Its Churches And The Citadel – Germany And Austria

It may be as well briefly to notice the two churches—St. Sebald and St. Lawrence. The former was within a stone’s throw of our inn. Above the door of the western front is a remarkably fine crucifix of wood—placed, however, in too deep a recess–said to be y Veit Stoss. The head is of a very fine form, and the countenance has an expression of the most acute and intense feeling. A’ crown of thorns is twisted around the brow. But this figure, as well as the whole of the outside and inside of the church, stands in great need of being repaired. The towers are low, with insignificant turrets; the latter evidently a later erection —probably at the commencement of the sixteenth century. The eastern extremity, as well indeed as the aisles, is surrounded by buttresses; and the sharp-pointed, or lancet, windows, seem to bespeak the fourteenth, if not the thirteenth, century. The great “wonder” of the interior is the Shrine of the Saint (to whom the church is dedieated), of which the greater part is silver. At the time of my viewing it, it was in a disjointed state –parts of it having been taken to pieces, for re-pair; but from Geisler’s exquisite little engraving, I should pronounce it to be second to few specimens of similar art in Europe. The figures do not exceed two feet in height, and the extreme elevation of the shrine may be about eight feet. Nor has Gkeisler’s almost equally exquisite little engraved carving of the richly carved Gothic font in this church, less claim, upon the admiration of the connoisseur.

The mother church, or Cathedral of St. Lawrence, is much larger, and portions of it may be of the latter end of the thirteenth century. The principal entrance presents us with an elaborate doorway—perhaps of the fourteenth century—with the sculpture divided into several compartments, as at Rouen, Strassburg, and other earlier edifices. There is a poverty in the two towers, both from their size and the meagerness of the windows; but the slim spires at the summit are, doubtless, nearly of a coeval date with that which supports them. The bottom of the large circular or marigold window is injured in its effect by a Gothic balustrade of a later period. The interior of this church has certainly nothing very commanding or striking, on the score of architectural grandeur or beauty; but there are some painted glass windows—especially y Volkmar-which are deserving of particular attention. Nuremberg has one advantage over many populous towns; its public buildings are not choked up by narrow streets; and I hardly know an edifice of distinction, round which the spectator may not walk with perfect ease, and obtain a view of every portion which he is desirous of examining.

Of all edifices, more especially deserving of being visited at Nuremberg, the Citadel is doubtless the most curious and ancient, as well as the most remarkable. It rises to a considerable height, close upon the outer walls of the town, within about a stone’s throw of the end of Albrecht Durer Strasse —or the street where Albert Durer lived—and whose house is not only yet in existence, but still the object of attraction and veneration with every visitor of taste, from whatever part of the world he may chance to come. The street running down is the street called (as before observed) after Albert Durer’s own name; and the well, seen about the middle of it, is a specimen of those wells—built of stone–which are very common in the streets of Nuremberg. The upper part of the house of Albert Durer is supposed to have been his study. The interior is so altered from its original disposition as to present little or nothing satisfactory to the antiquary. It would be difficult to say how many coats of whitewash have been bestowed upon the rooms, since the time when they were tenanted y the great character in question.

Passing through this street, therefore, you may turn to the right, and continue onward up a pretty smart ascent; when the entrance to the Citadel, by the side of a low wall—in front of an old tower—presents itself to your attention. It was before breakfast that my companion and self visited this interesting interior, over every part of which we were conducted by a most loquacious cicerone, who spoke the French language very fluently, and who was pleased to express his extreme gratification upon finding that his visitors were Englishmen. The tower and the adjoining chapel, may be each of the thirteenth century; but the tombstone of the founder of the monastery, upon the site of which the present Citadel was built, bears the date of 1296. This tombstone is very perfect; lying in a loose, unconnected manner, as you enter the chapel; the chapel itself having a crypt-like appearance. This latter is very small.

From the suite of apartments in the older parts of the Citadel, there is a most extensive and uninterrupted view of the surrounding country, which is rather flat. At the distance of about nine miles, the town of Furth (Furta) looks as if it were within an hour’s walk; and I should think that the height of the chambers (from which we enjoyed this view) to the level ground of the adjacent meadows could be scarcely less than three hundred feet. In these chambers there is a little world of curiosity for the antiquary; and yet it was but too palpable that very many of its more precious treasures had been transported to Munich. In the time of Maximilian II., when Nuremberg may be supposed to have been in the very height of its glory, this Citadel must have been worth a pilgrimage of many score miles to have visited. The ornaments which remain are chiefly pictures; of which several are exceedingly precious. .

In these curious old chambers, it was to be expected that I should see some Wohlegemuths—as usual, with backgrounds in a blaze of gold, and figures with tortuous limbs, pinched-in waists, and caricatured countenances. In a room, pretty plentifully encumbered with rubbish, I saw a charming Snyders; being a dead stag, suspended from a pole. There is here a portrait of Albert Durer, y himself; but said to be a copy. If so, it is a very ‘fine copy. The original is supposed to be at Munich. There was nothing else that my visit enabled me to see particularly deserving of being recorded; but, when I was told that it was in this Citadel that the ancient Emperors of Germany used oftentimes to reside, and make carousal, and when I saw, now, scarcely anything but dark passages, unfurnished galleries, naked halls, and untenanted chambers-I own that I could hardly refrain from uttering a sigh over the mutability of earthly fashions, and the transitoriness of worldly grandeur. With a rock for its base, and walls almost of adamant for its support—situated also upon an eminence which may be said to look frowningly down over a vast sweep of country—the Citadel of Nuremberg should seem to have bid defiance, in former times, to every assault of the most desperate and enterprising foe. It is now visited only y the casual traveler—who is frequently startled at the echo of his own footsteps.

While I am on the subject of ancient art—of which so many curious specimens are to be seen in this Citadel—it may not be irrelevant to conduct the reader at once to what is called the Town Hall —a very large structure of which portions are devoted to the exhibition of old pictures. Many of these paintings are in a very suspicious state, from the operations of time. and accident; but the great boast of the collection is the “Triumphs of Maximilian I.,” executed by Albert Durer—which, however, has y no means escaped injury. I was accompanied in my visit to this interesting collection y Mr. Boerner, and had particular reason to be pleased y the friendliness of his attentions, and y the intelligence of his observations. A great number of these pictures (as I understood) belonged to a house in which he was a partner; and among them a portrait, by Pens, struck me as being singularly admirable and exquisite. The countenance, the dress, the attitude, the drawing and coloring, were as perfect as they well might be. But this collection has also suffered from the transportation of many of its treasures to Munich. The rooms, halls, and corridors of this Hotel de Ville give you a good notion of municipal grandeur.

In the neighborhood of Nuremberg— that is to say, scarcely more than an English mile from thence-are the grave and tombstone of Albert Durer. The monument is simple and striking. In the churchyard there is a representation of the Crucifixion, cut in stone. It was on a fine, calm evening, just after sunset, that I first visited the tombstone of Albert Durer; and I shall always remember the sensations, with which that visit was attended, as among the most pleasing and impressive of my life. The silence of the spot—its retirement from the city—the falling shadows of night, and the increasing solemnity of every monument of the dead—together with the mysterious, and even awful, effect produced by the colossal crucifix—but yet, perhaps, more than either, the recollection of the extraordinary talents of the artist, so quietly sleeping beneath my feet-all conspired to produce a train of reflections which may be readily conceived, but not so readily de-scribed. If ever a man deserved to be considered as the glory of his age and nation, Albert Durer was surely that man. He was, in truth, the Shakespeare of his art—for the period.