The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


3 Oct 2017
  A Virtual Tour through Mediaeval Erfurt

I had been to Erfurt, the capital of the county of Thuringia, back at the time of analog cameras, and only for a few hours. But it takes more than a few hours to explore all the interesting historical sites, so I always wanted to go back, especially since Erfurt plays such an important role in German Mediaeval history.

Cathedral (left) and St.Severus Church (right)

We'll start with the most iconic view of Erfurt, the two churches and the stairs on the cathedral hill: St.Mary's Cathedral and St. Severus Church. The cathedral is the kernel of the town. The first church on the site was built by St.Boniface in 742. Erfurt belonged to the diocese of Mainz and later the diocese of Paderborn during most of its history, but today the cathedral is the centre of the diocese of Erfurt, which administers mostly the Thuringian Eichsfeld - the rest of the county is predominantly Protestant.

Cathedral, interior

The present building is early Gothic; a three naved hall church (which means all three naves have the same height) without a transept. The choir was added in the 14th century by enlarging the hill by those huge stone arcs called cavates which you can see in the first photo. Until the 19th century, litte houses snuggled inside those large caverns.

Cathedral, the crypt

The crypt, which should rather be called a lower church, was added together with the choir. It is usually not open to the public, but sometimes they'll leave the door open for a bit after an event. I was lucky to catch such a moment, since I have a soft spot for crypts. Crypt and cloister are today used by the University of Erfurt.

The main portal of the cathedral

The portal with the parable of the ten virgins was also added about 1330. The parable tells about ten virgins waiting to escort a bridegroom to the celebration. Five of them brought extra oil for their lamps and so when the bridegroom came, they could follow him. The stupid virgins had to run to the market to buy oil, missed the bridegroom and were excluded from the party. The parable means that one should always be prepared for the Day of Judgement. The motive is quite popular for church portals.

View to the cathedral square

The stairs are a popular place to sit and look down at the cathedral square. Halfway down the hill is a kiosk with a garden, which sells original Thuringian bratwurst and dark beer. Very yummy and just the thing for a little break. The weather produced some spectacular clouds, but there was very little rain.

The Inn to the High Lily at the cathedral square

A particularly pretty house at the cathedral square is the 'Inn to the High Lily' (Gasthaus zur Hohen Lilie). It is first mentioned in a document from 1341, thus making it one of the eldest inns mentioned by name in Europe. The present building dates to the 15th century. Martin Luther stayed there in disguise, as well as King Gustav Adolf II of Sweden and other famous people. I had a lunch snack in the garden restaurant.

Renaissance houses at the Fishmarket

Erfurt lies at the crossing between the Via regia which ran all the way from Santiago de Compostela via Mainz and Frankfurt /Rhine to Kraków, and the trade route from Nuremberg to the Hanseatic towns in the north, so it is not surprising that the town has several markets. The Renaissance houses at the Fishmarket are particularly nice.

Merchant's hose To the Great Paradise and Donkey

This building is somewhat older, a fine example of a half-timbered first floor atop a ground floor and cellar made of stone. It was once the house of a wealthy merchant. Unfortunately, I could not find out where the odd name 'To the Great Paradise and Donkey' comes from.

Woad Storage Hall

From the 13th to 16th century, the production of blue dyes made from woad was one of the foundations of Erfurt's wealth. The woad hall was built in mid-16th century for storage and working of woad. Towards the end of that century, the imported indigo developed into a competition with which the Erfurt woad could not compete in the long run.

The Old Synagogue

The Old Synagogue dates to the 11th century, was rebuilt in 1270 and is thus one of the oldest synagogues in Europe. The synagogue had been abandoned after the progrome from 1349 and put to various other uses. It was converted into a ballroom and bowling alley in the 19th century and therefore survived Hitler's demolition program. The original use of the building was recovered in 1992.

Old synagogue, the Gothic wall

I admit I was pissed that photographing inside the synagogue is not allowed - it is a museum, after all, and not everyone interested in Jewish history can afford to travel to Erfurt. I would have liked to share some more photos with you than just the above and one of the entrance side of the synagogue with its Gothic windows.

The mikveh

But I managed to snatch a shot of the mikveh, which was verboten als well *grin*. The 13th century Jewish ritual bath, which makes use of the fresh water of the Gera river, was discovered in 2007 under a former cemetary. It is one of the eldest in Germany, though the mikveh in Speyer is even older.

Merchants' Bridge

The Merchant's Bridge is the second iconic site in Erfurt. It started with a timber bridge across the Gera river in the 1250ies which was rebuilt in stone in 1325. The bridge is 125 metres long and 20 metres wide, supported by six stone arcs. It had been additionally expanded by timber constructions to allow for three-storeyed houses.

On the Merchants' Bridge

Originally, there were 60 small houses on the bridge, today there are still 32 (some houses have been 'merged'). There are little stores and boutiques on the ground floors, selling handcrafted pottery and carvings, spices, very good ice cream (Goldhelm) and other items. People still live in the upper floors, making the Merchants' Bridge a unique remnant of Mediaeval town architecture and a big tourist attraction.

St.Egidius Church with entrance gate to the Merchants' Bridge,
and the Red Tower

Originally, the Merchant's Bridge was closed by gates. Above the remaining gate sits a little church which dates to the 12th century, though the oriel at the outside is late Gothic. Its separate belfry - an unusual feature in Germany - is known as the Red Tower.

St.Augustine Monastery, the cloister

The Augustine Monastery was founded in 1276. The whole complex of buildings, including a library and a woad storage hall, were finished in 1516. After the Reformation and secularisation (1559), the buildings served various purposes; some of them suffered from neglect. A few of the buildings have recently been replaced with modern ones which fit surprisingly well, but most have been repaired and reconstructed. Since 2004, the former monastery serves as religious community centre. The church and some other parts can be visited during guided tours.

St. Augustine Monastery, refectory

The Augustine Monastery is famous because Martin Luther stayed there as monk 1505 - 1511; he then moved to Wittenberg (where he had his 95 theses nailed to the church portal in 1517). Little did he suspect he would change the religious landscape of Germany and Europe when he first studied the Bible and other writings in his cell.

Collegium Maius

The Collegium Maius was the old university of Erfurt, the third eldest in Germany after Heidelberg and Cologne. It was officially acknowledged by the pope in 1392 and offered studies in four faculties: Theology, Philosophy, Law, and Medicine. The university was closed in 1816, and the building destroyed during WW2, but it was re-erected in the 1980ies. Since 1999, there is a university in Erfurt again (though it uses other buildings).

St.Michael's Church

St. Michael's Church dates to the 12th century, but - as so often with old churches - it was rebuilt in Gothic style in the 15th century. It was used as church of the university since 1392. Martin Luther held sermons there 1522 and the church became the first stronghold of the preachers of the Reformation in Erfurt.

Dominican Church (Predigerkirche), interior

The Dominican Church, also known als Predigerkirche (Preachers' Church) was once part of a 13th century Dominican monastery. It is another fine example of the early Gothic style and another hall church without a transept. Today it serves as the main Protestant church in Erfurt. It is less tourist infected than the cathedral, but I recommend a look inside; it's pretty in a somewhat austere way.

Ruins of the Franciscan Church (Barfüsserkirche)

Erfurt was littered with churches and monasteries in the Middle Ages. Not all of them survived the passage of time, but the more important ones were repaired after the damage of WW2. The 14th century Franciscan Church belonged to a monastery which already had been damaged during the Thirty Years War. The church was deliberately left a ruin after WW2, as memorial of the war.

Mill at the Gera river

The present mill dates to 1736, but there has been a mill at the site since the 13th century. It was in use as corn mill until 1982; the last remnant of a whole set of mills at the Gera river.

I hope you liked the little tour. There will be more detailed posts about some of the sites.
 
Comments:
Loved seeing all the photos of beautiful Erfurt. Visited there for five days about 2017 and loved it. It was wonderful to see an old city that hadn't suffered destruction during WWII.

 
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The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, the Baltic Countries, and central Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.


