best scenic view of the Frankfurt skyscrapers. The perfect time for a selfie without having to watch out for passing cars.

8. Goethe-Haus (Großer Hirschgraben 23-25)
For the last 2 stops we head back to the inner city, right to the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the Goethe-Haus. This building was the family residence of the Goethe family until 1795. Goethe's study on the second floor is as it once was when he wrote “The Sorrows of Young Werther” and “Götz von Berlichingen” in this room. We loved our visit so much, we even wrote a cheat sheet for your visit, “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to the Goethe House in Frankfurt.”

And do not miss the Goethe museum next door, included in your Goethe House ticket, where you can discover a comprehensive collection of paintings, graphics and busts from Goethe’s lifetime with artists such as Johann Heinrich Füssli, Caspar David Friedrich, and local Frankfurt painters. To know more, review our earlier article, “What You Must See at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum."

9. Alte Oper (Opernplatz 1)
The last stop on the walking tour will be the original opera house Alte Oper, close to the Main Tower where we started our tour. The beautiful building was built in the Neo-Renaissance style and opened its door in 1880 for just over 2,000 people per showing. The opera house was the venue for numerous premieres, for example Carl Orff's “Carmina Burana” in 1937 and to this day shows concerts and art performances. If you are interested in any upcoming concerts, you can get tickets at the ticket office in the front or one hour before any concert at the box office.


Special thanks to Lifestyle and Wedding Photographer Irene Fiedler, who captured all of the photos in this post. These images were part of a larger photo shoot we collaborated with Irene on, which you can read more about here.

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive the newest posts each week and exclusive access to free planning resources like ‘Packing List & Tips for 2 Weeks in Germany’ and ‘Everything You Need to Rent a Car in Germany.

Thank you for reading!


Self-guided walk through Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Comments

The Most 'German' of German Churches

Outside the Römer, where a beautiful sandstone pedestrian bridge connects over the street, sits a church that’s not a church, that most Germans know very well. Paulskirche, or in English the Church of St. Paul. As an American, I had never heard of it, and without doing any research about it beforehand, went inside.

Outside the Römer, where a beautiful sandstone pedestrian bridge connects over the street, sits a church that’s not a church, that most Germans know very well. Paulskirche, or in English the Church of St. Paul. As an American, I had never heard of it, and without doing any research about it beforehand, went inside.

Entrance to the Paulskirche, with the mural The Path of the Representatives by Johannes Grützkeby just beyond.

When I walk in, I’m in the outer ring of a round marblesque room that instantly feels more like a contemporary art museum because I’m confronted by a larger than life mural depicting an incredibly stylized procession of people hugging the entire inner core of the building. Displays and exhibit cases line the outer core of the building.

Lower Hall of the Paulskirche with the mural The Path of the Representatives by Johannes Grützkeby

As I wind my way around the mural, I discover it really does continue around, and I find stairs. Ah! Now I’ll find the church!

No, not really. I climb the stairs and discover a very modern-looking, non-church arrangement of chairs, a lovely organ, and various German state flags hanging from a soaring ceiling. No one else was around, just me and a bleary-eyed security guard.

Upper Hall of the Paulskirche where the annual awarding of The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade takes place. The Paulskirche organ was designed by Maria Schwarz.

I was really confused. What was this place?

This is a prime example of how important it is to read up on the history of monuments before visiting, a tourist’s mistake I still make from time to time. However, my curiosity was piqued. So I resolved to figure this out at home and pass along the highlights.

In 1833, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Paul was a beacon of modernity in its classical architecture style while surrounded by ‘old’ gothic architecture, and it was the largest hall in Frankfurt. For these two reasons, in 1848 it was an appropriate place for the first all-German Parliament. The first democratic constitution for a united Germany was born here, and this is why Paulskirche is often called the Cradle of German democracy.

What German Church is the MOST German?

The German democracy was short-lived, and the Prussian king was unimpressed, but the building’s symbolism continues. After the building’s complete destruction during World War II, this was the first building to be reconstructed and it was consecrated in 1948, on the 100-year anniversary of the German National Assembly.

Paulskirche Highlights
The mural, The Path of the Representatives by Johannes Grützke, was installed as part of a larger renovation effort in 1991. Along with the mural, there is a really helpful permanent exhibit along the outer walls called "Symbol of Democratic Freedom and National Unity," that you should spend time reading. Speaking from experience, it is really difficult to find information on this topic in English, and the exhibit is bilingual and illustrated with diagrams, drawings and photos. Otherwise you can 'see' everything within 10 minutes, but to get more value out of your visit defintily soak up the details in the exhibit cases.

