Gothic architecture was late to take root in German-speaking lands but, once established, architects there became exceptionally accomplished and innovative, and produced some of the more outstanding buildings in Europe of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This tour provides a comprehensive survey of their achievement. By including key buildings of the thirteenth century, and illustrating the demise of the influence of French High Gothic, the genius and originality of distinctly German styles will become all the more evident.
Considering the beauty and importance of these buildings, it is astonishing that so few Britons have visited them. Some, indeed, until a generation ago were difficult to access, located as they were in the depths of rural East Germany. Many of the churches visited are located in some of the least spoiled towns in the country, and the tour passes through enchanting countryside.
Architecture is not the only subject of the tour. A great deal of very fine sculpture, painting and furnishing survives in Germany, much of it in situ in the churches for which it was made.
Marburg. Fly at c. 11.00am from London Heathrow to Frankfurt (British Airways). Drive northwards across forested uplands to Marburg, a lovely university town with a wealth of half-timbered buildings. The Elisabethkirche is a pioneering hall church (side aisles and nave of equal height) of remarkable homogeneity, and is one of the first major churches to embody specifically German characteristics. The gold shrine of St Elisabeth is very fine. Continue to Erfurt for the first of three nights.
Erfurt. Erfurt is an attractive town famous for its mediaeval bridge crowned with houses. The cathedral has a soaring High Gothic choir and a Late Gothic hall-church nave. Adjacent is the Severikirche, another fine hall-church with excellent sculpture. An afternoon walk includes the aforementioned Krämerbrücke (bridge), Barfüsserkirche with its striking medieval stained glass, and Predigerkirche, which is one of Germany’s most impressive mendicant churches. Overnight Erfurt.
Naumburg, Erfurt. Morning excursion to Naumburg. The imposing Early Gothic cathedral is known for the astonishingly naturalistic life-size statues of the twelve founders (c. 1250), among the greatest treasures of the Middle Ages. Return to Erfurt after some time for lunch and independent exploration. The Angermuseum showcases a wide range of objects from medieval paintings and sculptures to an entire room with expressionist wall-paintings by Erich Heckel. Overnight Erfurt.
Bamberg, Dinkelsbühl. Built on seven hills and intersected by rivers, Bamberg is one of the loveliest towns in Europe. The majestic double-ended, four-towered cathedral is particularly outstanding for its Early Gothic sculpture, including the Bamberg Rider, a potent embodiment of knightly values. Continue to Dinkelsbühl, a highly attractive walled town, for the remaining four nights.
Schwäbisch-Gmünd, Ulm. The Church of Holy Cross at Schwäbisch-Gmünd is one of the most beautiful of Late Gothic churches; the first major undertaking by the Parler family, it was seminal for future stylistic development in Central Europe. Parlers also worked on the enormous minster of complicated building history at Ulm, which has the world’s tallest Gothic spire (162m), and remarkable choir stalls. The museum has good medieval painting and sculpture. Overnight Dinkelsbühl.
Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen. St George ranks among the most beautiful of medieval churches, with outstanding net vaults (architect Nicholas Eseler). Drive to nearby Nördlingen, a picturesque town with medieval city walls intact. Visit the Late Gothic hall church of St George with its 90-metre steeple. After a break for lunch visit the Stadtmuseum, which houses the medieval high altarpiece of St Georg, a little known but crucial work of late Gothic art in Germany dating to the 1460s. Overnight Dinkelsbühl.
Nuremberg. Despite wartime damage, Nuremberg remains one of the finest historic towns in Germany. The church of St Lorenz, with a magnificent choir by Konrad Heinzelmann (begun 1439), is remarkable for an abundance of first-rate painting, sculpture and furnishings (Veit Stoss, Annunciation), as is its rival across the river, St Sebald. The German National Museum houses the country’s biggest collection of German art. Overnight Dinkelsbühl.
Eichstätt. Drive to Munich airport via Eichstätt, a charming Baroque town in the picturesque valley of the Altmühl River. Its cathedral, with its Gothic west choir, is regarded as one of Germany’s most important medieval monuments. There are stained-glass windows designed by Holbein the Elder. Fly from Munich, arriving Heathrow at c. 5.30pm.
Two sharing: £2,560 or £2,370 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,730 or £2,540 without flights.
Air travel (economy class) on scheduled British Airways flights (aircraft: Airbus A320); travel by private coach throughout; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts and 6 dinners with wine; all admissions and donations to churches; all tip for waiters, drivers and guides; airport and state taxes; the services of the lecturer.
There is a fair amount of walking within towns (most German city centres being pedestrian zones). There is a lot of driving on this tour, with the average distance by coach per day of 116 miles. But the coach is comfortable, and most roads are well built and maintained.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
'Lecturer – very knowledgeable and friendly – excellent background and architectural points.'
'Martin Randall’s organisation is perfectionist.'