My mother owns an embroidered painting which her mother created as a young girl and which now hangs in my parents’ living room. The painting shows a landscape: a lake with a tower and a bridge in the background. When I asked my mother about it, she told me that she believed it was somewhere in Nuremberg which is the Bavarian city my grandmother was born in.
Thanks to information I got through the German ‘Ahnenforschung’ forum (http://forum.ahnenforschung.net/showthread.php?t=60423) I was able to find out more about the river,the island, the two bridges, the buildings and the direct surroundings which are depicted in this painting. Let’s first take a closer look at the following screenshot which I took via Google Earth (read its caption):
The Pegnitz river: The two bridges bridge the Pegnitz River which is a small river in Franconia in the German federal state of Bavaria. The Pegnitz river has its source in the city of the same name which lies at an altitude of 425 m. The river meets the Rednitz river at 283 m northwest of Fürth. From that point on the river is called Regnitz.
The ‘Henkersteg’: The bridge in the north connects the Maxplatz with the ‘Trödelmarkt’ (flea market), which is the island in the Pegnitz. In the South another bridge, which is called the ‘Henkersteg’ (Hangman’s Bridge) and which you cannot see on the painting, connects the same island with the Unschlittplatz. In 1457 a wooden jetty was built for pedestrians over the southern outflow of Pegnitz in the second last city wall. The bridge received the name Henkersteg since it started next to the Henkerturm in the middle. During the flood of 1595, ice and ice jams caused damages to the bridges over the Pegnitz. The collapse of the hangman bridge at the end of January 1595 cost eight onlookers their lives as they were swept along with the bridge by the floods. After the flood the three arches of the second last city fortifications were torn down and the Henkersteg was rebuilt further west than before. Since then the Henkersteg ends in the Unschlittplatz. In the years 1657, 1671, 1761 and 1776 the Hangman’s Bridge was renovated or rebuilt. After heavy war damage of the World War, the bridge was reconstructed in 1954. In 2000, it became a stop as part of the Historical miles in Nuremberg on the occasion of the 950th birthday of the city (the ‘Historische Meile Nürnberg’ (see: www.historische-meile.nuernberg.de) is a cultural historical city walking tour). Let’s now start our walk over the bridge from the north, which is the stone constructed bridge we can see on the embroidery, towards the island and then towards the other end of the Henkersteg to the Unschlittplatz. The Weinstadel: The house which we see on the embroidery is called the ‘Weinstadel’ (Wine Store). The tower next to the house is a water tower, a typical German timber house, which is, just like the Henkersteg, part of the Historischen Meile Nurnberg. The Weinstadel’s imposing two-story timber-framed building with a massive gable roof which stands on a sandstone base, was built from 1446 to 1448 outside the second last city fortifications. It served each year for three days during the holy week as a place where lepers were housed and fed. Since it was only used during the holy week, nuns from Pillenreuth found here refuge in times of war (for example during the Markgrafenkriege). When the lepra hospital was transferred in 1575 to St. Johannis, the building could be used more profitably: it was used over the years by artisans, by poor families, as a woman-spinninghouse and as a hospital accommodation . The ground floor served from about 1571 as a rich urban wine store which gave the house its present name . The hospital accommodation moved in 1627 to the newly acquired “Schauhaus” (show house) (today: Lottergasse, Ottostrasse). During the bombing on 3 October 1944 the building was damaged by explosive bombs and in 1950 the Wine Store was converted, along with the structurally bandaged water tower, to a dorm for the students in Nuremberg. Let’s continue our walk over the bridge to the island in the middle where the ‘Henkerhaus’ (The Executioner’s House) stands.
The Trödelmarktinsel: The ‘Trödelmarktinsel’ (flea market island) is the island in the Pegnitz river . Over time the location had several names; in the 15th century the island and market were called “Säumarkt” (pig market) because the pig market was held on that island. Since the 16th century there was a market of old and second hand goods which is why in 1809/1810 the name of the island was changed into the Trödelmarkt (flea market). The characteristic buildings, narrow rows of houses with stalls in the front, were completely destroyed by air raids in 1945. After the war they rebuild the houses while trying to recreate the old types of construction. Since 2001 the ‘Bardentreffen’ (see: www.bardentreffen.de), which is an Open-Air-Music festival, takes places on the Trödelmarkt.
The ‘Henkerhaus’: The tower, which is on the westside of the island, is called the ‘Henkerturm’ (=executioner’s tower) or ‘Henkerhaus’ (=executioner’s house). Between the 16th and the 19th century the Nuremberg hangman lived in this tower since he had to live in a segregated accommodation within the city. This is because his trade was considered ‘dishonest’. Up until the Age of Enlightenment citizens avoided any physical contact with the hangman in order not to be excluded from the Christian community. Nowadays this tower houses the Henkerhaus museum (http://henkerhaus-nuernberg.de). The exhibition in the rooms of the former executioner’s house presents Nuremberg’s criminal history. It tells about the job of executioner. It also elaborates on the most famous executioner of the city, namely Franz Schmidt. Franz Schmidt (1555 – 1634), also known as Meister Franz, was executioner in the region of Bamberg from 1573 to April 1578, and from 1 May 1578 till the end of 1617 executioner of Nuremberg. He left a diary in which he detailed the 361 executions he performed during his 45 years in office through which we get an insight into the everyday life of the city of Nuremberg around 1600. When we now continue our walk from the Trödelmarkt – with its shops, the Henkerhaus, et cetera – over the bridge towards the south, we get towards the Unschlitthaus on the Unschlittplatz.
The Unschlitthaus: 76 roof hatches ensure the ventilation of the corn storage floors. The building derives its name from the “Tallow Office” (Unschlitt is German for tallow) which moved here in 1562. A municipal monopoly obliged butchers to sell their tallow only to the Tallow Office. The Unschlitthaus was built in 1491 by Hans Beheim the Elder who built it as one of the seven “granaries” stores erected by the City Council in the 15th century. Its name comes from the tallow which was located on the ground floor from 1562 to 1835 and also for the reason that it housed the municipal authority which held a monopoly for tallow. Tallow was used up to the 19th century as raw material for candles, soap, cart grease and shoe polish and was thus of great importance. Between 1839 and 1899 the building served as a school and as an ‘eichamt’ (weights and measures verification office) and in 1899 the municipal pawnshops moved in. The southern part of the roof truss, including the impressive roof structure, is in its original condition. A bombardment on the 2nd January 1945 destroyed the northern part of the Unschlitthaus which was later reconstructed. Today you’ll find there, in addition to the pawnshop,the ‘Amt für Stadtforschung und Statistik’ (Bureau of Statistics) and the ‘Wahlamt’ (the Wahlamt is an office, usually located in the town hall, that is responsible for organizing elections).
Update: During my trip in Bayern in September 2014, when I visited Würzburg, Höchberg, Fürth, Nürnberg, Kolmsdorf, Walsdorf, Lisberg, Trabelsdorf and Bamberg, I also visited the Trodelmarkt and saw the Henkersteg, which unfortunately was closed then since it was open only a few days per week.
Here are two photo´s which I took during my trip:
Sources and further reading:
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:De_Merian_Frankoniae_090.jpg (no 38 is Felischbruccke, to its left is the island) Map of Nuremberg, 1648