Friday, July 3, 2015

Quedlinburg

On their 2015 trip Freiburg's Museumsgesellschaft visited an old German cultural landscape east of the Harz mountains comprising the cities of Quedlinburg, Halberstadt, and Goslar. Our hotel was in Halberstadt but the first day of our stay was devoted to Quedlinburg.

Heinrich accepts the German crown.
Stained glass window in Quedlinburg's town hall.
According to an old tale the Germanic princes offered the German crown to the Duke of Saxony, Heinrich, while he was snaring finches at the Quedlinburg site in the year 919. The coronation of Henry the Fowler is regarded as one of the key elements of the First German Reich that ended in 1806 when, following Napoleon's conquests in Europe, the last Kaiser Franz I. abdicated.

Walking up the hill to the castle we passed the famous Finkenherd
although other sources claim that the legendary site was in Fritzlar

The Burgberg on the famous model of Quedlinburg in the Rathaus
Under the Saxon kings Quedlinburg was one of the leading cities in the Reich. The castle and mighty abbey church St. Servatius bear witness.

Castle and church in the 19th century ...

... and today. Note the change of the spires of St. Servatius.
When King Henry died in 1036 he was buried in St. Servatius. With the 1000th anniversary of Henry's death in 1936 approaching, another Heinrich, Reichsführer-SS Himmler, not only decided to commemorate but to re-incarnate the first German king. On July 2, 1936, Himmler had crucifix and Bible removed from the church, entered the building, and deposited a wreath on Henry's tomb.

In the following years Himmler ordered the clergy out of the abbey church and had its interior transformed into a sort of Germanic temple. When in the course of the transformation archeologists opened Henry's grave they found it empty. Himmler needed some good advice. At the end the SS defined some excavated old bones as those of the first Saxon king and interred them in a new sarcophagus bearing the inscription: Heinrich der Erste, der Deutschen König (Henry the First, King of the Germans).

Quedlinburg's German temple in 1940
(©Fotoarchiv Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt)
With the end of the war the horrific episode was history. Today when you visit St. Servatius you will see Henry's old and broken sarcophagus, empty.

Today: St. Servatius "restored"
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