Thursday, May 1, 2014

2014 Germany Trip - Marienkapelle and Falkenhaus @ Würzburg

Location: Würzburg, Germany
There is more than one reason why I loved Würzburg. There was the UNESCO Heritage listed Würzburg Residenz, and there was the magnificent view of Marienberg Fortress perched high atop the hills overlooking the town. Wandering around the old town is fun by itself, as I encountered various beautiful buildings, most of them churches that towered over the mortal man.

While strolling in the old town I came across Marktplatz, a square where two buildings with their eye-catching architecture bound not to be missed by tourists. The deep crimson of Marienkapelle's (St. Mary's Chapel) Gothic architecture stood in towering contrast to the three-storey tall lightly beige façade of Falkenhaus' (Falcon House) Baroque architecture, promising a photogenic opportunity against the clear blue skies.

The tall crimson Gothic architecture of Marienkapelle stood in stark contrast against the lower Falkenhaus with its lighter tone and Baroque architecture. The latter houses the city library as well as the Tourist Office. The three gabled Rococo façades with their beautiful curls are the reason why the Falkenhaus stole the attention of most passer-bys.

Falkenhaus is literally translated as "House of the Falcon", although I failed to find any information as to how it is related to the bird of prey. It was hailed as having one of the most beautiful Rococo façades in south Germany, with those elegant curls on the three Rococo gables grabbing every photographer's attention.

The building has a long history - it was originally the residence of the Dompfarrers, but was bought by Franz Thomas Meissner, a wealthy trader and innkeeper, in 1735 to be used as a guesthouse. The Rococo façades were only completed in 1751 by his widow Barbara. The city of Würzburg later acquired the building in 1939, making it a property of the city instead of privately owned.

As was the case with most historic buildings of Würzburg, the Falkenhaus was partially defaced by the air raid of World War II, its famous Rococo gable façades collapsed by raging fire. Its prominent location in the market area made it one of the earliest buildings prioritized to be restored. It has housed the city library and Tourist Information Office since 1952.

The erect pillar in the center of Marktplatz casting a long shadow towards me...

Various shots of the different sides of Marienkapelle - the Chapel of St Mary. Such a grand and magnificent church to be called a chapel is puzzling.

Any mention or photos of the Falkenhaus of Würzburg would not miss the looming block of red and white church that is Marienkapelle, literally "Chapel of St Mary", dedicated to Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ. True to its Gothic architecture, the details of the decorating sculptures as well as those stuccoes adorning the tower and ribbed exterior were impressive.

And for such a marvellous church of this size to be named a chapel was puzzling. Digging into its history online, I realized that its Gothic architecture was not original, nor was the church itself. It was built in 1377 upon a razed synagogue after the Jewish pogrom in 1349. After it was completed, its architectural style underwent a minor Baroque transformation when it was criticized to be in a bad condition in the 14th century. The current face was the result of a much later Gothic Revival transformation in the 19th century.

Entrance to Marienkapelle with its ornately sculptured doorway.

Topping the tower was golden figure standing in solitary contrast against the crimson exterior.

Its interior was magnificent, but not extraordinarily so compared to certain other churches and cathedrals which I had visited. After the post World War restoration and recent refurbishment, it looked much more modern inside when I was expecting that the nearly six century old building to exude a certain archaic charm. Nevertheless the tall ceiling and stained glass windows adorning certain sections still exuded an aura that threatened to take visitor's breath away.

A view of the interior of Marienkapelle.

Despite them being listed low in priority in most tourist guidebook's Würzburg entry, it is my personal urge to visitors to at least stop by for a visit. Their magnificence and photogenic exterior would no doubt provide an easily memorable backdrop against any photo op.

Environment:         A square with a towering church and a building with beautiful Rococo facade
Suitable for:            Architecture appreciators
Visit worthiness:   6/10 (a quick detour will be sufficient)
Historical value:        4.0/5.0 
Architectural value:  4.0/5.0
Photographic value:  3.5/5.0
Landmark value:       1.0/5.0

Entrance Fee:                 free
Opening Hours:             (daily) 8.00 a.m. - 8.00 p.m.
Best Moment to Visit:  Anytime, but the church is not available for visit during mass
Length of Visit:              less than 1 hour

Contact:                    +49 (0) 931 - 38 66 28 00
Address:                   Marienplatz 7, 97070 Würzburg, Germany

Falkenhaus Tourist Office
Entrance Fee:                 free
Opening Hours:             (Jan - Mar)  (Mon - Fri)          10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m.
                                                                    (Sat)                      10.00 a.m. - 2.00 p.m.
                                              (Apr - Dec)  (Mon - Fri)           10.00 a.m. - 6.00 p.m.
                                                                    (Sat)                      10.00 a.m. - 2.00 p.m.
                                              (May - Oct) (Sun & Holidays) 10.00 a.m. - 2.00 p.m.
Best Moment to Visit:  Anytime
Length of Visit:              less than 1 hour

Contact:                    +49 (0) 931 - 37 23 98 (phone)/+49 (0) 931 - 37 39 52
Address:                   Falkenhaus, Marktplatz 9, 97070 Würzburg, Germany


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