Medieval Nuremberg

A stormy night in Nuremberg gave up this dramatic view of the 1000-year old Imperial Castle complex.

Nuremberg’s Imperial Castle may be Europe’s most formidable and largest medieval fortification. It is perched high on a sandstone ridge, north of the Pegnitz River and dominates the skyline of the city. The Holy Roman Empire once used the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg as a seat of power and through the ages kings and emperors stayed here when traveling through the region.

In 1945 the Imperial Castle lay in ruins, but immediately following World War II, the complex was rebuilt exactly as it had been before the war.

Map of Nuremberg

St. Lorenz’s Church

The medieval church St. Lorenz was built between 1250 and 1477 and was one of the first churches in Germany to convert to a Lutheran Church (1525). Today St. Lorenz is one of the most prominent of the Bavarian Evangelical Lutheran Churches.

St. Lorenz’s Church

The 62 feet (19 m) tall tabernacle in St. Lorenz is considered to be Nuremberg’s renowned craftsman, Adam Kraft’s (1460-1508), masterpiece. The tabernacle is the shape of a gothic tower and was commissioned in 1493. The stone tower is supported by three figures – one is a self-portrait of Kraft, the stone carver himself and the other are his two assistants.

Adam Kraft’s masterpiece, the 62′ Tabernacle


Construction began on St. Sebald Church in 1237. However with so many pilgrims flooding in to visit St. Sebalds’s tomb, by the beginning of the 14th century, the church was enlarged and several stories were added to the towers. As you will notice, St. Sebald’s twin towers are similar to St. Lorenz’ twin towers and it took us a minute to distinguish the difference between these two attention-drawing churches.

St. Sebald Church


We are not the only travelers that are fascinated to learn how each country and culture honors their dead. We learned that Johannisfriedhof / St. John’s Cemetery is a destination for “cemetery tourism”.

Johannisfriedhof is a 5th century old church cemetery that is filled with horizontal tombstones topped with pots of fresh blooming flowers. It is also often referred  to as the rose cemetery because of its numerous rose bushes. Sadly the rose bushes were not in bloom during our late season visit.


In 1234 the area was on the outskirts of the town and had a large house for lepers (a Siechkobel). In 1238 the Pope approved a chapel be built near the Siechkobel. At that time it was considered essential to be buried within churches. As early as the 14th century, in order to separate the Siechkobel inmates from other churchgoers, a closed walkway was built from the first floor of the Siechkobel to the west entrance of the church.  Other worshipers used the entrances on the north and south sides on the chapel.

During plague epidemics when the main churches in Nuremberg could not keep up with the numbers of burials, bodies were sent to Johannisfriedhof to be buried. By 1518, the laws were changed and all burials had to take place outside the city walls.

Johannisfriedhof / St. John’s Cemetery

Albrecht Dürer’s House

In 1509 Nuremberg’s beloved artist, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) began living and working in this 4-story half-timbered home that had been built nearly years earlier, in 1420. Dürer is renowned for his painting of the rabbit or hare, the woodcut of a Rhinoceros he had never seen in his lifetime,  praying hands, altarpieces as well his self-portraits, which were uncommon at the time. We learned that he was on friendly terms with the major Italian artists of his time, including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and Leonardo da Vinci.

The Albrecht Dürer’s House museum opened in 1871. The house is a well restored example of a nobleman’s home in Nuremberg. The kitchen contains the original hearth and although the furnishings are not original, they do capture the lifestyle of Dürer’s period of time. Some of the artist’s original copper plates, engravings and extremely well executed woodcuts are on display in his former workroom.

Self Portrait of Albrecht Dürer

During his lifetime Dürer was well known throughout western Europe, not only for his many forms of art, but also for his two published books, “The Four Books on Measurement” and “The Four Books on Human Proportion”. We were able to walk past where he is buried in Johannisfriedhof cemetery.

Bernstein-Hemis Nürnberg

Bernstein, in German, means literally “burn stone” or “amber”. Amber is formed from the resins of coniferous trees and subject to the pressure of layers of rock and water, the resin becomes fossilized. Amber is thought to be between 40 million and 120 million years old.

Amber is found on 5 of the 7 continents but 90% of it is found in the Baltic area earning its nickname “Gold of the Baltic Sea”. Because of its luminosity, for centuries it was called the Sun Stone. It has been found in more than 400 colors and tones, ranging from the iconic cognac color to white, black, yellow, brown, beige, red, blue, green and many more. Only 1 in 10,000 pieces of amber have inclusions, but the variety of inclusions found in the stones include twigs, petals, moss, leaves, grasshoppers, flies, mosquitos, ants, termites, beetles, bees, bubbles of air, water droplets and more. How do you know if your amber is authentic, you might ask? 1-amber floats in saline water and 2-amber is flammable and when it burns it emits a scent of resin.

Although not large, this fascinating museum of amber objects, its well-stocked shop and knowledgeable and friendly proprietor make it worth stopping in.

