Aschaffenburg is a town in the German state of Bavaria that’s about 45 minutes away from where we live in the German state of Hesse.

I had wanted to go there for a while, so on the lazy, rainy weekend after Christmas we took a Sunday drive to go check it out.

The word Burg in German means castle, so any time you see that word at the end of a town’s name, there’s a pretty good chance that there was or is a castle there.

That is true of Aschaffenburg.  There was in fact a castle that was built in the 14th century, but it is long gone.  Now there is a big palace called Schloss Johannisburg in the same location where the castle stood.

The palace was built in the early 1600s but was almost completely destroyed during World War II.  It was rebuilt over a period of about 20 years beginning in 1954.  Johann is the German version of the name John, and Schloss Johnnisburg got its name from a chapel dedicated to Saint John the Baptist that once stood on the same spot.

Upon arriving in town, we went to the tourist information (TI) office which is right across the street from the palace.  It turned out that it was closed for a few weeks, but they had walking tour brochures outside for the taking and luckily they had them in English.

Aschaffenburg, like many German cities and towns that were bombed during World War II, has a mix of architectural styles.  Schloss Johanissburg is a Renaissance palace, and just across the street near the TI is this modern-looking conference center.

We took a self-guided tour of the palace.  There are no English-speaking tours or audioguides, but most of what you see either has an English description or is fairly self-explanatory.

The first thing you see after buying your ticket and walking up the huge palace staircase is photos and models showing what the palace – and the former castle – looked like at various stages.  It was pretty sad to see the photos and models of what the palace looked like after it was bombed in 1945.  One of the information panels said this “In the Second World War Aschaffenburg was bombed several times between October 1944 and January 1945 and Johanissburg Palace was also badly damaged in the process.  But it was only later, from 25 March to 2 April 1945, that it was attacked with further bombs and artillery until all that remained was a burnt-out shell.  The reason was the stubborn and pointless defence of the town, which had been declared a “fortress”, against the advancing 7th U.S. army.”  It leads you to believe that if the palace hadn’t been “pointlessly” defended, it wouldn’t have been bombed.  That made the whole thing even sadder.

There is a chapel in the palace but you can view it only through windows from the floor above.

The altar was pretty amazing, as you can see.

There are 2 stained glass panels from the chapel that survived the destruction of the palace.  This is one of them.

The palace was originally commissioned by an archbishop and was used by the archbishops of nearby Mainz as a second official residence.  The palace today has a display of bishop-y t hings like these robes.

We’ve seen robes like these in several different places and I always wonder how these guys managed to walk while wearing them.  They must weigh a ton.

One thing that surprised me about the palace is that it serves partially as an art museum.  I had not realized that before we visited.  The walking tour brochure from the TI says the palace is “…home to the largest state collection of paintings outside the Bavarian capital Munich…”

There is a painting there by Rembrandt titled “Der Evangelist Johannes”.  There is also a painting by Peter Paul Rubens called Eberjagd (translates to Boar Hunt), although that one is actually a copy. 

The palace also has, according to the TI brochure, “…the world’s largest collection of cork architectural models”.

Honestly I didn’t know there were ANY collections of cork architectural models, never mind that the world’s largest collection is practically in my backyard.  The photo above shows the Roman Coliseum.  The detail in all the models was pretty amazing.  They are all of Roman buildings and ruins.  Here is a model of the Pantheon in Rome.

There were a couple of exhibits of works by modern artists and I was amazed to find that I actually liked them.  I’m not a big art fan in general; I pretty much have to want to see something specific like the painting The Scream, which I saw in Norway, to go into an art museum.  My one exception is paintings by the Dutch masters.  I have liked them since I took an art history class in college and will go see them anywhere. 

Anyway, one of the artists whose work was shown at the palace and who I really liked is Federico von Rieger.

That painting was done in 1977.

There was a section in the museum that includd Nazi propaganda items.

It was pretty amazing to see so many things with swastikas on them.

Another collection shown was a huge porcelain collection.

I took a photo of that porcelain stein because I used to collect pigs and still have a soft spot for them.  The porcelain collection had a lot of very beautiful pieces including figurines, plates, bowls and other decorative items.

I thought this old horse sleigh was nice-looking as well.

The other artist whose works were displayed and that I enjoyed despite my lack of interest in modern artists is Christian Schad. 

That one was painted in 1967 and was the artist’s last self-portrait.

The last thing we saw before leaving the indoor museum was this.

I thought maybe he belonged to the woman working the ticket counter and asked her if it was OK to pet him.  She apparently didn’t even know the dog was there and came out from behind the counter tsk-ing and shaking her head, so I think I inadvertently got someone in trouble.  Long story short is that I didn’t get to pet the dog.

This is in the courtyard of the Schloss.

That light-colored tower you see to the left is the only original part of the palace.

Here is the River Main.

Aschaffenburg is located on both sides of the river.  There is a path that runs along the river.  We didn’t walk it because the weather wasn’t great but I’m sure it would be a nice stroll in better weather.

Here is the Mutter Gottes Pfarrkirche or the Mother of God Parish Church.

The building as it stands now dates from 1768, but there has been a church on the site in one form or another since 1183. The tower, that you can see in the back on the left-hand side, is from the 13th century.

One of the things the church is known for is the ceiling frescoes.

It was dark in the church so the frescoes were a little hard to see but you get the gist.

Some of the ends of the pews were quite elaborate.

Not all of them were like that, though, as you can see by the plain wood.

This is a giant sundial at the Theaterplatz.

It’s almost 20 feet tall and it tells time even when it’s not sunny thanks to a light inside it that mimics the motion of the sun.

This nice half-timbered house used to belong to Nikolaus Georg Ritter von Reigersberger.

It’s called the Reigersberger house for obvious reasons.  Reigersberger was a former mayor of Aschaffenburg.

Here you see the Stiftsbrunnen, a fountain located at the Stiftsplatz.

It was originally built in 1882 but was destroyed during World War II.  It was rebuilt in 1998.

The fountain is located in front of a church called the Stiftskirche.

There is a cloister at the church that you have to pay to see, but the price is only one Euro per person.

The cross you see above is in the cloister and is from the 17th century.

This tower was on a little pedestrian island in the middle of a very busy intersection.

Our walking tour brochure didn’t mention it so I’m not sure what it was, but it looked nice.

We passed by a giant sign listing all the businesses located nearby and were surprised to see this.

And this.

I figured there has been some kind of U.S. military presence in town at some pointso I looked it up.  There were five U.S. kasernes in Aschaffenburg after World War II. Most of them were closed after the Cold War ended, and the last buildings were handed back to the Germans in 2007.  Although there is no U.S. military there now, the town is still easy to navigate for English-speakers.  We had a late lunch/early dinner at the end of our walk and the little restaurant even had English menus.

This next photo was taken at the Wolfsthalplatz.

It shows the location where the Jewish synagogue used to stand.  It was burned down in November 1938 during Kristallnacht, when synagogues and other Jewish-owned buildings were destroyed in Nazi Germany.

After we strolled around town for a bit longer we had a bite to eat at an Italian restaurant.  It was dark when we headed back to the car and the palace was nicely illuminated.

Aschaffenburg and its sights were perfect for our Sunday afternoon visit and maybe one of these days we’ll make it back to stroll along the river.

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