German Cities – Merseburg
Merseburg is a small eastern German city located on the River Saale, and belongs to the state of Saxony-Anhalt. The city’s population is not much more than 34 thousand people. The area that Merseburg occupies is just over 36 km.
Historical information about Merseburg
At the time of its founding, Merseburg was on the border between the Germanic settlements that had been pushed eastward and the Slavic settlements. Since the 6th century, in Frankish times, the city was a fortress that protected the inhabitants from the Slavic-Serbs. The ancient part of Merzeburg, in the early 10th century belonged to Count Erwin, who was the father-in-law of King Henry I (who was the father of his first wife, Hateburga). During the reign of Henry I, the importance of Merseburg increased. The city became a major fortress that served as a defense against Hungarians and Slavs.
The beginning of the 10th century brought changes to the city. The victories over the Slavs, which took place in 928-929 moved the center of confrontation between the peoples to another place, to the line of the Elbe River. The construction of Meissen fortress also contributed to this. During these years Merserburg was subordinate to the margrave Gero the Iron, later, after the death of the latter in 965, to the margrave Günther. He ruled the city from 965 to 974.
Spurred on by his victory over the Hungarians at the river Lech, Emperor Otto I the Great promised to establish a new bishopric in Merseburg. In 962 Pope John XII officially sanctioned this. But in fact the bishopric at Merseburg did not arise until 968. It became part of the metropolis of Magdeburg.
For years Merseburg was considered the most polluted city in the GDR. The area around the city was littered with ugly coal pits and chemical plants. The air was very polluted from the operation of the chemical plants. Industrial waste was thrown into the river Saale and that caused the river to take on unusual colors.
In GDR times, there were Buna-Werke plants near the city, which produced synthetic fibers, rubber, aviation kerosene, carbides, as well as raw materials necessary for the production of plastics. Quite close to Merseburg were the Leuna-Werke plants. All this had a great impact on the environment of the city. A cloud of toxic industrial emissions constantly hung over the city. In order to make sure that all factory workers were provided with housing around the city, “sleeping quarters” were built, which were ugly identical concrete boxes.
After the annexation of the GDR to Germany, the situation in the city improved considerably. Enormous sums were invested in improving the life of the city. The obsolete factories were abolished, and the working factories were equipped with advanced machinery. The city was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. The ecological situation was stabilized, and the water in the river became clean.
Sightseeing in Merseburg
Merseburg is trying its best to preserve its historical heritage. After the unification of Germany, all architectural and historically significant monuments of the city were restored. Among the main attractions of Merseburg is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It was built in 1015 by Henry II.
In the past almost a thousand years, the cathedral has seen more than forty bishops. Many famous personalities have come to the cathedral. Such personalities include the famous Martin Luther. Nowadays the cathedral is still working and you can come here and listen to the organ music, which is played on a huge and quite famous organ, which was admired by Franz Liszt himself. The organ is truly impressive in size. It consists of five thousand and seven hundred pipes and eighty-one registers.
Another famous attraction is the Bishop’s Palace, popularly called the Castle of the Black Raven. There is a quite famous and very instructive legend about this castle. Once upon a time, according to some sources in the 15th century, the owner of the castle was Bishop Thilo von Trota.
The story tells of how he went to rest and took off his precious ring, placing it on the windowsill. Upon waking up, Tilo von Troth did not find the ring. He was terribly angry, so he assumed it had been stolen by his faithful servant. The servant was naturally executed by beheading.
Some time passed. The roof of the castle was being repaired and a crow’s nest was discovered. In the nest lay the bishop’s precious ring. Then Thilo von Troth realized that he had judged and punished an innocent man. He bitterly repented. Then he ordered a black raven, which holds a golden ring in its beak, to be placed on his shield and crest.
It is not known how true this story, because the image of a raven with a gold ring in his beak, is on the emblems belonging to this family, even from the 14th century. But nevertheless, it is believed that it is from that time that the black crows inhabiting the Merseburg Castle live in cages. They live there even today. In 2006, a spacious aviary was built for them to walk behind the cage. And the old crow who lived in the castle cage was even found a mate.
Centuries have passed and crows have settled all over Merseburg. Their images can be found everywhere, from fences to images on houses and monuments. It’s as if they’re a warning not to jump to conclusions.
Another peculiar attraction of the city is the 12th meridian that passes through the city. It is next to a building built for ceremonial meetings in the 18th century. There is a commemorative sign near it that reminds you of the 12th meridian. It’s nice to know that a meeting with the person you love can be scheduled not at a standard cafe, but at the 12th meridian. It sounds much more romantic and more memorable.
There is also an aviation museum in Merseburg. The museum is open even on Sunday off for all of Germany. Entrance to the museum is 5 euros. For photographing will have to pay extra, another 50 euros. The museum is located on the airfield. The complex includes several hangars to which attached additional buildings, which have exhibits of auto-moto equipment. There are also several exhibits in the open air. The area of the museum is fenced, very clean and well maintained. There is a cafe on the territory where you can relax from viewing the exhibits and eat something tasty.
The museum contains not only aviation exhibits, but also collections of cars and motorcycles, and in addition there are collections of models of various equipment, symbols, badges and many other things.
Another thing that has made Merseburg famous among tourists is the Merseburg Spells. No one ever thought that such a find could be found in this small town. The find was discovered in the library of the Merseburg Cathedral. The event took place in 1841. The ancient manuscripts were written in the ancient Germanic language. After the find, linguistic research began. It was determined that the manuscripts dated back to the 9th-10th century. Linguists were very surprised and interested in the content of the manuscripts. Incredibly, they were ancient magical incantations.
The first spell found describes the release of a prisoner of war with the help of the goddesses of Era. This meaning is encapsulated in three verses. The final stanza of the first manuscript contains the spell itself. The second incantation deals with the healing of a horse that had dislocated its leg. The verses in this manuscript tell how the four goddesses try unsuccessfully to heal the leg of the horse Baldr. But only the god Vodan succeeds in helping the horse. And the final three verses of the second manuscript contain a spell to heal the dislocation. In general, the meaning of the incantations boils down to asking the great gods for help.
The incantations have been translated into various languages of the world. But it was the Grimm Brothers who first translated the manuscripts into literary German. They did so in 1842 and reported their translation at a lecture that took place at the Royal Academy of Sciences. There is a belief that it is these spells that have protected Merseburg for all the centuries since they were written.
The city makes a very good impression on tourists: the abundance of flowers in the windows of German houses, beautiful and well-maintained private homes in the yards which are sure to have a small pond in which lilies bloom. All these nice home attributes create the very, inexpressible, atmosphere of Merseburg. A very cozy and pretty town to relax in. Source
Merseburg in Germany, city sights
Merseburg: “Shine and Poverty.
The small German city of Merseburg / Merseburg, with 35 thousand residents, is located 30 km from Leipzig. It is one of the oldest cities in central Germany. In the documents Merseburg as a fortified settlement is first mentioned in the 9th century.
In 919, King Henry I ordered a royal palace to be built in Merseburg, and this residence was used by German kings and emperors until the 13th century.
In 968 a bishopric was founded in Merseburg, and in 1021 a bishop cathedral was already consecrated, built on a high hill on the bank of the river Saale.
Later the cathedral was repeatedly rebuilt.
Its present appearance was finally formed by the end of the 15th century.
The interiors of the cathedral also bear the imprints of different epochs and styles.
The Romanesque font, decorated with figures of apostles and prophets, dates back to about 1180.
The Gothic wooden seats for the clergy are from the mid-15th century.
The pulpit for the sermons already appeared during the Renaissance period, in 1520.
The Baroque main altar was installed in 1668.
A little younger than that is the magnificent organ from the beginning of the 17th century.
It is simply impossible to describe the abundance of items of church art that fill the walls of the cathedral.
The gravestones from the 11th-19th centuries in the church are especially varied.
The crypt under the cathedral is a remnant of an 11th-century structure.
Through the cloister you can go to the chapter house, built in the 12th century.
Directly by the walls of the Cathedral is a large and very beautiful palace complex.
In the 13th century, the first bishop’s palace was built on the site of the royal palace. In the 15th century instead there was a new building, in plan repeating the previous one.
In 1605-1608, when Merseburg was the capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Merseburg, the then ruling duke expanded and rebuilt the palace in the late Renaissance style.
The entrance to the palace complex is decorated with an ornate portal.
The portal leads to the first courtyard of the palace.
In the courtyard a birdcage gazebo catches your eye at once.
The legend of the stolen golden bishop’s ring has been around for centuries. The bishop’s butler was accused of the theft and executed. The ring was later found in a nest of crows.
Saddened by his injustice to the servant, the bishop ordered the raven to be put in a specially built cage in the courtyard. Since then, the ravens have traditionally lived in the castle. It is true that now for a couple of crows a spacious mesh aviary is attached to the cage-bedroom.
From the first courtyard, an arched passage leads to the vast courtyard of the palace.
Three sides of the courtyard frame the enclosures of the palace.
The fourth side of the enclosed courtyard is the wall of the Cathedral.
In one corner of the courtyard is a well.
Unfortunately, there is only one very small museum in the castle.
Most of the palace complex is occupied by the local administration and music school.
For centuries, the cathedral and palace complex was surrounded by a wall of fortifications, erected in 1430. Now of all the fortifications have survived only heavily rebuilt in the late 19th century gate, which was in the outer wall and led from the castle to the city.
In 1661, on the terrace of the hill adjacent to the castle, was laid out a palace park.
In 1730 on the opposite side of the park from the castle was built Pavilion for the organization of festivities.
The paths from the ground floor, situated on a hill, lead to the cool, shady bank of the River Saale.
On the other side of the ground, the street is dominated by an imposing building, the “Ständehaus”, which was erected in 1895 for the parliament of the Prussian province of Saxony.
In 1815, following the Congress of Vienna, Merseburg was incorporated into Prussia and became the center of Prussian Saxony (not to be confused with the Kingdom of Saxony!).
Though, hand on heart, the city itself doesn’t hold much sway not only as the capital, but even as a district center. After the brilliance of Merseburg’s cathedral and palace complex, the streets are greying and dismal.
Among the totally faceless buildings and absurd organization of streets and squares the old town hall of 15-16th century looks a little bit strange.
And the fountain, which appeared on the Market Square / Marktplatz in the middle of the 16th century, looks like a sham.
The parish church of St. Maximi / Stadtkirche St. Maximi seems bewildered at the chaos going on around it.
The building of the church itself dates back to the 15th century, and the tall 74-meter tower was added in the 19th century.
Another of Merseburg’s oldest churches is in the outer ward, called the Neuemarkt (New Market).
The church of St. Thomas / Neuemarktkirche St. Tomae was built in 1188.
The church is a Romanesque cruciform basilica with a well preserved Romanesque interior.
This is all that remains of the historic center of the oldest city of central Germany. Therefore if you are short of time it is quite possible to confine yourself only to visit the brilliant cathedral and palace ensemble, and not waste your precious time walking through the dull streets of Merseburg.
And if you have time and wish, taking into account that Merseburg is a small town and all the above-mentioned places of interest are situated in 5-10 minutes walking from the Cathedral, a walk through the historic center of the city will not take much time.