From the life of Mary
In the middle ages the Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) stood outside the city walls. Its founding year is said to be 1349. Funded with the expiation fee for an attack by Friedrich von Biberstein and donations from citizens who contracted the plague, it was built as a chapel and named “Church of our Lady Outside the City” in 1368 because Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the patron saint of this church. The first building was destroyed by the Hussites’ attacks, but it was rebuilt in the late Gothic style.
The eleven keystones in the reticulated vault of the central aisle show reliefs with scenes of the life of Mary and four other virgin saints. Today, on Christmas eve, Mary holds the infant Jesus in her arms.
Moller’s lime tree at Nikolai graveyard
“When I have died, plant a young lime tree on my grave with its trees in the ground. As certain as this tree will grow I have always taught and preached the pure Word of God.”
These were the words of pastor Moller on his deathbed. Malicious voices had claimed that Martin Moller did not always spread the Word of God just as Luther would have wished – a dangerous accusation as Görlitz was a purely Lutheran city since the last third of the 16th century.
The tree, however, thrived and prospered and even today, after 400 years, the magnificent Moller lime tree that once took root against all nature can be admired at the Nikolai graveyard in Görlitz.
From Flüsterbogen (whispering arch) to Hotherstrasse
Gottfried Kiesow, the founder of the German Foundation for Monument Protection (Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz) called Görlitz “the most beautiful city in Germany”. As one of very few medieval German cities Görlitz did not suffer devastating destruction during World War II. This is the reason why Görlitz is a unique conservation area. Almost 4000 (!) buildings of different age and style are registered protected monuments. During a walk through the city the many elaborate sandstone portals particularly catch the visitor’s eye.
Hermes and DHL
An entire place was named after the new post office that was built as the centre of modern, state-of-the-art news transmission in Görlitz. On both sides of the roof allegorical figures in the classical style refer to all aspects of post and telecommunication; the globe is the symbol of the Universal Postal Union, the woman with the telephone refers to the modern, post horn and horse to the old times.
In the course of time
A fine network of lines covers the astronomical sundial at the Ratsapotheke (council’s pharmacy). Some of them show the so-called Babylonian hours – although the Babylonians never used them. Unlike the Italian hours which start counting the hours in the evening they count the hours beginning at sunrise in 24 hours of equal length.
The astronomer, mathematician and mayor Scultetus once welcomed a prestigious guest from Prague; with the wise Rabbi Löw he discussed the Jewish calendar system according to which the day starts and ends in the evening – the reason why Shabbat starts on Friday evening.
The fishes are part of the 12 signs of the zodiac on the left part of the sundial.
The most beautiful butcher’s shop
A more explicit mark was used by the butchers’ guild; a bull’s head with two intersecting meat cleavers was the sign of their profession. At the Art Nouveau butcher’s shop in Bismarckstrasse this sign has been skillfully painted onto the porcelain tiles. The shop with its 30 m2 sales room was opened in 1911. The entire room is covered in coloured tiles showing the different stages in the production of meat and sausages. The original tiles were produced by Villeroy & Boch.
I was here!
It is not just a modern whim to scratch your initials into the bark of a tree or park benches. For centuries visitors were tempted to leave their marks at the sights they visited. At the Holy Grave in Görlitz medieval pilgrims have also used sanguine and left for example a pretty, opulent pretzel with a crown in the stone and a key, both accompanied by dates of the 15th century. The crowned pretzel is the guild mark of the baker’s guild; the key may indicate that locksmiths visited the grave.
The astronomical traditions of Görlitz go back to the times of the Renaissance. This is documented not only by the clocks at the Untermarkt but also by the life and works of Bartholomaeus Scultetus, scholar and once the Lord Mayor of Görlitz, who kept academic correspondences with famous astronomers of his time like Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe and worked as a teacher at the local Gymnasium Augustum at Klosterplatz. The new building for this school – including a tower used as an observatory – was delivered on 15th Octobre 1856.
Trombones and trumpets
In 1691 a severe fire ravaged the city and destroyed almost the entire Gothic interior of the Peterskirche (Church of St. Peter) including more than 30 carved altarpieces, the chimes, both organs, precious liturgical vestments, altar funishings and books. Through the circular opening in the ceiling of the church the fire had travelled from the roof truss into the main space of the building. The wrought-iron trellis of the baptistery, a masterpiece of ornamental metalworkmanship from Görlitz that dates back to late Renaissance, was spared by the flames. Besides angels blowing their trumpets guardians with helical helmets ward off evil spirits.
Tower on the tower
Saint Barbara cradles a tower in her arm in the sandstone relief on the Big Tower. Her martyrdom began when her own father locked her up in a tower to prevent her from converting to Christianity after Barbara had refused to marry a non-Christian man. As a saint she is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers; she helps against the dangers of lightning and fire and is the patron saint of miners, of the Silesians, of prisoners, architects and of the volunteers in the “Technisches Hilfswerk” THW (Agency for Technical Relief).
