Days Out in Worms and Mondorf

Posted on February 10, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Winter in Germany

We have had a busy last few days and boy am I tuckered out. But we have had some glorious sunny weather lately and we have really been enjoying it.

Thursday: Worms

On Thursday we went to Worms - great name for a city, although in German it's pronounced "vorms." It's a two-hour drive south along the Rhine River, not far from Mainz. We had a great time. It's a smallish and pleasant city, with all the main sights within fairly easy walking distance. Thanks to the off-season, we seemed to be the only non-German tourists there, and the city had a very relaxed feel.

All told, we visited a cathedral, three churches, a museum, two Luther-related sites, a synagogue, and a Jewish cemetery. Quite a nice variety. We brought home over a thousand pictures and we've only begun to go through them all, but here are some highlights.

worms cathedral
Worms Cathedral at sunset, with unfortunate silo-like scaffolding around a tower.

nave arcade
Good solid Romanesque architecture in the nave. This cathedral has a lot in common with nearby Mainz, including the red stone, but we both liked this one better.

daniel in the lion's den
Romanesque (12th-cent.) sculptures of Daniel in the Lion's Den, with rainbow colors from a stained glass window.

An unusually small crypt, with nothing but eight early medieval tombs.

here he stood
In a garden next to the cathedral is this plaque commemorating Martin Luther's appearance before the Imperial council here in April 1521. After refusing to retract his views (with the legendary words, "Here I stand, I can do no other"), Holy Roman Emperor Charles V declared him an outlaw. That may have been the end of the story had he not been rescued by Frederick of Saxony during the night and sheltered in Wartburg Castle.

Finding the plaque was a bit of a treasure hunt because I didn't know where it was in the fairly sizable garden! It was also fun to find because it was the first Luther site of many we'll visit before we leave Germany. And just a block or two down the road was another one, the Luther Monument:

luther monument martin luther philipp melancthon
This monument to Martin Luther and his friends was made in 1868, funded by Lutherans around the the world. There are Luther Monuments all over Germany, but this is the largest of them. Click on a photo for more details on the statues.

We had a short break for lunch, which was two delicious pizza breads and a Coke for €5.

We ate our pizza in this plaza overlooking the 12th-century Martinskirche. It wasn't very interesting inside, but it was entered through a door around the back, which overlooked a cluttered little courtyard that reminded us of Italy.

Next up was the very interesting Jewish Quarter, where a large Jewish population once lived. Sadly this all came to an end with the Nazis, and very few remain today. The synagogue is actually used primarily by Jewish members of the American army!

old synagogue
The Old Synagogue of Worms, which was reduced to rubble by the Nazis but has been rebuilt using some of the original stones. It was originally built in the 12th century.

The most interesting part of the synagogue was out back, where stairs led underground to this medieval mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath. Further stairs, seen here on the right, led down to the bath itself:

Getting a proper angle on this interesting ancient spot required some painful kneeling on stone, but I am always willing to suffer for my art!

The Jewish Quarter was a very pretty part of the Old Town, passing through winding cobblestone streets and along part of the old city wall. It reminded us a bit of Toledo, Spain.

jewish quarter, worms old city wall

Back at the Martinskirche, an older German couple had spotted David taking photos and came up to him to insist that he visit the Dominikanerkirche. They spoke in German and then broken English, and the only phrase David got from their enthusiastic recommendations was neue portal. We were skeptical at this, since we like our portals old, not new. But the church is on my website and on my if-we-have-time list, so we thought we'd better head over there and check it out.

The church was built in 1002, with the domes added in the 1200s based on churches that local Crusaders had seen in Jerusalem.

It was worth the detour, and indeed the main attraction was the New Portal. It is a bronze double door with sculptures of biblical scenes, and must have been completed quite recently. Inside the church they had stacks of hardcover books (€20) all about the history and creation of the New Portal. Clearly David's new friends aren't the only locals excited about this new addition.

pauluskirche holly at pauluskirche
But as I discovered through scientific experiment, it's not actually used as the entrance.

Inside the west tower

Next up was this little gem, back by the cathedral. It was built around 800, but later extended. Aside from its venerable age, its claim to fame is that it was the first church to convert to Lutheranism in this region.

It's very simple inside. David wasn't thrilled, but I loved it. It's so wonderfully old and the round arches, blank walls and little windows makes it Romanesque at its simple best. It also gave me a strong feeling of being at the beach - I don't know why! Must be all the white.

Side aisle with old tombs

Next stop was the Judenfriedhof, just outside the city walls in the shadow of the cathedral. This is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe and it's very large, too. The oldest tombstone is from 1024, but the oldest inscriptions are all in Hebrew so we couldn't read any dates. The cemetery went out of use in 1911 simply because they ran out of room. The cemetery was somehow overlooked by the Nazis, so the old tombstones fell victim only to time, not hammers.

jewish cemetery, worms jewish cemetery, worms jewish cemetery, worms jewish cemetery, worms

One unexpected sight on a few tombs was this symbolic hand gesture:

jewish cemetery
Looks to us like a combination of "live long and prosper" and "whatever" - we'll have to look into this to see what it means!

Just as the sun was setting and our feet were beginning to complain, we squeezed in one last sight before departing Worms. This is the Andreaskirche, which was once part of a large monastery nestled against the city wall. It now houses the city museum.

View of monastery from outside the city wall

Towers of the church from the cloister

Since we arrived with only 30 minutes until closing, we were given a hefty discount on admission. Hooray! David hung out in the church and took pictures while I hustled around the three floors of the former monastery in search of interesting exhibits.

Church interior

Most of the museum collection consisted of prehistoric artifacts, including shelf after shelf of clay pots. But there were some interesting re-created burials, some Roman items, a few Early Christian gravestones (all copies, sadly), and a Luther Room with some original letters signed by Luther.

lamps with gladiators
1st-century oil lamps with gladiators

minerva, mercury and vulcan
Roman relief of Minerva, Mercury and Vulcan

martin luther autograph
Martin Luther autograph

Friday: Ferry to Mondorf

Friday's activities were much closer to home. We walked along the river to a little ferry port to feed the swans and take their portraits. They are very photogenic creatures and provide a good opportunity for practicing shutter speeds and such.

just put it on my bill swan catching the ferry nap

Then on a whim we decided to hop on the ferry and cross the Rhine to the village of Mondorf. We rode in the little upper deck and it was so much fun.

holly on mondorf ferry mondorf

There wasn't a whole lot to see in Mondorf, but we had a good time exploring and taking pictures of whatever caught our eye.

mondorf signs of germany mondorf

Yesterday and Today: Cologne

Yesterday the sun shone again so we rode the tram into Cologne to visit an old church and a rather unique museum, and then we had a delicious dinner. And this morning, David drove up to Cologne again to take pictures of the cathedral from across the river. More on these trips in another post.