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Day 6 - The "Modest" Home of the Franconian Prince-Bishops & How a flagon of Wine can Save a Town!

Updated: Dec 25, 2022

This morning we arrived in Würzburg, a city located in the Franconian region of North-West Bavaria. However, we were warned not to call the inhabitants of Würzburg Bavarian as they are proud Franconians – it would be like calling Mum and I English!!

In the 13th century, local bishops were given the status of “Prince-Bishop” by the ruling emperor Friedrich II. This gave them huge wealth and power. The local populace weren’t too happy about this so the Prince-Bishop in Würzburg had a fortress built on one side of the river for his protection!

Picture 1 - Marienberg Fortress

In the 18th century, the Prince-Bishops of the Schönborn family built a “modest” home on the East side of the river. This Baroque palace of Würzburg’s Residence is one of the largest in Germany. Eventually the position of Prince-Bishop was abolished by Napoleon in 1803 when he created the “Kingdom of Bavaria”. To thank the Bavarians for helping with his wars, Napoleon gave Franconia to the Bavarians – and the locals still haven’t forgiven him!

We first had a short driving tour of Wurzburg, driving along the West side of the river past Alte Mainbrucke and under the Marienberg fortress before crossing the river over the Ludwigsbrucke. However, this bridge is named after a Bavarian Prince so the locals call it Lions Bridge, after the statues of lions at both ends. The lions also have names - those on the West side of the bridge are looking up at the Marienberg fortress where the Prince-Bishops lived. These are the Catholic Lions, the lions on the East end of the bridge are looking away from the fortress and are the Protestant Lions. This is because the bishops were catholic.

We ended our bus ride at the Wurzburg Residence where we spent about 30 minutes walking through the gardens before reconvening for our town tour.

Pictures 2, 3, 4 - Wurzburg Residence & Gardens

Würzburg has 50 churches! Thankfully we didn’t visit them all but we walked down Hofstrasse to Kiliansplatz Place between the Cathedral and the Neumünsterk Church. The legend goes that three Irish missionaries, Kilian, Kolonat and Totnan, travelled to Würzburg to spread the Christian faith. They talked to the Duke, who lived at Würzburg and converted him to the Christian faith. However, the duchess had previously been married to the duke’s brother. This meant that, although it was acceptable in Franconia to marry your sister-in-law, it wasn’t okay in the Christian faith so the Irishmen told the duke that he would have to divorce his wife. She wasn’t too pleased about this so one day, when the Duke was away on business, she had the three Irishmen beheaded and buried them, with their bibles and belongings, under the stable. The place where the beheadings took place is now identified by the dome of the Neumünsterk which is above the spot. Whilst the location where they were buried is under the cathedral. Their bodies were found by the duke as the horses would shy away from where the men were buried. They dug up the remains of the men and the local Bishop wanted to consecrate them as saints. However to do this, they needed a miracle. He invited a blind monk to visit and, upon touching the remains, he could see! So the Irishmen became saints.

Picture 5 - Wurzburg Cathedral

We continued our walk going to the Marktplatz and ending the tour on the Alte Mainbrucke, or Old Bridge. This is the second oldest bridge in Germany and the oldest bridge in Wurzburg. It dates from the 16th century and is adorned with statues of saints and is architecturally similar to the Charles Bridge in Prague.

Picture 6, 7, 8, 9 - Alte Mainbrucke Bridge

We returned to the boat for an early lunch before heading back out to Rothenburg.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is Germany’s best-preserved medieval walled town with a wealth of original half-timbered buildings. During the Middle Ages, thanks to its strategic position on the trade routes between Northern and Southern Europe, Rothenburg was one of Germany’s largest towns. Declared a Free Imperial City in 1274, Rothenburg experienced prosperity until the 30yrs war in the 17th century. After the war it became a “Sleeping Beauty” whose historic value was only recognised again during the 19th century.

We arrived in the Marktplatz just as the clock struck 2pm. The astronomical clock on the city councillors’ tavern has figures that emerge and recreate the legend of “Der Meistertrunk”, the Master Draughter. This depicts a scene from a Rothenburg legend. This legend has it that during the 30yrs war General Tilly, who led the Catholic Army, arrived at Rothenburg. They breached the walls and took the town. General Tilly was preparing to destroy the town when he was offered a glass of wine – in a large (3.25 litres large) beautifully ornate cup. The general was taken with the nearly one-gallon flagon as he was with the wine itself. He decided to offer the town a bargain - if anyone from the towncould finish drinking the entire glass of wine in one go the townwould be spared. If they could not, they would be put to death. The mayor of the town, Georg Nusch, said that he would try, and thankfully succeeded. So the invaders left and the town was not destroyed.

Picture 10 - Meistertrunk Clock

From the Marktplatz we walked down the Schmiedgasse to the Plonlein. This is the small square with a fountain at the junction of the roads leading from two towers of the old city wall. The Siebersturm to the left leading to the Spital Quarter. On the right, the Kobolzeller Tower which opens towards the Tauber Valley. This is the famous picture that is always shown!

Picture 11 - Plonlein and Siebers Tower

The wall walk, once we managed to get on the walls (parts were closed for repair work), was good. We walked from Siebers tower anti-clockwise past Rodertor (Roder Gate). This town gate, dating from the 14th century, still has its Toll booth and gatekeeper’s cottage. There was a lovely view from this tower back towards Marktplatz. As we continued along the walls we could see out across the roof scape of the town and there were good views down the narrow streets with half-timbered houses.

Pictures 12, 13, 14 and 15 - Rothenburg City Walls & Views from the Walls

As the town was a Free City, they had to be able to repel invaders who would want to capture the city for their own. The inhabitants of the city had to have 2yrs worth of food stored in their houses in case of a siege and there are many wells through the city. We descended from the walls at Klingen Tower and meandered our way through the narrow streets back to the Marktplatz.

Pictures 16, 17, 18 and 19 – Rothenburg Street Pictures

Arriving at the Marktplatz we decided to brave the Christmas Shop and Museum. The shop is over three floors and has everything you could ever want for Christmas, and even things that you never knew you didn’t want!! The prices were expensive though. The building also houses the Christmas museum, open all year round, which tells the history of Christmas, its traditions, celebrations and decorations.

Picture 20 - The Christmas Shop

Unfortunately, after visiting the shop Mum and I only had 30mins left and decided, upon reflection, that cake trumped museum.

The local cake speciality is Schneebollen, or Snowballs. These are strips of dough all scrunched up into a ball and then deep fried. Once they are cooked they are dusted with sugar and eaten. Needless to say, we had to try one! We tried Apfelzimt-ballen, which was a snowball dusted with sugar, cinnamon and apple. It was nice, a bit like bits of pie crust with sugar on but I don’t think we’ll be having another – there are other cakes I prefer. I’m glad we tried it however.

Picture 21 - Schneeballen

We left Rothenburg at 4pm and were driven back to the ship in Wurzburg, just in time to catch it before it set sail (figuratively speaking) for Bamburg.

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