Minna on the Postplatz fountain
Thick ropes were fixed to the new “Muschelminna” (Minna with a shell) in 1992 when she was lifted into position to complete the artistic fountain in the middle of Postplatz – many years after it was first set up in 1887. In 1942 the naked beauty was melted down to provide metal for the arms industry. Today the bronze figure of Flora, the Roman deity of nature, again raises her large shell from which the water flows into the basin.
Two mal and two female allegorical figures at the corners of the fountain represent according to their creator Toberentz “romance, utility, change and strength”.
The last tweak
Carding thistles and cloth shears are the guild emblems of the clothiers.
The shears were not used to cut the cloth as one might expect; they were rather used to shear fibre that stuck out of the freshly woven, dyed and fulled cloth. To prepare the cloth for this shearing it was roughened using the carding thistles. The shorn cloth was brushed to align the shortened fibres. If the cloth passed the control by the looker it was marked with a cloth seal. The blades of the enormous shears measured up to 60 centimetres; two of these impressive tools are on display in the Kaisertrutz.
Of chicken and eggs
At Untermarkt (lower market) a commemorative plaque refers to the founder of an association with a quaint name, the “Hühnerologische Verein Görlitz” (lit.: “Chickenological” Society Görlitz). It was the first society in Germany devoted to breeding chicken. Three years after it was founded there were already more than 600 members. Karl Robert Oettel who was born in the house at Untermarkt 2 in 1798 was a merchant trading in cloth and textiles. Breeding chicken was only a pastime. He was, however, the first to import Asian breeds of chicken which unlike home-grown breeds layed eggs all year and thus became the founder of modern German chicken breeding.
Fährt man in Bad Schandau in der Sächsischen Schweiz mit dem freistehenden elektrischen Aufzug nach oben, öffnet sich die Aufzugstür zum Warenhauseingang in Görlitz. Zumindest im mit vier Oskars gekrönten, skurrilen Film „Grand Budapest Hotel“ ist das so, der Görlitz einmal mehr als Filmkulisse bekannt machte. Nicht räumlich jedoch zeitlich passen die etwa 100 Kilometer voneinander entfernten Bauten perfekt zueinander, dem 1904 errichteten Aufzug hat die Epoche des Jugendstil ein schönes Geländer, dem im Jahr 1913 eröffneten Kaufhaus eine eindrucksvolle Glasdecke beschert. Prachtvolle Kronleuchter schmücken den Eingangsbereich des Warenhauses, damals hieß es noch „Kaufhaus zum Strauß“. Die zu DDR-Zeiten entfernten Leuchter wurden original nachgebaut.
Jacob Böhme is the most prominent citizen of Görlitz. But why so many shoeshops are named after him is probably only known to the inhabitants of Görlitz. Böhme was a shoemaker; a workbench complete with the shoemaker’s ball, a water-filled glass ball used to focus the dimm light of a candle in the workspace, similar to the one probably used by Böhme, is on display in the Kaisertrutz. In 1612 this shoemaker without any academic training wrote the amazing book “Aurora oder Morgenröte im Aufgang” (Aurora or the rise of dawn). In this and a number of other writings Böhme dealt with his own mystical experiences which turned him into a theosophist, mystic and philosopher. Hegel later called him the first German philosopher.
Böhme’s house glistens red on the Polish bank of the River Neiße; his grave can be found on Nikolaifriedhof (Nikolai graveyard).
Menorah and Solomon’s seal
The lions majestically circumambulate the dome of the former synagogue in Struvestrasse. They are symbols of the tribe of Judah, the fourth of the twelve tribes of Israel and eponymous for the jews.
After a changeful history in görlitz the members of the small Jewish community were finally able to open their new synagogue in 1911. The design for this modern building, a construction involving a steel frame and glass, was developed by the architects Lossow & Kühne from Dresden who wwere also responsible for the designs of the Dresden Playhouse and the main station in Leipzig. A “Stolperstein” (stumbling block) today commemorates Martin Ephraim one of the initiators of the building project and benefactor for the city which did not show any gratitude in return.
Hammer and compasses ….
… and key and pliers: the merchants house originally was destined to house a hardware store. Metal in multiple shapes adorns the art nouveau facade of the house in Demianiplatz built in 1901. Much earlier there was a wooden sign showing an ostrich. The pretty bird holding a horse shoe in his beak was upposed to draw customers to the pub of the same name. Today the place has gone back to the roots – the hotel „Golden Ostrich“ invites visitors to stay while the wooden sign has been integrated into a display on city history housed in the Kaisertrutz bastion.
The most respected citizens of Görlitz used to live in highly representative aisled houses. Their wealth was based on the trade with all kinds of wool cloth, Walking down the Petersstrasse and along the Untermarkt (Lower Market) with its aisled houses the visitor is startled by the devil on the gable of the house at Untemarkt 2. The head is carved from on of the wooden beams projecting from the gable. The beam is part of a lifting block used as an effort-saving means to transport the wares to the storerooms in the upper storeys of the house.
