Virtual City Tour
Today’s classicist building was erected in 1909 after the original building had burned down completely in 1908. The façade with its six Corinthian style columns is an architectural highlight of Meiningen’s Bernhard Street. Whereas the old theatre had been the domain of Bülow and Brahms, who worked with the famous court orchestra, the new building was to become Max Reger’s work place. More information about the history of theatre in Meiningen and the repertoire 2015/16.
The house was built in the 19th century as a bazaar with Jewish businesses on the ground floor and a school on the upper floors. After a total renovation in which the façade has been restored to original condition, today the building is used as studio theatre ‘Kammerspiele’ and art gallery.
The park facility was commissioned by Duke Georg I. in 1782 and laid out by the landscape gardeners Brothers Buttmann. In the 18th century, romantic landscape parks started to become more popular than French formal gardens in the Baroque style. Georg I. of Saxe-Meiningen was open to the ideas of the age of enlightenment and designed the facilities according to the aesthetic principles of the time. The surface of the pond mirrors branches of old trees, the impressive theatre building, the artificial ruins and the arched stone bridge. There are a number of paths meandering through groves, meadows and hills. In 1839 the neo-Gothic chapel was built in the western part of the park facilities, the former cemetery. Numerous monuments were integrated into the landscape in the 19th and 20th century, so that the visitor has a chance to meet many of the great minds of Meiningen’s cultural history. The English Garden serves both as an urban retreat and a reminder of Meiningen’s rich cultural history.
The most important and representative memorial in the English Garden is dedicated to Johannes Brahms. Brahms was closely connected to the ducal family and the court orchestra. Two years after his death the memorial, including a bust of the composer, created by Adolf von Hildebrand, was unveiled as Germany’s first Brahms memorial.
The neo-Gothic chapel was built as a crypt for the nobility of Saxe-Meiningen. The coffins have been removed in the 1970s and the remains were cremated and buried in dignity at the Meiningen Cemetery. Today you can see the history of the building and of the surroundings on display inside the chapel (depending on opening hours).
The representative building was erected in 1821 as a residence for the heir of the house of Saxe-Meiningen. In 1863 the Palais was altered and extended. After a renovation in 2009 the building is now used as medical centre.
The Princess Palais, a two-storey neo-classical building, was built from 1821 to 1823 as residence for the Princess of Saxe-Meiningen. It was owned by the ducal familiy until 1945. Most famous resident was the composer Johannes Brahms, who was closely conntected to the ducal family and came to visit quite regularly at the end of the 19th century. Today the building is used as a bank.
The building was erected from 1798 to 1802 and was used as a lodging house right from the beginning. The northeast extension was added during the 1820s. In 1843 the house transferred to the ownership of the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis, who relocated the local post office into the southern part of the guesthouse. Before the first theatre building was opened in 1831, rehearsals and acting shows were performed in the Sächsischer Hof. The building received its present appearance during the rebuild in the year 1900, when court architect E. Fritze added a second and third level with Franconian style timber framework and and romantic pointy towers. Many famous guests have resided here: King Louis I. of Bavaria, Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, just to name a few. Today the four star Romantik Hotel offers classy accomodation, two restaurants and a café.
The Henneberger House looks like built in the middle ages but was constructed in 1895. The architect E. Fritze, who also designed the neighbouring Hotel Sächsischer Hof, was chairman of the association for regional studies and history ‘Hennbergisch Altertumsforschender Vereins’. His idea was to present the historic treasures according to scientific and decorative purposes. An arch with passenger alleyway reminds of the northern town gate that was located on the very same spot. Today the Henneberger House is a restaurant and guest house.
Built in 1596 the so called ‘Büchner House’ is one of the oldest Tudor style houses in Meiningen. It was spared in the city fire of 1874 but in 1900 almost ready for demolition. It has then been reconstructed with close detail to the historical elements and with richly decorated timbers in ‘Henneberg-Frankonian’ style. A typical, private Meiningen well can be found in the courtyard.
