Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Last of The Franciscans

Near to my apartment at the corner Günterstalstraße/Prinz-Eugen-Straße there is a Franciscan monastery. Only five monks Bogdan, Desiderius, Eryk, Lucjan, and Marcjean still live in a building for 30 residents and they are all from Poland. All speak excellent German and are pastoring in Freiburg. Fact is that the number of Catholic priests educated in Germany is on a steady decline and does no longer cover the needs. Up to now the gap was filled with young clerics from Poland being the best Polish export item as I learned when I visited Breslau in 2010.

These last Franciscans in high spirits will soon be "flying home" (Photo ©Badische Zeitung)
Note the beautiful park in the background.
The friars minor are gentle people. I used to pull their legs about their habits. As in the photo they wear their typical brownish frocks with a white cord around their waists but sandals with socks* whereas in the past they used to walk barefoot (Barfüßermönche). They answered: Our prior told us to wear socks so that we won't catch coldTheir order having resided in Freiburg for more than 750 years, the last Franciscans will now leave the city. Apparently their services are needed at home. An old proverb says: Das Kloster währt länger denn der Abt (The monastery lasts longer than the abbot). Is this still true? Although the building has been designated an historical landmark "building sharks" are already turning around the real estate, a beautiful natural park with old trees. I shall keep you informed.
*Usually when you see men wearing white socks in sandals you can be sure that those guys are Germans.

The complex of the Franciscan monastery in the center opposite the city hall located
 at the bottom on the Sickinger map of 1589.
St. Martin's church as yet without a steeple is on the left, i.e., the north.
The west wing of the cloister still exists
as well as the buildings on the south side of the complex.
The mendicant order of the Franciscans settled in Freiburg in 1246 after Count Konrad had endowed the ordo fratrum minorum (OFM) with a chapel located opposite to the city hall consecrated to St. Martin plus four standard plots of 100 times 50 feet (possibly 5% longer than the modern foot). Here the friars minor built their monastery and had the chapel enlarged to a church in 1317. While the church still exists the south wing of the cloister was demolished in 1846 to make room for a bigger square in front of the city hall, subsequently called Franziskanerplatz. When the Nazis seized power in Freiburg on March 31, 1933, the undemocratically installed mayor Franz (sic!) Kerber did not like residing on Franciscan Square and had it renamed Rathausplatz (City Hall Square).

After the war most streets and squares the Nazis had renamed got their original names back with two notable exceptions. Freiburg's central street before 1933 known as Kaiserstraße was renamed into Kaiser-Joseph-Straße reminiscent of the Habsburg rule. The city by all means wanted to avoid any allusion to the last Prussian Emperor Wilhelm. The Rathausplatz however kept its name. This was somehow far-sighted for about a year ago the Dominicans took over the original Franciscan premises.

The following photo shows the corner of the St. Martin's church and what is left of the now glazed cloister. In this very corner a stage will be mounted on the occasion of Freiburg's Partnership Market on June 7 and 8. The city of Madison will be the guest of honor for this year we are celebrating the Silver Jubilee of the partnership between our two cities.

A quiet corner in Freiburg

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