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A Sculpture Museum That Will Change Your Mind About Sculpture

A Sculpture Museum That Will Change Your Mind About Sculpture | Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

When visiting the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, you feel as if you’re visiting a noble German uncle that you’ve heard so much about. Along the river Main in Frankfurt, Germany, the museums are lined up neatly in a row. Most were obviously homes at one time. Through an iron gate, you walk along what was once a driveway towards a ‘villa’, what to me seems like a mansion, but ok. In such a big city as Frankfurt, there is a surprising expanse of green grass and landscaping in front. There are outdoor sculptures nestled amongst the trees and shady areas of the yard, distracting the visitor from the front door.

Gründerzeit Architecture
The museum building is a work of art as well. The villa was designed by Munich architect Leonhard Romeis between 1892 and 1896 for the textile manufacturer Heinrich Baron von Liebieg (where Liebieghaus gets its name). The architecture style is called Gründerzeit, which translates to Founder’s Period. During that time, urban housing in Austria and Germany was booming, and entire streets of town homes were being built four to six stories high. Historic periods such as Classical, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque were all being emulated and blended together as part of the larger Historicism movement of the era. In the Liebieghaus in particular, the architect Romeis blended South Tyrolean and the Bamberg Renaissance, and various other styles. What better stage to curate a sculpture museum that covers 5,000 years of history, from Ancient Egypt to Neoclassical than in a villa that was lovingly designed to honor those periods. It's a happy synergy.

Interior of the Liebieghaus museum, a villa designed by Munich architect Leonhard Romeis between 1892 and 1896 for the textile manufacturer Heinrich Baron von Liebieg.

Don’t Repeat My Mistake
I tend to overlook sculptures when I’m in an art museum, so I dismissed visiting the Liebieghaus, an art museum dedicated solely to sculpture, in Frankfurt am Main for years. Over time though, repeatedly the Liebieghaus would come to my attention, either in rave reviews of guide books or from Frankfurt natives. All reports declared that it was exemplary and not to be missed. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me. I was admittedly starting to feel guilty after I’ve visited neighboring Staedel Museum five-six times in the interim! You can read How the Staedel Museum Stole My Heart here if you're curious.

Now, I’m going to be another voice singing the praises of this museum.

Maria Immaculata by Matthias Steinl at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Why? Maybe it's because with only sculptures on display it's easier to absorb them without being distracted by paintings on the wall. Perhaps the dramatic wall colors and high contrast lighting really brings the sculptures to life? In an art museum with both paintings and sculptures it's hard to light both mediums dynamically.

The Adoring Angel by Franz Ignaz Günther at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Regardless, I wasn’t bored, and neither was Sebastian. The museum is the right size, cozy yet grandiose, and you can see a majority of the collection in one visit. The signage is predominately bilingual, German and English, which helps so much. If there’s a special exhibition currently running, be sure to check out the exhibit’s Digitorial online to learn more about what you’ll see. For example, this is what is currently running, Between Definite and Dubious.

Gods in Color
The Liebieghaus collection is the proud parent to a traveling exhibit that has been touring museums all over the world for fifteen years. It dispels the commonly-held belief that classical sculpture from Ancient Greece and Rome have always been white marble. Science and extremely lucky archaeological discoveries have been able to prove otherwise, and the Liebieghaus has gone to such lengths as to present actual-size reproductions in the ‘original color format’ next to the surviving, authentic pieces as part of the museum's permanent collection.. Wow are they bright! It's shocking to see! Here’s the museum’s Digitorial about the exhibit Gods in Color.

Neoclassical Ariadne on the Panther
I’m a cat person. Undeniably my jaw dropped when I saw Ariadne on the Panther. Arguably the most famous and celebrated sculpture in Frankfurt is the Neoclassicist Johann Heinrich Dannecker’s Ariadne on the Panther, a visual play of beauty and mankind conquering wild nature. The Liebieghaus shared the history and restoration of this beloved piece on their blog, The Ariadne File.

Johann Heinrich Dannecker's Ariadne on the Panther in the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Ancient Egypt
I was most excited to see the collection from ancient Egypt, and it lived up to my anticipation. I loved how the museum positioned the mummy lids so that you can see inside the lids as well as the exterior.

Egyptian Antiquities Collection at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

I didn’t expect to see paintings on wood panels from that time period. It's a marvel that such fragile materials survive for so long! During Greek and Roman rule in Egypt, mummy burial customs adapted the ancient Greek painting style into an additional element, a painted portrait on wood panel of the deceased enclosed with the body.

Wood Panel Mummy Portrait at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

One More Thing
You have to see the conservation and restoration workshop video posted by the museum, it's incredible, and has English subtitles!


Have You Been To the Liebieghaus? Have you ever put off a museum only to regret not seeing it sooner when the time came? Let us know in the comments.

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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.

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What You Need to Know Before Visiting Wartburg Castle

Wartburg Castle is more than just a castle, it's a symbol of German unity, and sometimes called the ‘most German castle’, similarly to how (a previous post from us) St. Peter in Frankfurt is called the ‘most German church’. It's a fair assessment when you discover how much happened at this castle! Here are tidbits of history you need to know to get the most out of your visit of Wartburg Castle.

Standing in front of the cistern and bergfried in Wartburg Castle, Germany

Medieval Hilltop Castle Architecture
Any self-respecting medieval castle is built on a hill, and Wartburg Castle is no different. Wartburg castle went through four periods of construction. Hang on to your chair, we’re also going to introduce German castle vocabulary words that might prove helpful during your visit. The German words, as always, will be italicized. The initial building period of the Palas (great hall building) was between 1157-1162. The Romanesque-period gate arch, located inside the Vorburg (front castle) is from 1200. The majority of the Vorburg, which includes the Ritterhaus (knight’s house), Torhaus (tower house), Vogtei (castle bailiff’s lodge), and the sentry walks are all timber framing and built in the late medieval time, 1478-1480. Finally, the last building period, the historicist (1853-1860), included the Bergfried (free-standing fighting tower), Neue Kemente (Fireplace Room), the Torhalle (porch), Dirnitz (heated hall building), Gadam (granary), and the Ritterbad (knight’s bath). During the historicist period the Palas was opulently furnished with the fantastical frescoes of Moritz von Schwind and the Festsaal (festival hall). In 1912-1914, the final addition of the Wartburg hotel was built.

Wartburg is a medieval hilltop castle

What is a Landgrave?
I wouldn’t be surprised if you had never heard of a landgrave before, which means ‘provincial count’. The title was first invented in 1131 solely for the German state of Thuringia, and intended to put landgraves on equal level with dukes, and ultimately could become imperial princes. Becoming a landgrave was in thanks for the dynasty’s help to Saxon Lothar von Süpplingenburg in the election of a king of Germany against Emperor Heinrich V.

If you ever wondered what your room would look like if you were a medieval princess, look no further! Named the Ruler’s Room, although the furniture is not original to the room itself, it's been collected, the effect is jaw dropping. The views of the Thuringia forest from the windows, to the chandelier and the stencil ceilings, it's decadent.

Wartburg Castle Fuerstenzimmer, Ruler's Room

What are Minnesingers?
A minnesinger is a 12th-14th century German lyric poet and singer who performed songs of courtly love. All medieval courts had minnesinger contests, but it's alleged that Wartburg Castle held the most famous contest of the age with the six most famous minnesingers of the time: Walther von der Vogelweide, Wolfram von Escheenbach, Reinmar von Zweter, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Heinrich Schreiber, and Biterolf. When imagining a minnesinger, be on the lookout for one of their instruments in the museum, the Quinterne, a small lute, likely made from a single piece of maple in 1450 with the marks of Hans Oth of Nuremberg, a master craftsman of the time.

Top: Dürer cupboard c. 1515 | Left: Lute from 1450 | Exhibits at the Wartburg Art Collection

St Elizabeth
First, St Elizabeth lived here for most of her life. What you need to know is that Elizabeth was a Hungarian princess who was betrothed to Ludwig IV of the Ludovingians. She was sent to the castle to be groomed as a wife at age four. She gave everything she could to take care of the poor in the surrounding area. If you’d like to read more about St. Elizabeth and the miracles associated with her, click here and you’ll be redirected to a Catholic Encyclopedia article.

The Refuge of Martin Luther
The second reason the Wartburg is a religious destination, is because Martin Luther found refuge here. You can visit the room where he stayed. This is the place where he did some of his life’s best works and translated the New Testament from Greek to German. The castle is fortunate to have a copy from 1541 that belonged to Wolfgang Wesemer with an inscription on the inside cover by Luther himself and his collaborator Philipp Melanchthon.

1817 Wartburg Festival
Four years after the Battle of Nations in 1813, and the 300th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, student corporations met in Eisenach and marched to the Wartburg. They hosted speeches and symbolically burnt items. Five hundred students marched for the creation of a unified German Empire. It is said that one of the fraternity flags from the city of Jena that was carried during the march became the inspiration for the final German flag. You can read more about the stories behind the German flag in our earlier article here.

Where Martin Luther Translated the New Testament From Greek to German | Furnishing are reconstructions

Historicism
Historicism is architecture inspired by and recreates another period’s architecture. In Wartburg Castle’s case, the Romantics were inspired by the medieval architecture and sought to recreate it and expand the castle in the same style. Often, when castles were expanded or renovated, they wanted to replace the out of fashion architecture, in this period they loved it and wanted more of it. Historicist architect Hugo von Ritgen lobbied passionately for the commission to restore and continue building.

Goethe & Museum Treasures
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was emotionally impacted by the castle’s history; he demonstrated this through his writing, letters, and sketches. He hoped there would be a museum installed within the castle that would inspire even more pilgrims to visit. Inspired by Goethe’s idea for a museum and in Goethe’s memory, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna and her son Carl Alexander of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, began the process of a European art collection which would focus on the time period of the castle. Today, the Wartburg Art Museum has collected over 1,000 years of European art from the time of Wartburg Castle’s heyday.

Recommended Souvenir From Wartburg Castle
The souvenir to get from Wartburg is definitely the small booklet (60 pages) about the history of the castle, the architecture, and the legend of St. Elizabeth. The Wartburg, Part of the World’s Heritage by Günter Schuchardt, Translated by Margaret Marks. In such a slim, light volume, there’s a wealth of information alongside historical drawings, paintings, and color photos. Without it, I could not write this post with any credible facts.

Wartburg Vogtei (castle bailiff lodge) has a copy of the late Gothic oriel on the South Side. The Vogtei is where you'll find Martin Luther's room.

Still want to see more? There's certainly more to see! This is a nice video overview of the castle.

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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.

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