Ulm – Germany And Austria

We were now within about twenty English miles of Ulm. Nothing particular occurred, either by way of anecdote or of scenery, till within almost the immediate approach or descent to that city—the last in the Suabian territories, and which is separated from Bavaria by the River Danube. I caught the first glance of that celebrated river (here of comparatively trifling width) with no ordinary emotions of delight. It recalled to my memory the battle of Blenheim, or of Hochstedt; for you know that it was across this very river, and scarcely a score of miles from Ulm, that the victorious Marlborough chased the flying French and Bavarians—at the battle just mentioned. At the same moment, almost, I could not fail to contrast this glorious issue with the miserable surrender of the town before me—then filled by a large and well-disciplined army, and commanded by that nonpareil of generals, J. G. Mack!—into the power of Bonaparte almost without pulling a trigger on either side—the place itself being considered, at the time, one of the strongest towns in Europe. These things, I say, rushed upon my memory, when, on the immediate descent into Ulm, I caught the first view of the tower of the minster which quickly put Marlborough, and Mack, and Bonaparte out of my recollection.

I had never, since quitting the beach at Brighton, beheld such an English-like looking cathedral—as a whole; and particularly the tower. It is broad, bold, and lofty; but, like all edifices, seen from a neighboring and perhaps loftier height, it loses, at first view, very much of the loftiness of its character. However, I looked with admiration, and longed to approach it. This object was accomplished in twenty minutes. We entered Ulm about two o’clock: drove to an excellent inn (the White Stag—which I strongly recommend to all travelers), and ordered our dinner to be got ready by five; which, as the house was within a stone’s cast of the cathedral, gave us every opportunity of visiting it beforehand. The day continued most beautiful: and we sallied forth in high spirits, to gaze at and to admire every object of antiquity which should present itself.

The Cathedral of Ulm is doubtless among the most respectable of those on the Continent. It is large and wide, and of a massive and imposing style of architecture. The buttresses are bold, and very much after the English fashion. The tower is the chief, exterior beauty. Before we mounted it, we begged the guide, who attended us, to con-duct us all over the interior. This interior is very noble, and even superior, as a piece of architecture, to that of Strassburg. I should think it even longer and wider—for the truth is, that the tower of Strassburg Cathedral is as much too tall, as that of Ulm Cathedral is too short, for its nave and choir. Not very long ago, they had covered the interior by a whitewash; and thus the mellow tint of probably about five centuries—in a spot where there are few immediately surrounding houses—and in a town of which the manufactories and population are comparatively small—the latter about 14,000—thus, I say, the mellow tint of these five centuries (for I suppose the cathedral to have been finished about the year 1320) has been cruelly changed for the staring and chilling effects of whiting.

The choir is interesting in a high degree. At the extremity of it is an altar—indicative of the Lutheran form of worship being carried on within the church—upon which are oil paintings upon wood, emblazoned with gilt backgrounds—of the time of Hans Burgmair, and of others at the revival of the art of painting in Germany. These pictures turn upon hinges, so as to shut up, or be thrown open; and are in the highest state of preservation. Their subjects are entirely Scriptural; and perhaps -old John Holbein, the father of the famous Hans Holbein, might have had a share in some of them. Perhaps they may come down to the time of Lucas Cranach. Wherever, or by whomsoever executed, this series of paintings, upon the high altar of the Cathedral of Ulm, can not be viewed without considerable satisfaction. They were the first choice specimens of early art which I had seen on this side of the Rhine; and I, of course, contemplated them with the hungry eye of an antiquary.

After a careful survey of the interior, the whole of which had quite the air of English cleanliness and order, we prepared to mount the famous tower. Our valet, Rohfritsch, led the way; counting the steps as he mounted, and finding them to be about 378 in number. He was succeeded by the guide. Mr. Lewis and myself followed in a more leisurely manner; peeping through the interstices which presented themselves in the open fretwork of the ornaments, and finding, as we continued to ascend, that the inhabitants and dwelling houses of Ulm diminished gradually in size. At length we gained the summit, which is surrounded by a parapet wall of some three or four feet in height. We paused a minute, to recover our breath, and to look at the prospect which surrounded us. The town, at our feet, looked like the metropolis of Laputa. Yet the high ground, by which we had descended into the town—and upon which Bonaparte’s army was. formerly encamped—seemed to be more lofty than the spot whereon we stood. On the opposite side flowed the Danube; not broad, nor, as I learned, very deep; but rapid and in a serpentine direction.

Upon the whole, the Cathedral of Ulm is a noble ecclesiastical edifice; uniting simplicity and purity with massiveness of composition. Few cathedrals are more uniform in the style of their architecture. It seems to be, to borrow technical language, all of a piece. Near it, forming the foreground of the Munich print, area chapel and a house surrounded by trees. The Chapel is very small, and, as I learned, not used for religious purposes. The house (so Professor Veesenmeyer informed me) is supposed to have been the residence and offices of business of John Zeiner, the well-known printer, who commenced his typographical labors about the year 1740, and who uniformly printed at Ulm; while his brother Gunther as uniformly exercised his art in the city whence I am now addressing you. They were both natives of Reutlingen, a town of some note between Tubingen and Ulm.