Notable Nuremberg

We enjoy visiting European Capital cities but the smaller cities can often be the most noteworthy.

Brief History

In 1040 Heinrich III built a fortress on a rocky outcrop north of the Pegnitz River. The settlement at the foot of the hill was named Nuorin-berg, Nürnberg or Nuremberg and the oldest official document of the settlement dates back to July, 1050. In 1356 Charles IV known as Charles of Luxembourg, King of the Germans, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor decreed in a Golden Bull, that Nuremberg was designated as the Imperial City. By 1424 the Imperial Crown Jewels, the symbol of Imperial power (crown, orb and scepter) were kept in safekeeping in Nuremberg. The Golden Bull also stated that the trade route to the east had to pass through Nuremberg, ensuring the wealth of the city, its merchants and its craftsmen.

Notable citizens from Nuremberg in the middle ages we discovered include:

1) Peter Henlein (1485-1542) a locksmith and clockmaker who is said to be the inventor of the watch. The casing of these first watches was oval-shaped for a long time, hence the nickname they acquired, the Nuremberg egg.

Statue of Peter Henlein, inventor of the first pocket watch

2) Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was a painter and printmaker of the German Renaissance.

3) Adam Kraft (1455-1509) was a German stone sculptor and master builder of the late Gothic period.

4) Veit Stoss (1447-1533) was a leading German sculptor who generally worked with wood.

4) Martin Behaim (1459-1507) was a textile merchant and cartographer. In 1490 Behaim directed a team of artisans and craftsmen to construct what has become the oldest existing world globe. It is 21″ (51cm) around, made of paper-mâché and covered with gypsum.

The globe was initially called Erdapfel (earth apple) by the townspeople of Nuremberg. Today it is referred to as the ‘Nuremberg Terrestrial Globe’.

The globe was made just prior to the discovery of the Americas in 1492 and it represents the knowledge the Europeans had of the known world up to that point.

The Wikipedia description of the globe says: “The globe contains more than 2,000 place names, 100 pictorial illustrations (plus 48 banners and 15 coats of arms), and more than 50 long legends. Many of the notations deal with fabulous monsters of foreign countries and their inhabitants, plants and animals. Many notes also deal with trade, explorations and famous travelers like Marco Polo.”

Erdapfel (earth apple) by Martin Behaim, the oldest existing globe in the world 1490-1492

Germanisches Nationalmuseum

The Germanic National Museum, where the Behaim globe can be viewed in person, was founded in 1852 with the intention of showcasing German history, literature and art. Today there are more than 1.3 million objects in the collection making this museum the largest museum of cultural history in German-speaking countries. More than 22,000 permanently displayed originals offer a journey through time. From a stone age hand ax to the gold and red garnet eagle fibula, worn by an important Ostrogoth woman from 500 CE; a symbol of Roman Power with a Christian cross on its breast.

The Kingdom of the Goths are credited with ultimately defeating the waning Roman empire around 376 CE. The name given to the western tribes of Goths was Visigoths and those in the east were called Ostrogoths.

Gold and red garnet Ostrogoth eagle fibula/brooch from 500 CE

We saw a second gorgeous tall Golden Cone, circa 1000 BCE. (similar to Berlin’s Golden Hat which we wrote about and shared pictures in our Berlin, Germany blog). The Golden Cone in this museum was from Ezelsdorf, an area south of Nuremberg. We also enjoyed seeing medieval sculptures by Veit Stoss, the Behaim Globe, Albrecht Dürer’s imperial portraits, Rembrandt’s self-portrait and the incredibly interesting “totenschilds” which translates as “shields of the dead”. Memorial shields or “totenschilds” were made to honor the deceased, displaying the family arms, crest, any military honors and colors. The totenschild would be hung on the wall of a deceased’s home and later transferred to the church and family chapel.

totenschild – memorial death shields

The Germanic National Museum was a phenomenal museum full of surprises. We found a Glass Harmonica from 1820 that was built to mimic the shape of a piano. It held 44 glass bowls that were enclosed in a cherry wood case.

By stepping on the foot treadle the glass bowls would begin to spin. Then the musician would touch the rims of the bowls with moistened fingers to elicit varying sounds. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) composed for the glass harmonica and Germany’s most acclaimed writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) wrote about it, but it was Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) Founding Father of the United States, who in 1761 invented the amazing glass harmonica instrument.

1820’s Glass Harmonica

Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds

The Nazi party held its first rallies in Nuremberg in 1927 and 1929. Beginning in 1933 the rallies were held annually in the city, where a huge complex, twice the size of the Coliseum in Rome, was built for that purpose. During the rallies held between 1933 and 1938, up to a quarter of a million people marched and carried out military exercises within the Congress Hall.

Following the end of World War II the Hall has had various uses, including an exhibition building, a warehouse and rehearsal hall. In 2001 it became a museum and was renamed the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds. Today parts of it are used as a concert hall for the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra and an open-air stage. Other parts of the complex are being used as sports facilities, parks, open air concert venues, car shows, races and rallies.

Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds 1938/39 and 2020

A museum today, the Documentation Center was where the renowned Nuremberg Trials were held in 1945-46. The Memorial to the Nuremberg Trials focuses on the present and future of international human rights abuses.

Museum Industriekultur

The building that houses the Museum of Industrial Culture began its life in the 1920s as a screw factory.

The museum showcases the history of the industrialization of Nuremberg from the 19th and 20th centuries. There is a “museum street” filled with the history of appliances and recreations of 1920’s kitchens, hair salons, corner stores and dental offices. Although this next photo is of a dental office, complete with treatment chair and electric drill, from 1895.

Dental office – 1895

If you are interested in the history of motorcycles then this museum is an excellent choice. The golden age of Nuremberg as a stronghold of bicycle manufacturing is also well represented. In addition there were plenty of lovely old cars from the early 20th century right through to the first electric vehicles from the beginning of this century.

Motorcycle built by Franz Aufschlager – 1895

Museum für Kommunikation Nürnberg

Nuremberg’s Museum of Communication was a thoroughly enjoyable stop. The museum may not be large but it is well curated and offers a rich and varied collection on the subject of communication. The exhibition’s 4 rooms highlight the sounds and images of communication and objects from hieroglyphs to the Internet. Objects have been collected over the past 150 years and clearly document the development of communication.

We saw a sample of the first written language, called cuneiform, that was created around 3200 BCE in Mesopotamia. We viewed a globe shaped map from Lumeta Corp in New Jersey showing the different networks that made up the Internet in 2010.

The Enigma machine, was a cipher device used by Nazi Germany during World War II to encrypt their communications. The encryption took place over several cylinders and the Germans believed their encrypted messages to be completely secure. Luckily the Allies managed to decipher them very early in the war.

The Enigma, encryption machine

Deutsche Bahn Railroad Museum

First opened in 1899 as the Royal Bavarian Railway Museum, today it is owned by Deutsche Bahn and is the oldest railway museum in the country. This museum visually shares the history of the railway in Germany. It displays 40 historical cars as well as the latest model of the ICE bullet train. There are interactive exhibits, themes rooms, 160 very finely detailed 1:10 scale models and a model railway covering more than 850 square feet (80 m2). There is an enthralling 10-minute demonstration every hour.

In 1835 the very first German railway, the Bavarian Ludwigsbahn ran from Nuremberg to nearby Fürth.

On the morning of December 7, 1835, a large crowd gathered at the Plärrer in Nuremberg to witness the inaugural run of the first German steam-powered railway. At nine o’clock in the morning the train with the “Adler” locomotive and nine carriages filled with 200 guests of honor set off to the cheers of the spectators and drove to Fürth, six kilometers away.

Opening of the Ludwig Railway in 1835 by Erich Schilling and Bruno Goldschmitt, 1935


The “Church of Our Lady” in Nuremberg was built between 1352 and 1355 on instructions from Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor. One decorative balcony named Michael’s Choir is the work of Nuremberg’s favored stone sculptor, Adam Kraft (1455-1509).

One of the most notable features of the church however is the Männleinlaufen, the mechanical clock that commemorates the Golden Bull of 1356 – when Nuremberg was designated as the Imperial City by Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor. At noon each day, tourists gather in front of the church to watch 2 trumpeters appear beneath the clock face announcing the appearance of Emperor Charles IV, who sits on his throne and awaits the procession of the 7 electors who circle around the figure Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor. The musical glockenspiel reminds all that Charles IV (1316-1378) visited the city 45 times. It was one of the better moving clock pieces we have seen to date.

Our Lady’s Church, Männleinlauf Glockenspiel

Nuremberg is full of surprises, the museums are top notch and the cityscape is breathtaking. We look forward to sharing more discoveries.

Prost from these Nürnbergers,

Ted + Julia

View our Deutsche Bahn Railroad Museum photo album here

View our Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds photo album here

View our Frauenkirche photo album here

View our Germanic National Museum photo album here

View our Museum of Communication, Nuremberg photo album here

View our Museum of Industrial Culture photo album here

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