Saturday, July 14, 2012

Heidelberg--churches and prisons

Heidelberg--July 14 . . . to the castle and a few churches along the way.

On Saturday morning, we took the back streets to get to the castle. What charming alleys, ornate facades—and art deco everywhere. Who knew?! When the city was rebuilt in the early 1900s, lots of
the architecture and decoration on the buildings was restored in the early 20th century style.

We came to St. Peter’s church . . . marvelous and very contemporary stained glass; huge paintings of biblical scenes by a friend of Richard Wagner’s stepdaughter (so we were told, a seeming point of pride for the church.) This is a “united church”, the docent said. No more of that separation between Luther and Calvin. Sure enough, in one of the stained glass windows over the altar appear Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Melanchthon, all united and hanging out together. (We do know that in the 1700s, they were certainly all united in persecuting the Anabaptist heresy.) Heidelberg was indeed a stronghold of German Protestantism. The Heidelberg Catechism was inaugurated here in 1563.

St. Peter’s is the university church, the one where the university professors and many students attend. Apparently, the professors typically bring the sermons. I note that there are more evidences of the old Catholic church here . . . decorated altar, a few more icons. The Protestants here did not clear the place out like those stern old Swiss Brethren did.

They have the coolest stained glass in the sanctuary. Made in very recent times (in fact a few of the panes were installed in the past month and the dedication is going to be next week), these windows are very stylized and highly symbolic. The artists among us will enjoy looking for what these windows represent.

Across the street is the University library. I could have stayed there all day. An ancient school, an ancient library building—yet in all the study rooms the book stacks had been replaced with computer cafes. Their current exhibition was ancient manuscripts regarding gods and deities in various cultures.

We took the funicular (the tram) up the hill to the castle. The home of one of seven medieval “royal” families (the electors) who ruled the Palatinate, this is a mammoth complex. Much of it is in ruins but it is still breath taking in its scope and grandeur. A tour revealed glimpses of the kind of life the royals lived as they towered over and looked down upon the farmers below. To build such a mammoth place, the royals not only taxed the people but also required 10% of their crops every month.

After we returned from the castle, we looked up the university bookstore that was on one of the backstreets. It was located in front of the “student prison”. Yes, the student prison. In the old days, unruly students (judged to be disobedient, drunken, disrespectful, or just down right recalcitrant) were put in the prison so they had some time to think things over. What a concept.

The student prison eventually became sort of the cool place to be put—the young and creative can always find a way to turn intended punishment into reward for the rebellious. In later years, the prison walls were painted with graffiti and became something of an avant-garde art gallery. You can now take a tour of the place. (Unfortunately, we were there too late in the day and it was closed.) We consoled ourselves by buying a couple of schneeballen—possibly the biggest and most dense bit of pastry to be found.

Anabaptists streamed into the Palatinate as the persecution in Switzerland increased. This is in some literature referred to as the “Anabaptist diaspora.” The movement fragmented in many directions, led by charismatic if not theologically astute preachers. One may find many tales from places throughout Germany that recount the persecution of the Anabaptists by both Catholics and Protestants. It is here in Germany that the names Michael Sattler, Balthasar Hübmaier, Hans Denck, Thomas Muntzer, and Pilgram Marpeck, et al., rise to the surface.

We find the same thing here that we began to see in Basel. The Anabaptist trail thins out. There are references to the so-called “Magisterial Reformers” (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Melanchthon) but none to the radicals, who were throughout the 16th to the late 19th centuries belittled, demeaned, and hounded throughout this entire region.

We will not see much more of the Anabaptists until we get to Munster—and there we will likely hear the sordid story of the abuses and ugliness of a movement gone terribly awry.

Plaque on the chemistry building where Bunsen invented the Bunsen burner!

The chemistry building itself!

The University Library.

The facade over the entrance to the library. We don't have libraries that look like this.

The temporary exhibition in the library included many ancient books dealing with religion in the Middle Ages. This book is a compendium of all religions. Note the list that is covered. "Cowherdians"?

The entrance to St. Peter's Church.

The front window has the four Reformers: Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Melanchthon.

Nobles are on the left. Reformers are on the right. Jesus is in the middle.

One of the giant pictures painted by Wagner's sort of relative.

Community of Faith window.

Resurrection window.

The Holy Spirit window . . . Pentecost.

The baptism window.

The new Jerusalem . . . the city descending from heaven.

Another view of the Library entrance.

Much of the castle is in ruins. This is just inside the keep.

The upper sections of the old castle--the roof has fallen in. Some restoration is ongoing. Some of it will be left in ruins.

The west side, overlooking the moat from the outer wall which is 40 meters thick and 60 meters high.

Looking down into the hole in the wall, one can see where the French tried to blow up the wall during one of their invasions. Not only was the wall too thick, but the powder they used was not very good.

Ceiling in one of the living areas of the castle.

This is (or was) the largest wine barrel in Europe. It was over 30 feet tall. The nobles liked their wine.

The town and river from the castle.

Description of the main town church.

The main church of the town: Holy Ghost Church. (We never could get inside--there were concerts inside and classic car events outside. These pictures were taken from the outer vestibule.)

Holy Ghost Church of Heidelberg.

The "Student Prison". Ancient idea . . . contemporary application?

The castle hovering over the city of Heidelberg.

The medieval courtyard where we had dinner. Good, stout German food.

Dinner among the ruins.

Schnitzel mit Wirsinggemüsse und Kartoffelbrei


Weinerschnitzel vom Kalbsrücken dazu Rusmarina Kartofflen und Salat


  1. Those modern stained glass windows are interesting. I'm not usually a fan of modern art, but I found the diagrammatic aspects intriguing.

    I like the idea of a student prison though. :) For some reason, it becoming the cool place reminds me of Dadaism (an art movement which began in Zurich during WWI). I'm not sure why except I imagine a lot of those in the prison were intellectuals who just didn't want to apply themselves (can you tell I'm not a huge fan of Dada art, which is characterized by one thing: don't follow rules?)

  2. Dadaism was anarchic and antinomian just for the sake of being so. I can see why your thoughts might go this direction in this context. In my opinion, that particular "art form" runs along the line of silliness. I never developed an appreciation for it, I suppose. Intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals alike easily fall prey to the latest, craziest forms of "self-expression"--a particularly virulent form of self-justified and culturally approved narcissism. Not sure how to apply the concept, but a little jail time, sans painting supplies, might not be a bad idea.