Art piece entirely made from differing shades of amber

Nuremberg Toy Museum

One of the most well known toy museums in the world, the Nuremberg Toy Museum which opened in 1971, displays thousands of years of toys. The beautiful 4-story Renaissance building where the museum is located also documents Nuremberg’s major role in toy manufacturing.

The Middle Ages was a creative era for the city’s merchants and craftsmen who shared a penchant for games. “Nuremberg trinkets” included mechanical toys, trumpets, steam engines and erector sets.

Displays also included wooden toys and dollhouses as well as a large tin toy collection from the Lehmann Toy Company. Check out our photo link at the bottom to see the amazing variety of toys this museum has collected – they will surely make you smile.

This painted double-deck merry-go-round was made by hand around 1910. At the push of a button, it runs for 5 minutes to the melodies of a historic carousel organ.

Nuremberg Toy Museum –  Carousel from 1910

We spotted a few of the well known Steiff bears as well. Margarete Steiff, born in 1847, founded Steiff Manufacture in 1880. The company made stuffed elephants, dogs, cats, hares, horses and monkeys. But it was her nephew, Richard Steiff, who designed the first stuffed bear with movable arms and legs in 1902. By 1906 the “Teddy Bear,” was wildly popular in the USA. The bear was named in honor of the American president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (Presidential term 1901-1909).

The city, to this day remains enamored with toys and now hosts the annual Nuremberg International Toy Fair, the largest of its kind in the world.

Schöner Brunnen or Beautiful Fountain

On our first exploratory walk through Nuremberg this stunning brightly painted 62 foot (19 m) tall “Beautiful Fountain” claimed our attention. It was built between 1385 and 1395 in the shape of a Gothic spire and the 40 brightly colored figures are meant to represent the worldview of the statehood of the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century. Starting at the base is philosophy and the seven liberal arts, above them, the Evangelists and Church Fathers are followed by the seven Prince-electors and Nine Heroes. Moses and seven Prophets (Hosea, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Isaiah and Joel) are featured in the upper level.

Beautifully restored and rebuilt several times through the centuries, the original fountain can still be seen in Nuremberg’s German National Museum.

The Beautiful Fountain

Franconian Fare

Before wrapping up this writing, we have to include a couple of tasty treats we tried while in Nuremberg.

The first is the Nuremberg bratwurst, made of pork and bacon and seasoned with salt, pepper and marjoram and normally served on pewter plates with horseradish or mustard and accompanied by either sauerkraut or potato salad. These sausages are smaller than most at about 4″ long and ½” in diameter and we usually had “drei in an Weckla” or “three in a roll”, served in a fresh bunwich. Delicious!

Nuremberg Lebkuchen or gingerbread is an EU protected trademark and “Elisen” is the highest quality type of gingerbread. The protected recipe contains no more than 10% flour and at least 25% almonds and hazelnuts. Honey, anise, ginger, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, orange and lemon create the special taste. These were so flavorful, soft and mild. They have a year-long shelf life so we are hoping the package we share with our family over the holidays will be as wonderful as the ones we enjoyed locally.

Nuremberg Lebkuchen (gingerbread)

The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) who is famous for his poems Paul Revere’s Ride and The Song of Hiawatha also penned the following poem. If you have ever visited Nuremberg this poem will remind you of its many charms.

Poems of Places

In the valley of the Pegnitz, where across broad meadow-lands

Rise the blue Franconian mountains, Nuremberg, the ancient, stands.

Quaint old town of toil and traffic, quaint old town of art and song,

Memories haunt thy pointed gables, like the rooks that round them throng:

Memories of the Middle Ages, when the emperors, rough and bold,

Had their dwelling in thy castle, time-defying, centuries old;

And thy brave and thrifty burghers boasted, in their uncouth rhyme,

That their great imperial city stretched its hand through every clime.

In the court-yard of the castle, bound with many an iron band,

Stands the mighty linden planted by Queen Cunigunde’s hand;

On the square the oriel window, where in old heroic days

Sat the poet Melchior singing Kaiser Maximilian’s praise.

Everywhere I see around me rise the wondrous world of Art:

Fountains wrought with richest sculpture standing in the common mart;

And above cathedral doorways saints and bishops carved in stone,

By a former age commissioned as apostles to our own.

In the church of sainted Sebald sleeps enshrined his holy dust,

And in bronze the Twelve Apostles guard from age to age their trust;

Nuremberg, population 520,000, has so many attractions that even during our month-long stay, there are still plenty of reasons for a return visit. The city hosts festivals and markets throughout the year and we were delighted to be able to do a little holiday shopping.

Auf Wiedersehen Nürnberg.

Prost from these Nürnbergers,

Ted + Julia

View our Albrecht Dürer’s House photo album here

View our Bernsteinmuseum Nürnberg (Amber) photo album here

View our Johannisfriedhof Cemetery photo album here

View our St Laurence – Evangelical Lutheran Church photo album here

View our St. Sebald (Sebalduskirche) photo album here

View our Toy Museum photo album here

View the Rest of Nuremberg photo album here

One thought on “Medieval Nuremberg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.