IRENE's TRAVELOGUE

JUNE/JULY 2002

TRACING ROMAN GERMANIA II

The Trip
Kaiseraugst
Augsburg
Regensburg
Weißenburg
Aalen
Aschaffenburg
Miltenberg
The Saalburg II
Cologne II
Neuß
Southwestern Black Forest
Schwäbisch Hall  Berlin

MORE TRAVEL
Tracing Roman Germania 1999
Tracing Roman Germania 2003 in the works
Ancient Rome as seen in the year 2001

Main River at Aschaffenburg - click here for more images

photos

 

ASCHAFFENBURG        The Pompejanum

From Schwäbisch Hall, I took the train to Aschaffenburg. This was easier said than done. I finally went back to Nürnberg and got the IC (Express) train to Aschaffenburg, which is close to Frankfurt

By that time, we had a brutal heat wave, and of course not much was air-conditioned except banks and shopping malls. Of the planned side trips to Miltenberg and Osterburken, I scrapped the latter: After I'd been to Miltenberg, I decided it was just plain too hot!

Aschaffenburg coat of armsAschaffenburg is not really on the Limes, however, I had read about the Pompejanum, and more of that below. More than the other cities I had visited, Aschaffenburg was extensively bombed in WWII, and it shows in the architecture of downtown, which is a mix of new and old, and more new than old. Here is another helpful link in German.

The place was settled early – there are even some archaeological findings from the Neanderthal era. A larger settlement developed in the 8th century, and began to flourish after 950 as part of the diocese of Mainz. Later, it became a secondary residence of the archbishops electors of Mainz, and briefly became their primary one when the electoral state of Mainz was secularized in 1803. It benefited greatly on a cultural level at that time, thanks to the archbishop Carl Theodor von Dalberg, a proponent of enlightenment and friend of Napoleon. At the end of the Napoleonic wars, Aschaffenburg became part of Bavaria and still is, in the westernmost part of the state. Here is a timeline in German, which also describes the devastation in the Thirty Years War. History in English.

The Pompejanum

Pompejanum - go here for imagesIn the mid-19th century, King Ludwig I of Bavaria chose Aschaffenburg as his summer residence and left his mark on the city. One of his lasting legacies is the Pompejanum, built between 1843 and 1848. Here is a nice site of images, alas no descriptions. An ardent admirer of antiquity, and animated by the excavations at Pompeii, he commissioned an Architect, Friedrich von Gärtner, to build a Roman villa, not as a residence, but as an illustrative object for lovers of antiquity. Gärtner selected the house of Castor and Pollux at Pompeii as his model, and made some adjustments because the villa was to be situated in a vineyard on the slopes of the Main river. One can see the villa from various points at the river.

The building was heavily damaged in the bombings but was totally reconstructed and restored, and contains artworks from the Staatliche Antikensammlungen and Glyptothek München (Collections of Antiquities and Glyptothek at Munich). I was too early to be able to view the second floor, which was not reopened until July 25. The original building and restoration has not been without controversies, and I hope to write more extensively on this and the Saalburg project initiated by the emperor Wilhelm II at a later date.

In any case, it was an interesting visit. The villa was rather crowded though, so I had a bit of trouble taking photographs, and here – and in the museum downtown as well – I was dogged by watchful guards to make sure I didn't use a flash. Here is what little I could do.

A leisurely walk through the palace gardens brought me back to the city center and the Stiftsmuseum, the main museum of Aschaffenburg, containing art and artifacts mostly ancient and medieval. The absolute highlight is a chess board from around 1300 A.D. While my photos are not that great, they are still better than what I could find on the Internet.

Since 1994, the museum is housed in the former chapter house of the Stift (monastery) of St. Peter and Alexander. The basilica of St. Peter and Alexander is the oldest one in Aschaffenburg, dating back to the 10th century. The current church was built between the 12th and 16th centuries.

As to more contemporary happenings, one morning there was great excitement in town after the Turkish soccer team had advanced in the World Miltenberg marketplace, go here for moreCup:  an hours long auto convoy with horn honking and flag waving Turkish residents. The cars all seemed to have sun roofs, so a man – or two – could stand on the seats and wave from it. I had gone through that already when the German team won while I was in Schwäbisch Hall, and would see more of this in Berlin and finally in Cologne . . .

Here is more on my side trip to Miltenberg, which is on the Limes.

© Irene B. Hahn 2002

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