The Town Church or Church of Our Lady dominates Meiningen’s market square with its two 50 metre high towers. It is a hall church with neo-Gothic nave and neo-Romanesque West front. The church was built around the year 1000 and was consecrated to the Virgin Mary. In 1544 it was reformed to a Protestant parish church. Of this original Romanesque building only the lower part of the north tower and the left-hand door knocker remain. In the years 1443 to 1455, the church underwent fundamental transformations and was given its Gothic choir. On the exterior wall, high up on the north-east buttress of the choir, one can make out the so-called ‘Kreuzpfennig’. It displays the tilted image of the Würzburg bishop’s coin. It was placed there during the modification of the building and was considered as the town’s landmark for a long time. The sand stone statue of ‘Mary with Child’ in the interior of the church also dates from the first half of the 15th century. On the left-hand side of the nave you will find a copy of the ‘Madonna of Stuppach’. During the reconstruction between the years of 1884 and 1889, the nave was completely renewed and the church given its present-day layout. The north tower with its stair tower, which was added in 1594, is the older tower of the two. The South tower was moved to its present location architectonically matched to the North tower during the course of another period of reconstruction in the 19th century. Another result of these modifications was the colourfully tiled roof. The organ was built in 1889 by the organ builders Schlimbach from Würzburg. Johannes Brahms valued it highly and Max Reger often played on this instrument. During the bombardment of Meiningen in 1945 all windows were destroyed and the organ was severely damaged.
with Heinrich Fountain
Duke Georg II dedicated the fountain to Emperor Heinrich II who, according to legend, donated the town church to Meiningen. The statue on top of the fountain therefore holds a miniature model of the church in his hands. The former town hall at the west side of the square was destroyed in a heavy air raid in 1945 and not rebuilt since.
The guesthouse and tavern ‘Schlundhaus’ was built in 1906 in place of the hotel ‘Zum Stern’. The impressive hand-carved bay window, reminder of the wealth in the 16th century, is a copy of the guesthouse ‘Zum güldenen Einhorn’ in Georg Street. This used to be one of the most splendid places in town until it was destroyed in the great fire in 1874. The Franconian term ‘Schlundhaus’ was used to denote the cellar of a town hall.
As legend has it, the original Thuringian dumplings were invented at the ‘Schlundhaus’ in Meiningen. The poet Rudolf Baumbach has written the ‘Ballad of the Dumpling’. He describes how the pagan goddess ‘Mother Hulda’ destroys the peasant’s vines with a harsh frost as punishment for their pride and thus, takes away their means of living. Out of sympathy, she then introduces the potato to the citizens of Meiningen and gives them a recipe for the preparation of potato dumplings. It is said that Mother Hulda herself handed over the recipe to the mayor with the words: Hüt’ es! (Guard it!) - and that’s why this delicacy is called ‘Hütes’ in Meiningen.
The former monastary was used as prison from 1816 on. After the old building had been teared down, a prison in neo-Gothic style with 18 very basic cells was erected under the direction of building officer August W. Doebner in 1844/45. An extension to the prison was necessary after a few years and in 1879 a brick building was erected right next door. After World War II it was used as headquarters and remand centre of the Russian occupation forces until 1963. In 1997 the complex was rebuilt and the Fronveste was converted into a restaurant. From 2006 the buildings were completely remodeled into a prison themed hotel with restaurant high above the rooftops of Meiningen
The catholic church was built in the 1970s. It doesn’t look impressive on the outside but the interieur with its coloured glass windows is artistically inspired. The room design evolved from a long planning process and in dispute with the GDR authorities. You will feel touched by the beauty of the light shining through the abstract artwork.
The Tudor style house was built in the 18th century. Its side wing leans on a part of the medieval town wall. In the garden you can see a bust of the poet Rudolf Baumbach who used to live here in his childhood home after his return from Italy in 1885 until his death in 1905. The author is well remembered for some of his poems that were turned into popular folk songs. Today the building houses the Meiningen Literature Museum.
Elisabethenburg Castle was commissioned by Duke Bernhard I. and used as a residence for the ducal family until 1920. Passing through the gate into the rotunda, the visitor has a spectacular view of the baroque palace with its three wings. The impressive building complex was erected mainly between 1682 and 1692 in place of a former castle of the diocese Würzburg. This previous building was integrated into the complex and forms the northern wing. Elisabetheburg Castle houses the Meiningen Museum with an excellent exhibition about musical history. Well worth a visit is the palace’s Holy Trinity church, in which Johann Ludwig Bach, a cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach, played music.It is used as a concert hall today. A special recommendation is the baroque café ‘Hessensaal’. The festive room on the top floor of the stair tower is richly decorated with stucco ornaments and offers good views over the rooftops of the city. The fountain in the castle courtyard dates from the early 20th century and was a gift from Duchess Charlotte, the sister of the German Emperor Wilhelm II., to her husband Duke Bernhard III. of Saxe-Meiningen. Many courts in Thuringia supported the advancement of arts and culture. In the late 19th century Meiningen established itself as cultural centre, nestled in between Bayreuth and Weimar.