Now, Paulskirche, the Church of St. Paul, is a space for public events and awards, the most famous being the annual awarding of The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, as part of the larger annual Frankfurt Book Fair.

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!



Where Ten Kings Were Crowned

During reconstruction from the 1867 fire, the original 1415 plans by Madern Gerthener for a gothic spire atop the tower was finally brought to life. This Neo-Gothic tower is romantic and is a jewel on Frankfurt’s crown of a skyline. Nestled into the old part, you turn a street corner and it's a surprise.

Not just a parish church, St. Bartholomew's Cathedral in Frankfurt am Main is unique with it's honorific designation as Cathedral. Between 1356 and 1792 it was center stage for initially electing the kings of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, then ultimately where kings were crowned as well, ten kings in total.

This spot in Frankfurt has gone through at least five religious structures, dating back as early as 680 AD to its original Merovingian Chapel form.

Crucifixion of Christ by Hans Backoffen, 1509, in the belfry chapel of the Imperial Cathedral of St. Bartholomew, Frankfurt am Main Germany.

During reconstruction from the 1867 fire, the original 1415 plans by Madern Gerthener for a gothic spire atop the tower was finally brought to life. This Neo-Gothic tower is romantic and is a jewel on Frankfurt’s crown of a skyline. Nestled into the old part, you turn a street corner and it's a surprise.

During reconstruction from the 1867 fire, the original 1415 plans by Madern Gerthener for a gothic spire atop the tower was finally brought to life. This Neo-Gothic tower is romantic and is a jewel on Frankfurt’s crown of a skyline. Nestled into the old part, you turn a street corner and it's a surprise.

Utilizing the nearby local red sandstone, which can be admired throughout the city of Frankfurt, after being restored in 1992-1994 the visual effect inside and out is unforgettable.

The red sandstone interior of St. Bartholomew's Imperial Cathedral in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Art Imitating Art
When I first saw the organ in the southern transept it reminded me of Caspar David Friedrich's painting, The Sea of Ice. Do you see it too?

The organ in the southern transept of the St. Bartholomew's Imperial Cathedral in Frankfurt

Altar Shrines Galore
Altar shrines assembled by E.F.A. Münzenberger, a priest and art collector makes you feel like you may actually be in an art museum after all. Of course many of the narratives repeat themselves across the various altar shrines, which reminds me that these didn't just come into being, that artists, many of whom are now unknown, did in fact MAKE these, which just seems incredible. Is it a lost art? Can anyone today still make these?

On the pillars of the crossing, as well as in some bays of the transept, are altar shrines assembled by the priest and art collector E.F.A. Muenzenberger | St. Bartholomew's Imperial Cathedral in Frankfurt

On the pillars of the crossing, as well as in some bays of the transept, are altar shrines assembled by the priest and art collector E.F.A. Muenzenberger | St. Bartholomew's Imperial Cathedral in Frankfurt

On the pillars of the crossing, as well as in some bays of the transept, are altar shrines assembled by the priest and art collector E.F.A. Muenzenberger | St. Bartholomew's Imperial Cathedral in Frankfurt

On the pillars of the crossing, as well as in some bays of the transept, are altar shrines assembled by the priest and art collector E.F.A. Muenzenberger | St. Bartholomew's Imperial Cathedral in Frankfurt

St. Mary's Chapel
And if you weren't blown away by the altar shrines, in St. Mary's Chapel, an intimate little alcove, you'll find this mammoth-sized stone-carved depiction of the Death of the Virgin, created in 1434-1438. Carved in stone! Its stunning.

Stone-carved representation of the Dormition (death of the Virgin, 1434-38) | St. Bartholomew's Imperial Cathedral in Frankfurt

Generosity of Frankfurt's Citizens
One wall in the northern transept seemed to have an unusual arrangement of items on the wall. A very ornately framed "Lamentation of Christ," by Anthony van Dyck and several stone monuments. This section of the cathedral is a testament to the generosity of the Frankfurt citizens. Since this cathedral isn't a typical cathedral where a Bishop ruled and could install works of artwork to fill the walls, this cathedral reaped the generosity of its own every day citizens, making it a true Cathedral of the people.

Lamentation of Christ by Anthony van Dyck 1627 and Tombstones of Frankfurt patricians | Northern Transept of St. Bartholomew's Imperial Cathedral in Frankfurt, Germany

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!



Comments

Show more posts about traveling in Germany

Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler