Thursday, 1 October 2015

Visiting Marienberg Fortress Würzburg

Here we go again, time for part one of my coverage of our trip to Würzburg. Most important we spent a couple of wonderful days with two of our oldest and dearest friends. Their hospitality was outstanding and we enjoyed to be with them once more. Unfortunately little Anna refused to sleep as calmly as usual. As her larger sister a couple of years ago she seems to be sick of the portacrib.
Marienberg Fortress southern side (picture from Wikipedia)
Under those wonderful conditions we undertook two trip which might matter to you. Thus first for our trip to Marienberg Fortress which is lying above River Main opposite to Würzburg city. The oldest parts of the castle were built by Konrad von Querfurt who was bishop of Würzburg during those days. Interestingly its main purpose was to protect himself against the defiant population of Würzburg who wasn't always eagerly accepting the orders and taxes the bishops imposed on them. The last reminder of the old castle that burnt down during the 16th century or was converted to more modern architecture is the keep in the middle of the fortress:
The old castle keep. Left hand there is the newer chappel of Marienberg Fortress.
Thus most of the fortress is much younger. It has a very turbulent history during which it was attacked and besieged several times. For example unsuccessfully during the German Peasant's War in 1525, successfully during the Thirty Years' War in 1631 and once again successfully during the Prussian Main Campaign in 1866. Simoultaneously it was residence of the bishops of Würzburg and prison during the witchcraft trials. All in all a really interesting place but its decent history would go beyond the constraints of this humble article.

However nowadays most of the structural parts of the fortress date back to the great renovation and expansion performed under guidance of Prince-bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn (16th century) and Archbishop-Elector Johann Philipp von Schönborn (17th century):
Schönborn Gate named after the influential bishop.
Echter Gate named after the other builder of the modern parts of the fortress.
Princes' Building with museum, restaurant and conference centre.

The Fürstenbau (Princes' Building) is inhabiting the fortress' museum. Since we had some time until the guided tour started we took a look there and enjoyed the remains of the last centuries. The museum is embracing the rooms of the former dwelling of the archbishops and thus presents predominantly things of daily life such as chests, tapestries, sacred tools like crosses, monstrances and Eucharistic vestments. But alltogether a wonderful collection of craftsmanship and history:
An artistic chest. There were a couple of such wonderful carpentry pieces.
An oven.
One of the richly embroidered vestments which are shown there.
One of formely mentioned Johann Philipp von Schönborns successors.
And another later Prince-bishop of Würzburg.
But one of the most impressive pieces there was a tapestry showing the Echter family in 1563. It is one of largest and oldest German dynastry tapestries in such good condition. The tapestry shows origin and family of formaly mentioned Prince-bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn. It's full of symbols like the pelican with the heart standing for love, a dog symboling loyalty, a hare for fertility and a portrayal of the Holy Trinity showing the family's catholic confession.
Echter tapestry. Don't forget to enlarge this picture!
On the left hand side there are the male members of the family beginning with Julius' father. Julius is the second-born son depicted at the age of 19. On the right hand side there are the female members of the family lead by mother Gertraut. Interestingly Julius' sister Mary who died at the age of 1 is depicted as a young girl of appropriate age. But she's bearing a cross in her hands to symbolise their earlier passing. Interestingly there are two servants of the family pictured as well. Michel on the male side and Kristina on the female side. Both are supposed highly appreciated by the Echter family based on the honour to be eternalised with their masteries.
Honestly I'm not used to contemplate pictures too long. But this one really caught my attention. It's precisely described in the museum and it was a wonderful experience to find all those details - and some more - on the tapestry.

On the upper floor the museum there are some smaller exhibits: Coats of arms, archaeological finds and smaller pieces of historical importance:
Seal of Würzburg from 1560
Record of ovation of the population of Würzburg towards Bishop Johann II. von Brunn from 20th August 1428
Ceremonial keys of Würzbug
Wooden balls from the 13th or 14th century
Most eye-catching pice on the upper floor is however a diorama of Würzburg in 1525 during the German Peasants' War. It's manufacture took 14 years from 1953 to 1967 and was performed by Georg Achatz and Karl Steinbauer. The scenery is based on drawings by Dr.h.c. Franz Seberich. It's made in 1:500 scale so between 3mm and 6mm whereas closer to 3mm:
Würzburg in 1525. Don't forget to enlarge this picture!
On the homepage of the University of Würzburg there are a couple of additional pictures of this awesome piece and some virtual stuff as well. Although the texts seem to be in German only it's worth a look I thin: Here.

Afterwards we took a guided tour. It covers mostly the external works of the fortress and some interesting buildings like the chappel and the fountain as well. Our guide seemed extremely studied and delivered a lot of interesting background information. Especially the fountain which reaches 104 metres (over 300 yards) through the mountain was a highlight for young and old.
The chappel is bearing parts of the remains of some bishops of Würzburg.
The Principal garden.
A wonderful view over Würzburg.
After the tour we took a well-deserved rest and had lunch at the fortress restaurant. A couple of Nürnberger Würstchen with farmhouse bread and sauerkraut helped to recharge our batteries as well as a glass of local beer. A very tasty pils from a brewery just around the corner. Although we could have spent another our or two at the fortress we then headed to Würzburg city because dear Mrs Monty had a date with her dear friend Anja there.

As usual - or at least most of the time - our girls were good as gold. Anna used to toddle through the museum pointing at anything of interest and calling it 'Da!' while her larger sister had a look at most of the exhibits. I'm not sure whether all of them were that interesting for a five year old but from time to time she asked questions like 'How did the workers get out of that deep fountain hole?'. Most of them were fascinatingly deep and a couple of them somehow unpleasant 'What is an executioner?'... 

At least we spent a wonderful day there and I cannot recommend Fortress Marienberg enough for a day trip when near Würzburg!

Now last but not least one of my favourite pictures of the day:
Viktoria taking a short rest in the museum.
During the next days I'll sort out a couple of pictures that I took on my second day trip. My buddy Rick and me visited the Bavarian Army Museum in Ingolstadt and had a look at their current exhibition of Napoleon in Bavaria. I hope you enjoyed this short report and will enjoy the next one as well.


  1. Beautiful pictures but that diorama pic was awesome!

  2. What a beautiful place to visit, stunning scene over Wurzburg.

  3. What a fantastic spot, reminds me a little of when I visited Heidelberg about a decade ago.
    Thanks for sharing Stefan!

  4. Thanks for sharing this. Looks a great place to visit.

  5. Very cool images; I can see why the old Warhammer Fantasy fluff about the fictional Marienberg got its start.

  6. Many thanks, chaps!
    It's indeed a very interesting place to visit. I'm glad that you like my humble report.