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Location: Goettingen, Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History, interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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Dog Sledding With Huskies
Eagles and Gulls in the Trollfjord


The Baltic Sea

A Baltic Sea Cruise

The Curonian Spit in Lithuania
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Geology of the Curonian Spit



Mediaeval History

General Essays

by Country
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- Scotland
- Wales
- Denmark
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- Sweden
- Livonia
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- Bohemia
- Luxembourg
- Flanders

Roman History

The Romans at War
Famous Romans
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Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age
Post-Mediaeval History
History and Literature
Geology


Mediaeval History

General Essays

Mediaeval Warfare

Sieges
Trebuchets

Weapons
Late Mediaeval Swords

Mediaeval Art and Craft

Mediaeval Art
The Choir Screen in the Cathedral of Mainz
The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
The Hunting Frieze in Königslutter Cathedral
Mediaeval Monster Carvings
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

Craftmanship
Goldsmithery
Medical Instruments

Feudalism

The History of Feudalism
The Beginnings
Feudalism in the 10th Century

Special Cases
The privilege of the deditio

The Hanseatic League

The History of the Hanseatic League
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Hanseatic Architecture
Examples of Brick Architecture
Hall Houses (Dielenhäuser)

Goods and Trade
Stockfish Trade

Towns of the Hanseatic League
Riga
Stralsund
Tallinn / Reval

The Order of the Teutonic Knights

Wars and Battles
The Conquest of Danzig
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

The Vikings

Viking Material Culture
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

Viking Ships
The Nydam Ship


Essays by Country

Germany

Geneaology

List of Mediaeval German Emperors
Anglo-German Marriage Connections

Kings and Emperors

The Salian Dynasty
King Heinrich IV

Staufen against Welfen
Emperor Otto IV

Princes and Lords

House Welfen
Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors
The Dukes of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen
Otto the Quarrelsome of Braunschweig-Göttingen

The Landgraves of Thuringia
The Ludowing Landgraves of Thuringia
Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia

Dukes and Princes of other Families
Duke Otto of Northeim
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus

Counts and Local Lords
The Marshals of Ebersburg
The Counts of Everstein
The Counts of Hohnstein
The Lords of Plesse
The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

Feuds and Rebellions

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg

Local Feuds
The Lüneburg Succession War
The Thuringian Succession War
The Star Wars


England

Kings of England

House Plantagenet
Richard Lionheart in Speyer
King Henry IV's Lithuanian Crusade

Normans, Britons, Angevins

Great Noble Houses
The Dukes of Brittany
The Earls of Richmond

Contested Borders

Northumbria
King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


Scotland

Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War, Part 1
King David and the Civil War, Part 2

Houses Bruce and Stewart
The Early Stewart Kings

Local Troubles

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding

Scotland and England

The Wars of Independence
Alexander of Argyll
The Fight for Stirling Castle


Wales

Welsh Princes

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

Wales and England

A History of Rebellion
Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Denmark

Kings of Denmark

House of Knýtlinga
Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

Danish Rule in the Baltic Sea

The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


Norway

Kings of Norway

Foreign Relations
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages
King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

Feuds and Rebellions

Rebels
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

Troubles and Alliances

Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


Livonia
(Latvia and Estonia)

Contested Territories

Livonian Towns
The History of Mediaeval Riga
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuania

Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390


Poland

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig


Bohemia

Royal Dynasties

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
King Sigismund and the Hussite Wars


Luxembourg

House Luxembourg
King Sigismund


Flanders

More to come


Roman History

The Romans at War

Forts and Fortifications

The German Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg

The Hadrian's Wall
Introduction
The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend

Border Life
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Campaigns and Battles

Maps
The Romans in Germania

The Pre-Varus Invasion in Germania
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction

Roman Militaria

Armour
Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

Weapons
Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum
Daggers
Swords

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles


Famous Romans

The Late Empire

Alaric
The Legend of Alaric's Burial


Roman Life and Religion

Religion and Public Life

Religion
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms
Isis Worship
Memorial Stones
The Mithras Cult

Public Life
Roman Transport: Barges
Roman Transport: Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Architecture
Roman Public Baths

Domestic Life

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots


Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Germany

Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
The Hutewald Project in the Solling
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Neolithic Remains
Stone Burials of the Funnelbeaker Culture
The Necropolis of Oldendorf

Bronze Age / Iron Age
The Nydam Ship

Scotland

Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Bronze Age / Iron Age
Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Their Function in Iron Age Society

Scandinavia

Bronze / Iron Age
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd / Gotland


Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)


History and Literature

Germany

The Weimar Classicism
Introduction


Geology

Geological Landscapes: Germany

Baltic Sea Coast
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

Harz Mountains
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs
Sandstone Formations: Daneil's Cave
Sandstone Formations: Devil's Wall
Sandstone Formations: The Klus Rock

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations
Salt Springs at the Werra

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

Geological Landscapes: Great Britain

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Geological Landscapes: Baltic Sea

Lithuania
Geology of the Curonian Spit

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite (Czechia)



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