NUREMBERG: First Reich features

Time to read:

5 minutes

The big Catholic church in town and the focal point of Nuremberg’s main square is the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).

The parish church was built in the 14th Century on the foundations of a Jewish synagogue that had stood there since 1296 but was ruined during local religious persecutions.

The church used to be illuminated all night. But now laws to save energy and reduce light pollution require it to be dark after 11 p.m. until dawn.

The current version of the glockenspiel clock was completed from 1506-1509 and illustrates the Golden Bull of 1356, faint origin of a “constitution” for the Holy Roman Empire. 

During WWII, the Glockenspiel figures, who go into action each day at noon, were kept safe from bombings underground in the rock tunnels of Nuremberg’s famous “art bunker.” 

The globe above the clock shows the current phase of the moon, and below it is a balcony where the Christmas Angel has opened the Christmas market each year since 1933.

The Frauenkirche sits at the center of Nuremberg’s old-town square. The square was a constant reminder that antisemitism here was not just a Nazi phenomenon. It goes back centuries.

In 1349, the city seized the Jewish quarter, slaughtered the residents and built the main market square. Another pogrom had wreaked the same kind of destruction on Jews on this spot about 700 years earlier.

And racial intolerance still shows up in this part of Bavaria.

The square now is world-famous for Nuremberg’s Christmas market, whose 200 shop stalls draw more than 2 million people a year. The market is opened by the Nuremberg Christkind (Christmas child) with a famous preamble spoken from the balcony of the Frauenkirche.

Christ child

Photo: Süddeutsche Zeitung

In 2018, a far-right Facebook post denigrated Nuremberg’s first mixed-race choice to play the Christ child, and a wave of solidarity for her followed that included the Bavarian premier.

Hundreds of internet users also defended Benigna Munsi, the daughter of Indian-German parents.

The post, quickly deleted, said of Germans: “One day, we’ll go the way of the Indians” —  an allusion to colonial treatment of one of North America’s peoples.

The chairwoman of a local branch of the right-wing AfD political party apologized, and the AfD media person who “autonomously” created the post soon resigned.

Aiding migrants

In fall 2020, a pastor from this suburban Lutheran church publicly objected to his boss’ statement in a church journal that people had a Christian obligation to save endangered migrants, e.g., on the Mediterranean Sea.

In a letter to the editor titled “A Christian can let them drown,” the pastor said the migrants were mostly men between 20 and 30 from middle-class families with good education, who undertook the trip with careful planning.

Really poor North Africans don’t start the trip because they don’t have the thousands of Euros per person for the trip or connections to the network of boats, he said. 

The pastor believed that migrants’ desire for a better life was fine but that that didn’t create a duty for Germans to make it happen.

A couple of weeks later, a regional bishop said the pastor would no longer be working in the area, and a tablet on the church wall said a new pastor had been assigned here. 

Beautiful fountain

Emperor Karl IV presided over a devastating pogrom against the Jews and destroyed the old Jewish quarter. However, he also was the founder of the Frauenkirche and driver behind the unique Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) there.

The stone pyramid rises four stories and features three dozen brightly colored figures representing the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages.

St. Lawrence

Photo: Ed Metzler

In 1525, the Lorenzkirche (St. Lawrence Church) became one of the first parishes in Germany to turn Protestant during the Reformation.

The church was begun about 1250 and was extended about 200 years later. The bells were cast in the 1300s.

Today, it dominates its square, Lorenzerplatz, south of the Pegnitz River.

In spring 2021, strong citizen protest forced church authorities to shelve plans for a 3-year, $7 million renovation. The biggest problem seemed to be plans to attach a 75-foot-long, multi-story building to the western part of the church.

Objectors said the plans should be rethought to make the original Gothic face of the church prominent again. Church officials have said they’re going back to the drawing board. Literally. 

Nassauer house

Next to the church, the most prominent feature on the large Lorenzerplatz is the Gothic-style Nassauer Haus, the last surviving Medieval tower house in Nuremberg.

In the Middle Ages, urban tower houses were common, as they provided a defensive vertical retreat during invasion while also serving as a status symbol for wealthy families.

The Nassauer Haus, built in the early 1100s, features a corner bay window and sundial, as well as carvings below the roof showing the coats of arms of the Holy Roman Empire, the pope, electoral princes and the city.

It was considered so beautiful that in 1431, King Sigismund, who would become Holy Roman Emperor two years later, borrowed the money to buy the property.

St. Sebaldus

This is for Ken and Bina Cline, whose blog encouraged me to start this one. At the southern edge of Jakobplatz (James’s Square) is the historic Saint Jacob’s Church (that’s Saint James the Greater), founded in 1209.

The twin-spires mark the oldest Protestant church in Nuremberg. The saint’s shrine inside is one of the most important bronze sculptures from the Medieval period.

Like most towers in Europe, the towers in this church are not open to the public. But there is a ticketed tour.

St. Jacob’s was very important for Medieval pilgrims hiking one of the main paths to The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James. One of 30 in Germany, the way ran through Nuremberg along a route from what’s now the Czech Republic to Germany, France and Spain.

Kenneth Cline and his wife have hiked two Caminos, and Ken has written two how-to books about it (Amazon).

Next: Medieval masterworks


2 responses to “NUREMBERG: First Reich features”

  1. Ken Avatar

    Thanks for your kind comments, Clint. I had not known about the Camino route through Nuremberg but you might be interested to know that a few hardy pilgrims still utilise it in modern times:
    Otherwise, very interesting tour through the historic churches in Nuremberg.

    1. Clint Swift Avatar
      Clint Swift

      Thought of you guys as soon as I heard about St. Jakob’s role in the Camino treks. Some of those hikers no doubt would have profited from the tips in your books. 😉 I think about doing a Camino, and I’d read both books again before I did.

Leave a Reply

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: