Weimar is a compact town with a large number of buildings as a part of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As part of the “Classic Weimar” World Heritage listing, Herderplatz (Herder Plaza) in the northern part of the city’s old town is known most for the church with two spires and a dark grey roof. This is the Stadtkirche (City Church), known also the Church of Saint Peter and Paul.
The church dates to the middle of the 13th-century AD (CE) when town and charter were first established, although a settlement in the area goes further back to the beginning of the 10th-century AD. Built initially as late-Gothic and redesigned as Baroque, and what fires and war bombing couldn’t destroy, several phases of rebuilding and renovations were completed in 1953, 1977, and 2000.
Johannes Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) was German philosopher, writer, and theologian. From 1776 until his death, he lived and worked in Weimar as General Superintendent for the Saxon-Weimar Duchy, Court Chaplain, member of the church advisory council, and President of the Supreme Consistory. For his service to the city’s people and contributions to German philosophy and literature, and as the site of his burial, the church is also known as Herderkirche (Herder Church).
The Cranach Altar is an important testament to the history of the Reformation in the state of Thuringia. The triptych was started by Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1552, and continued by his son, Lucas Cranach the Younger, in 1554. Completed in 1555, the entire piece was installed over the main church altar by 1557. The paintings include portraits of Lucas Cranach the Elder and Martin Luther, and centre around “Christus am Kreuz” (Christ’s crucifixion). Christ’s blood streams out and touches Cranach the Elder’s forehead, symbolizing a direct relationship between God and people without the need for or the intercession of priests; more here.
Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1472-1553.
Martin Luther, 1483-1546.
Lucas Cranach the Younger, 1515-1586.
Johannes Gottfried Herder, 1744-1803.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1832.
Friedrich Schiller, 1759-1805.
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As one of over ten buildings, residences, and properties making up what is called “Classic Weimar”, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library (Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek) has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.
To consolidate her love of books into a larger holding space, Duchess Anna Amalia commissioned in 1761 the State Architect to rebuild and convert the Renaissance-style French (Green) Castle into a library, which opened in 1766. Becoming one of the most important libraries in the country, the collections included some of the finest written and produced in German literature, art and culture, history, and architecture. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe himself was Library Director between 1797 and 1832.
The library has had its fair share of names: initially called the Ducal Library (Herzogliche Bibliothek); in 1815 renamed as the Grand Ducal Library (Großherzoglichen Bibliothek); in 1918 renamed as the Thuringia State Library (Thüringische Landesbibliothek); in 1969 renamed as the Central Library of German Classics (Zentralbibliothek der deutschen Klassik); and in 1991, renamed as Duchess Anna Amalia Library (Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek) in honour of the library’s founder.
An electrical short from aging damaged wiring sparked a fire on 2 September 2004; the fire held on for over two days before the final hotspot was put out. Over 100 thousand books were damaged or destroyed by fire, water, and smoke. The fire was the largest to strike a German library in post-war history. Subsequent donations and volunteers poured into Weimar from throughout Germany and Europe to help with rescue and preservation efforts. After conclusion of extensive restoration work to the building, the interior Rococo Hall, and to thousands of rescued books, the library was reopened on 24 October 2007, the birthday of the library’s namesake (Anna Amalia born 24 October 1739).
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