Fotoeins Fotografie

questions of place & home

Posts tagged ‘Speyer’

Petrikirche, Taufkirche, Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Tracing Martin Luther’s steps in 16 German cities

Above/featured: “Luther war hier. // Luther was here.” Eisleben, Germany (HL, 27 Oct 2016).

In pre-teen years, I attended a Catholic elementary school by weekday, and a missions-oriented Protestant church by weekend. I already had multiple questions running around my pre-scientist brain, like electrons appearing and dissipating in a fuzzy halo. When various disparate elements began to settle with few satisfying answers, I left behind the churches and their respective religions. But one thing that’s remained is my love of history. History has never been boring, because I carry the past (as offspring of immigrants), and I’m determined to bring history’s lessons into the present.

Even in youth, I had to ask: why was one set of churches called “Protestant”? What was under protest? How did one man help spark a movement that would help merge and create a version of a language that continues today, that would bring accessible means to literacy for the public, and that would begin to change rule by religion to rule by law?

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ShUM, SchUM, medieval Jewish cities, Speyer, Shpira, Worms, Warmaisa, Mainz, Magenza, Germany, Ashkenaz, Rheinland-Pfalz, Rhineland-Palatinate, fotoeins.com

Jewish ShUM on the Rhine: Speyer, Worms, Mainz

When threats of destruction to property and life follow and linger over a group of people through no fault of their own over centuries, there’s something to be said about an eternal need to keep a watchful eye. Words like Verfolgung, Vernichtung, and Vertreibung1 have been etched into memory. I have all this in mind as I explore Jewish history in Germany as part of my need to answer the following question:

How did a nation of people which fostered composers Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Strauss; and writers Goethe, the Brothers Grimm, Heine, Hesse, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, and Schiller sink to the worst depths of human atrocity and depravity in the first half of the 20th-century?

It’s easy to forget Jewish people have lived in what is now Italy and southern Europe since the middle of the 2nd-century BCE and inhabited southern Germany from the late 10th-century AD/CE2. During the High Middle Ages, three important bishopric (and cathedral) cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz along the Rhine river formed an important league or federation of Jewish communities (Kehillot) from the end of the 10-century to about the mid-to-late 14th-century. The word שו”ם or ShUM (SchUM in German)4 is an acronym consisting of the first letters of the Hebrew names for the three cities:

•   Shin (ש), Sh for Shpira (שפירא) → present-day Speyer;
•   Waw or Vav (ו), U for Warmaisa (וורמש) → present-day Worms;
•   Mem (ם), M for Magenza (מגנצא) → present-day Mainz.

The ShUM cities became centres for learning, training, religion, culture, and trade within medieval Germany (Ashkenaz3) and throughout Europe. Today, the three ShUM cities establish key destinations for historical travel, provide rich examples for continuing research on medieval Jewish life, and add up to a comprehensive project in recognizing an important chapter of the history of Jews in Germany.

Germany has presently over 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but none of them relate to the long-standing Jewish history in the country. The German federal state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate) submitted the ShUM cities for national consideration in the summer of 2012. Having passed the rigours of internal ranking among other worthy candidates within the national committee, the application entered the UNESCO’s tentative lists for World Heritage Sites in 2015. In 2020, the German Foreign Ministry will submit to UNESCO all documentation relating to the nomination, says Susanne Urban, Managing Director of the ShUM-Cities Association. Urban adds that a final decision by UNESCO regarding the ShUM cities as a new World Heritage Site is not expected until 2021.

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Ratskeller, Speyer, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, fotoeins.com

Speyer: typically German in the Ratskeller

Normally, my passable handling of conversant German gets me far enough in a snack-joint (Imbiss) for a Döner or the gut-busting Dönerteller. On the infrequent occasion I’m inside a restaurant, it’ll be local German fare, much of which I’ve become accustomed while travelling within Germany since 2002.

The town or city hall in every city, town, or village is often accompanied by its own “Ratskeller” (Cellar) serving wine, beer, and food in an underground tavern. At the Speyer Ratskeller, a cold and wet Friday night is in full swing, the place packed with city residents filling all available tables and seats. My host apologizes for the wait, and I reply that it’s no problem. She suggests wine while I wait: definitely not a problem.

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West portal, Kaiserdom, Speyer Cathedral, Domplatz, Speyer, Germany, UNESCO World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: Speyer’s Imperial Cathedral at night

In the German state of Rheinland-Palatinate, one thousand years of history are present in the shape of a Latin cross within one of the largest and most important examples of Romanesque architecture in the country. Under the directive of Salian emperor Konrad II. (Conrad the Second), construction for the Kaiserdom zu Speyer (Speyer Cathedral) began in 1030 AD/CE and consecrated in 1061. As a show of imperial power, Konrad II, seven other emperors and kings, four queens, and a series of bishops were buried in the cathedral’s crypt. Konrad II, founder of the Salian dynasty (1024-1125), was the great-great-grandson of Otto I who founded the Ottonian Dynasty (919-1024) and commissioned the construction of an abbey which would eventually become the Magdeburg Cathedral. In 1981, Speyer’s imperial cathedral received the high distinction of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kaiserdom, Speyer Cathedral, Domplatz, Speyer, Germany, UNESCO World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

My thanks to the city of Speyer for providing access, and to Romantic Germany for their friendly advice and support in various cities along the Rhine river. I made the photos above on 20 November 2015. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-86m.

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