The former equestrian hall right in front of Elisabethenburg Castle houses an extraordinary attraction: the Theatre Museum 'Magic World of Scenery'. The building was completed in 1797 as part of the ducal stables and was originally used for riding lessons and to train the horses of the ducal court. In fact the equestrian hall has never been a very imposing building, it looked more like an enormous town barn. In the 1970s it was reconstructed and served as a gym and even a supermarket in the following years. The plans for a theatre museum had been existing for 30 years when they where finally put into action in 1999. The preservational aims of the restoration have given the building an impressiveness so far unknown. The exposition of theatre history in the Theatre Museum sends visitors on a journey into the fascinating world of illusion. The unique collection comprises 280 original, painted stage decoration pieces and a number of complete stage sets from the 19th century. The presentation complete with light and music is sure to give you an impression of the impact the Meiningen theatre company had on their audience at that time.
The Old Post Office is a four-storey half-timbered house dating from the 17th century. The post horn and horse’s head mounted on the front façade indicate its former use as a post office from 1905 till 1926. At the end of the 18th century the façade was plastered over completely. In 1909 the owner of the house followed the advice of building officer Eduard Fritze and laid bare the house’s half-timbered frame once more. In the middle of the 18th century the building served as residence of the family von Pfaffenrath. Court lady von Pfaffenrath quarrelled with another lady over matters of precedence. This caused the breakout of the ‘Wasungen War’ in 1747. This conflict between the dukedoms Gotha and Meiningen marked a pathetic climax in German provincialism. In 1982 the building was refurbished and in 2005 the association NEKST (New European Art Salon Thuringia) moved into the house. NEKST provides a platform for artists and art lovers to come together. It has made the time-honoured building into a place for alternative art and gave it the name ‘Kunsthaus’.
The Goetz Cave is the largest cleft and rift cave in Germany that is open to the public. The cave emerged 20.000 years ago as a result of underground shifts in the rock. It was discovered by Reinhold Goetz, a Meiningen tradesman, in 1915. The biggest rift is 50 metres deep and the path for the guided tour winds through the cave at a length of 480 m. There is a 33 metre altitude difference between the three levels. Nine staircases with 164 steps facilitate the tour of the three different levels that will provide the visitor with an impression of the geological forces that created the rifts and chasms. A shorter tour on ground level is on offer for senior visitors. From the plateau in front of the cave visitors have a unique panoramic view over the city.
The Meiningen Steam Locomotive Works (Dampflokwerk) was founded in 1914. It is the only workshop in Western Europe that still has the knowledge and technology to repair and overhaul historic steam engines. Collectors throughout Europe take their machines to Meiningen to be serviced and restored. Until the late 1970s the workshop’s profile was dominated by steam engine maintenance. This changed gradually as steam locomotives became outdated and were not used for every-day transport anymore. Since 1998 the Steam Locomotive Works maintains and repairs standard and narrow gauge locomotives for German Railways, privately owned railway companies, heritage railways and railway associations in Germany and abroad. It also modernizes snow ploughs and snow blowers and manufactures boilers for historic steam locomotives from all across Europe. The refurbishment of historic train coaches also constitutes an important section in the workshop’s range of products and services.
Landsberg Castle is situated high above the Werra valley on Mount Landsberg and replaced the former Castle Landswehre. In 1836 Duke Bernhard II. of Saxe-Meiningen had it built as a summer residence in the style of English aristocratic estates such as Windsor Castle and Hampton Court. His oldest sister Adelaide, who was Queen consort of England from 1830-1837, endorsed him with creative advice as well as financial support. The previous Castle Landwehre was first mentioned in chronicles of the 11th century as part of the northern fortifications of the diocese Würzburg. After its destruction during the Peasant Wars and the Thirty Years War, the Castle was uninhabitable. Remains of the protective walls and the castle keep were demolished in 1682 in order to use the debris for the edification of Palace Elisabethenburg. Only parts of the tower and the well shaft still remain today. Landsberg Castle was used as romantic first class hotel until 2013 but is closed today. You can still walk or drive up Mount Landsberg to get a glimpse of the castle ground from the outside.