Rhine River Cruise, Day Two: Speyer

We went on two excursions on our first day in Germany: Speyer, a small town with a huge cathedral,  in the morning and the famous old college town of Heidelberg in the afternoon.

From the ship we walked through the Cathedral’s Gardens (domgarten) and passed many strange statues along the way.  You can’t miss the Cathedral,  generally called the Kaiser Dom zu Speyer. It’s the largest Romanesque church in the world!

Some of the kings who are buried in the Imperial Cathedral.

This statue is called “Fahrmann hol uber.” Google told me that it means “Ferryman on alcohol.” Another website came up with “Ferryman get on.” A third site translated it as “Ahoy, Ferryman!” I think the last one is the best!

The Mount of Olives on the south side of the Cathedral

Another view of the Mount of Olives

A portion of the current restoration project.

The west-facing facade of a Romanesque church is called the westwork.

Another view of the westwork.

The rose window and statues over the central portal.

Still another view of the west facade.

The view of Maximilianstrasse from the Cathedral.

Statue of a Pilgrim making his way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. For hundreds of years the current bishop would allow these pilgrims to sleep in the cathedral.

Our tour guide for the morning was none other than Dragan, our cruise director. He told us how the town began as a Roman camp more than 2000 years ago. And about a thousand years ago they started to build the cathedral. In 1090 King Heinrich IV began a reconstruction which was completed in 1106, making the cathedral one of the largest in the world.

Our tour guide pointing out one of the sights on Maximilianstrasse. That building in the background is the Old Mint.

Billboards of the Middle Ages. Our tour guide explained that these signs would show a newcomer (who would most likely be illiterate) what services are provided in this town.

In 1689 Louis XIV of France burned the town down, including a large part of the cathedral. And about a hundred years later Napoleon’s troops used the cathedral as a stable and storage facility and also as a hospital.

In 1815 Speyer was returned to the Germans and their leader, Ludwig I of Bavaria. Another Bavarian king, Maximilian II, built the impressive Neo-Romanesque westwork in the 1850s and the cathedral became a national monument. In  1906 a newly constructed crypt was completed for the tombs of eight kings and emperors (four of these eight rulers of the Holy Roman Empire were not crowned emperors because they didn’t get along with the current Pope and so they are considered just Kings of Germany) and several queens and bishops.

In 1957 a complete restoration was begun to make the cathedral look almost exactly as it did in the 12th century. The current restoration will be completed in 2015 at the cost of 26 million euros.

The Altportel (Old Gate) is at the opposite end of Maximilianstrasse from the cathedral. It is 55 meters high and one of the most important town gates in Germany.

The spires of St Joseph Catholic Church, which is kitty-corner to the National Church of Protestation.

A monument to those who were killed during the First World War.

Some city workers were striking.

The cathedral’s main aisle.

Murals of The Life of Our Lady in the cathedral’s nave.

Another view of the nave.

My favorite shot of the cathedral’s interior: statue of Our Lady near the altar and in front of the organ.

Statues in front of the cathedral of some of the kings, queens and bishops who are buried in the crypt.

While walking back to the ship we encountered these statues of the kings who are buried in the cathedral.

Speyer is also home to one of the oldest Jewish settlements on the Rhine and the same masons and artisans who built the cathedral also built the synagogue and baths on land given to the Jews by the bishop.  The baths still exist but the synagogue was destroyed on Krystallnacht (November 9th) in 1938. Two years later all the Jews in Speyer were expelled and most were murdered in concentration camps.  In the 1990s some Russian Jews, descendants of persecuted Rhineland Jews who fled over the centuries to eastern Europe,  decided to return to Speyer and last year on the anniversary of Krystallnacht a new synagogue was dedicated.

The official tour ended in about an hour and we spent an additional hour on our own visiting the cathedral and walking down Maximilianstrasse, the main street of Speyer’s old town. It was our first view of a German town and it was spotless!

Our ship was docked near this display.

Our ship was docked near the motor bridge that goes over the Rhine to Speyer. The clouds at this time appeared ominous as to what weather we would encounter in the afternoon.

The sky was getting pretty gray by the time we got back to our ship for lunch —  not a good omen for our planned afternoon excursion to Heidelberg. I’ll cover that trip in my next posting.

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About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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One Response to Rhine River Cruise, Day Two: Speyer

  1. Pingback: Twenty Churches in Twenty Days | Crow Canyon Journal

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