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Museums and Theatres in Rothenburg

A day won’t suffice to explore all of Rothenburg’s museums. The little town gives quite a few perfect examples, how a museum’s visit can be turned from a dreary matter into an exciting experience. Everybody will find just the right entertainment. A nostalgic travel into the past for the whole family: the Christmas Museum. Scientific – yet scary – the Medieval Criminal Museum, which documents a thousand years of history of law. Interesting from both, a historical and an arts’ point of view: The Museum of the Imperial Town. Yet another approach to the imperial past, visitors may find in the Old-Rothenburg Craftsmen House, the historical vaults with the state’s dungeon, and last but not least the little Toppler-Castle.

Old-Rothenburg Craftsmen House “Alt-Rothenburger Handwerkerhaus” Anyone interested in a less glamorous side of the past ought to visit the Old-Rothenburg Craftsmen House – the museum in its historical building is certainly second to none in Franconia. More than seven centuries the little structure served various craftsmen as both, workshop and dwelling. From 1300 onwards it was home to barrel-makers, followed by dyers from 1510 till 1680. Eleven rooms are dedicated to illustrate the life, work, daily routines and chores of an ordinary craftsman and his big family.

German Christmas Museum “Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum“ Christmas tree decoration twinkles, Christmas Pyramids rotate, above all the gentle jingle of bells: Rothenburg celebrates Christmas throughout the whole year. Where? In the German Christmas Museum. In 1981, Käthe Wohlfahrt opened her Christmas Village, today well known all over the world. Harald Wohlfahrt added to that the traditional Christmas customs of times long gone by – the results may be admired in the Museum. Not only antique Christmas tree decoration is on display, but also the history of the various worldly customs and habits of Christmas are explained. www.weihnachtsmuseum.de

Historical Vaults and State’s Dungeon “Historiengewölbe mit Staatsverlies“. The Historical Vaults bring back the times of the Thirty-Years-War. The various exhibits include, amongst others, military equipment of the time, weapons, uniforms, but also the legendary tankard known from the Master Draught “Meistertrunk” saga. Underneath the Historic Vaults: The notorious State Dungeon, where powerful Mayor Toppler met his end in the year 1408.

The Medieval Criminal Museum “Kriminalmuseum” is considered the most important museum of “History of Law” in Germany. Housed in the former Commandery of the Knights of St. John, it covers the vast history of a thousand years of European history of law, for example the history of legislation till the 19th Century, the criminal proceedings in the medieval era, all backed up and supported by important official documents of the time. Instruments of torture and “tools” for capital punishment still make one shiver – but there are also quite “comical” devices, for example special pillories for those who used to bad- mouth about their fellow citizens and neighbors.

Imperial Town Museum “Reichsstadtmuseum”. The museum is located in the former Dominican nuns’ convent – residents from 1258 till the Protestant Reformation. An exhibit completely preserved from former times: the convent kitchen. The museum’s collections display pieces of art and culture, collected from over eight centuries, amongst others the “Rothenburg Passion”, the gallery with paintings of 19th Century artists and an important department covering Jewish culture. The Baumann Collection – integrated into the museum ever since 1999 – displays weapons, knights armors, but also faience ware and pewter. Special topic exhibitions enhance the regular exhibition.

Toppler Castle “Topplerschlösschen”. Rothenburg Mayor Heinrich Toppler had the miniature version of a castle built in 1388, placed amidst a garden that could be flooded for defense. Serving Toppler as a retreat, it saw politics nonetheless, being a meeting place with King Wenzel. Today the matchbox castle is decorated with furniture ranging from 16th to 19th century and gives visitors an insight of the late medieval way of living.

The town of theatres

Theatre – a tradition in Rothenburg – even if one will first be impressed by historic fortifications and medieval scenery, Franconian half-timbered houses, charming vineyards and “Christmas Magic throughout the Year”. Proof of Rothenburg’s theatre past can be found in the baroque stair case of the Vienna “Burgtheater”. A fresco by painter Ernst Klimt (1864-1892) shows theatre scenes with “Hanswurst” (a traditional, folklike clown), all happening around Rothenburg’s St. Georg’s fountain. The artist depicted the little Franconian town amongst other cities with a significant theatre tradition. The citizens cope with this reputation in their own special way. Every year, at Whitsun, the spectacle “The Master Draught” attracts visitors from all over the world, the Hans-Sachs-Plays and historical “Shepherds Dance” complete the historical trilogy of Imperial Rothenburg. But – Rothenburg is also rapidly gaining reputation as a town supporting a vivid open-air-theatre. Ever since its foundation in 2008, Toppler Theatre in the Northern Courtyard of the Imperial Museum has developed into a highly regarded stage, both with actors and spectators. But, not only splendid little Toppler Theatre adds to the tradition, culture stretches way beyond that – events in the Korn-Hall-of-Culture, sophisticated sacred music, as well as offers of the local cultural society augment the wide variety of cultural life. Yet another prospective interesting stage, even though still under construction: The Theatre at the “Stöberleins”-Tower.

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