A mysterious donation
In 1995 the city of Görlitz unexpectedly was inundated with money. Every year in spring a mysterious donor transfered one million German Mark or its equivalent, 511,500 Euro to a bank account of the Altstadtstiftung (Foundation for the historic city) especially instaslled for this purpose. About 11 Million Euro were given by this foundation to projects special cultural and hitoric value. In 2016 a last transfer was the end of the fairy tale of the „Old Town Million“. Until today numerous speculations circulate about the source and reason for the generous gift.
A woman with the courage and speaking of a man, disguised in a monk’s robe …
When mayor Georg Emmerich travelled to the Holy Land for the second time he was said to have been was accompanied by the young, beautiful widow Agnete Fingerin. Reportedly they brought back from Jerusalem the plans for the construction of the Holy Tomb in Görlitz.
Actually, the courageous beauty did not travel with Emmerich but in 1476 joined the entourage of Albrecht Duke of Saxony to visit the Holy Land. Agnete Fingerin lived in Kränzelstrasse 27 where a golden anchor above the portal reminds us of the heydays of this house.
A specialty from Görlitz – Silesian Poppy-Seed Cake
For the dough:
500 g flour
125 g butter
50 g sugar
2 egg yolks
125 ml milk
1 tsp lemon peel (grated)
30 g yeast
For the filling:
250 g poppy seeds (ground)
125 g butter
125 g nuts
125 g almonds (chopped)
200 g honey
125 raisins (soaked in rum)
1 lemon (peel and juice)
For the crumble:
300 g flour
220 g butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch salt
To make the dough put flour in a bowl, add butter in small pieces along the side, make a pit in the flour, pour in lukewarm milk, mix with yeast and sugar, add the egg yolks and knead thoroughly. Leave to proof for an hour.
Carefully mix the ingredients for the filling in a bowl, leave for an hour.
For the crumble put the ingredients into a bowl, rub together between your hands until you get a crumbly dough.
Quickly work the yeast dough again, roll out and put on a backing tray. Leave to proof again for 30 minutes.
Spread the poppy seed filling evenly on the dough, cover evenly with the crumble.
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 180 °C and leave in the oven to cool, if possible over night.
Die deutsche Photographen
Zieh‘n nun in Görlitz ein,
Es gilt des Standes Fortschritt
Hier in Gorlicia!
holpert es in der Festschrift zur 24. Wanderversammlung des Deutschen Photographen-Vereins, der 1895 in Görlitz abgehalten wurde. Ein Höhepunkt der Veranstaltung war die „ Vorführung der neuesten, staunenerregenden Edison-Erfindung, des KINETOSKOPS, vermittels welchem man eine photographierte Szene aus 7500 Bildern zusammengestellt, in voller Lebensthätigkeit binnen 30 Sekunden sehen kann“.
Seit 1893 schauen die großen Pioniere der Fotografie Talbot, Daguerre und Niépce vom Haus in der Löbauer Straße 7 und laden ein, das Museum der Fotografie zu besuchen. Die hier gezeichnete Reisekamera ist aber nicht dort sondern im Kaisertrutz ausgestellt.
A rather nondescript plant – dyers woad traditionally grown in Thuringia – was the source of wealth for Görlitz. The indigo it contained was used during medieval times to dye cloth in an intensive purple-blue. The woad only released its precious dye after a very smelly treatment. The dried plant was soaked in water and urine and the textiles were tub-dyed in this unsavoury fermented mixture. The wet cloth [Ich habe hier nicht von weißem Stoff gesprochen, denn ich habe Färbungen von Garn und Stoffen mit Waid gesehen und sie sind nach meiner Erinnerung nicht weiß, sondern mehr oder weniger intensiv grün, wenn sie aus der Küpe kommen; sobald das Färbegut herausgenommen wird, schlägt die Farbe in das charakteristische Blau um] was spread out in the sun and the exposure to light turned the dye into the characteristic bright shade of blue. The fermentation process and the urine turning stale caused nauseating smells. Every time a dying day came up the dyer’s assistants drank large amounts of ale in order to provide the urine needed for the process. Whether their notorious hangovers are the origin of German expressions like „blau machen“ or „Blauer Montag“, both denoting the unanounced absence of employees from work or students from school is not quite sure – though it sounds plausible.
A lion’s roar
The lion’s tail is elegantly draped on a keystone in the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady); the bifurcation of the tail indicates that it is a Bohemian lion. When the Frauenkirche was built Upper Lusatia and thus Görlitz were part of Bohemia – adding the keystone was a way to pay the honours to the sovereign in Prague. Another Bohemian lion with its characteristic tail graces the fountain at Obermarkt (Upper Market). But since in 1625 Upper Lusatia became part of Saxony the sculptor showed – politically correct – the herald carrying the electorial saxonian coat of arms in front of the Bohemian beast.