The Hauptmarkt (Main Market) is the center of all markets and festivals in Nürnberg. Its beginnings are anything but celebratory. In 1349, Emperor Karl IV, right, who was constitutionally responsible for the protection of Jews in the city, was dependent on Nürnberg for financing and secretly made it known that he would not oppose the town’s plans to rid themselves of debts owed to Jewish moneylenders. Following the example of Swiss and French towns, the Jews were blamed for the plague that threatened the town. The local Jews were forced into their houses, the doors cemented shut, and the whole ghetto set on fire. With the Jews dead and debts cleared, the former ghetto area was used to create the new market square.
Probably to atone for this sin, Karl IV donated the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), Hauptmarkt. This 14th-century Gothic church was the first hall church in the area. More interesting than the church or the art is the carillon. The Männleinlaufen is a set of seven small metal men representing the seven Prince Electors who come out daily at noon to pay homage to the Emperor. It reflects the constitutional decree determined by the Golden Bull of 1356, which determined the seven electors, who could elect the emperor and in return swore allegiance. The symbolism is more interesting than the actual show.
The Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) is a century-old copy of the original late 14th-century Gothic marvel. It stands 19 m (62 feet) high and has 40 colorfully painted statues representing biblical, philosophy and liberal arts, and political figures. Note the Golden Ring, a seemingly seamless copper ring inside the fencing. Tourists turn it three times for good luck – locals know one turn is quite sufficient! (Parts of the original fountain are in the German National Museum.)
The Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) was completed in 1622 in a mixture of High Renaissance and Early Baroque. It also incorporated parts of an earlier 1340 building such as the large reception hall. This is the largest secular building in historic Nürnberg. It has copies of the imperial jewels in the foyer. The building was severely damaged in the war and much of the interior, including Albrecht Dürer’s wall paintings, has not been restored.
The nearby Gänsemännchenbrunnen (Geese Boy Fountain) dates from 1550 and shows a boy carrying a goose under each arm.
St. Sebalduskirche, Albrecht-Dürer- Platz 1, is the largest church in town. It was initially a Late Romanesque triple- nave church, erected in 1230-40, but altered up to the 14th century with Gothic additions. The interior is far more harmonious than the somewhat odd-looking exterior. The church was severely damaged in 1945 but restored – photos with peace messages show some of the damage. The church is filled with art. A highlight is the Gothic St Sebald’s tomb – a 1519 bronze by Peter Vischer. In the chancel and ambulatory are several works by Veit Stoß.
Nürnberg has long been an important player in the toy production market and still hosts a large annual toy trade fair. Admission to this fair is strictly limited to bona fide traders and manufacturers, but open to all is the Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum), Karlstraße13-15. It has displays of toys over the centuries, with historic wooden toys, dolls, mechanical toys, tin toys, and model trains. The upper floor has post-World War II toys, including Lego and Barbies. It is very much a do-not-touch museum, but a special room on the top floor has toys for children to play with while parents look at the historic ones.
Adjacent to St Sebald is the triangular Albrecht Dürer Platz, with an 1840 bronze statue of the great artist. Behind the statue is the entrance to the Nürnberger Felsengänge (Nuremberg Rock-Cut Cellars), Bergstraße 19, huge cellars cut out of sandstone to provide cold storage for beer. The first ones were cut before 1380 and were used up to 1900. Four levels of cellars were cut and, during the air raids ofWorld War II, up to 25,000 people hid here. As with the Art Bunker, there is not much to see other than the bare walls. Note that, even in summer, the temperature stays below 8°C/46°F.
The Stadtmuseum Fembohaus (Fembo House City Museum), Burgstraße 15, is in the best-preserved patrician house in town from the 16th century. Note the large sundial when walking uphill from the Hauptmarkt – Nürnberg still has 32 of its original 73 in working condition. In addition to the usual local history displays, a multimedia 50-minute show brings local history to life. Nürnberg’s position at the heart of Germany and the wealth of artists that lived here during the Middle Ages insure interesting displays.
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