1 April to 31 October 2017
Humans settled in the Saale and Unstrut area thousands of years ago, leaving behind numerous traces of their religious beliefs: places of worship, images of gods, burials and burial objects remain a mystery up to the present day and continue to fascinate us.
In the impressive castle keep "Dicker Wilhelm” [portly William] in Castle Neuenburg, you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in this period of prehistory!
The symbolic figure of this exhibition is the “Haingott” [grove god] which has been enthroned under the eaves of the residential tower in the Brunnenhof for over 500 years. The figure itself is however much older and was probably created more than 2 000 years ago. But who does this figure represent? There are a number of different interpretations, but nobody knows the actual truth! What hope did our ancestors pin on this godlike figure, what sort of prayers did they recite and how did they venerate the figure? The lips of the “Haingott” remain sealed, but provide a link to the humans of a distant era. Please let us know if you can contribute to solving this enigma.
The presentation of traces of the prehistoric sphere of the gods and places of worship begins with the “Haingott”. The spectrum ranges from the grove dedicated to the goddess Freya on the Freyburger Haineberg, the Dolmen goddess from Langeneichstädt, mysterious figures in the region and the Steigraer Trojaburg to the presentation of well-known locations such as the Mittelberg near Nebra and the Goseck sun observatory. Fascinating legends are entwined with individual events. Come and discover these ancient tales.
The various forms of burial reflect a belief in life after death. Since the Late Stone Age (5 000 – 2 300 BC), different forms of burial places became established in the region. Does the dormant position of the bodies in the graves indicate that death was conceived as a type of sleep? The burial objects not only reflect the social status and activity in this life but also provide a clear indication of a belief in some form of hereafter. Were the accompanying victuals intended as provisions for the probably longest journey? Humans at this time almost certainly asked themselves what they could expect after death. The ancient question remains eternally new and the new question eternally ancient, provoking highly personal reflections on this topic.
The Christianisation of the Saale-Unstrut area took place during the 7th and 8th centuries. The old gods fell into oblivion and the Christian tradition which has survived unchanged up to the present day in the region had its beginnings here. The oldest evidence in Freyburg is provided by the now demolished St Kilian’s church, the double chapel in the Neuenburg, the monastery church in Zscheiplitz and the town church of St Mary. The viewing platform in the tower offers a panorama of the historical “religious landscape”.
The Neuenburg was founded around the year 1090 by the Thuringian Count Ludwig the Springer. The chapel in the form of a single-storey aisleless church was at the core of the first castle. The interior of the castle church was dominated by a large Romanesque baptismal font originating from the St Kilian church at the foot of the castle hill. The history of these two churches would ultimately be linked through the font.
The famous Romanesque double chapel was created between 1170 and 1175. The upper chapel was reserved as a private place of worship for the Thuringian landgrave family and the lower chapel for the remainder of castle inhabitants, the harmonic structure reflecting not only secular hierarchies but also principles of faith. We unfortunately no longer know what these individuals thought, hoped and prayed for in this edifice. What religious conceptions of the High Middle Ages are reflected in this church are ultimately not all individually deciphered and established down to the finest details.
Enjoy making your own individual discoveries among the pillars, plants, ornaments and wild animals!
The activities of St Elisabeth of Thuringia have been revered down through the ages. Even Martin Luther recognised the special nature of her character and life and could not deny a certain degree of “holiness” while not wishing to take an oath on it!
Elisabeth is one of the most extraordinary women of the High Middle Ages. The profound Christian conviction of the landgravine and daughter of a king prompted her to devote her life to caring for the weakest individuals in society, thereby sinking into a state of extreme poverty of her own free will while seeing this as a benefit conferred upon her by the mercy of God. Certainly an interesting and fascinating figure, but perhaps a little disturbing?
Come and meet Elisabeth in her historic surroundings.
Alongside the topical focus of the special presentations, you can also discover numerous other “religious traces” in the permanent exhibitions of the museum in the inner bailey.
These include the double chapel as the Protestant castle church in the Baroque period and the equestrian statue of Duke Christian of Saxony-Weißenfels, the Protestant counterpart to the Catholic August the Strong.
Even in the wine museum, one section is devoted to the significance and role of wine in religions.