First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…
FOLIO CCXXV verso and CCXXVI recto
City of Munich

A special woodcut extending over a double page depicts the city of Munich. Like Rome and Florence, London and Paris, Munich owes her existence to a river. From her high mountain cradle the river Isar rushes, clean and cold, through the heart of the city – a turbulent flood, now shorn and parceled into a dozen streams controlled by sluices, but beyond the bridges flowing on straight as an arrow toward the horizon. Immediately above the city the river emerges from a narrow gorge upon sandy flats, over which it drains along through shallow channels easy to ford. In the woodcut the Isar appears in the foreground, crossed by a serpentine bridge.

At one of the fords of the river, during the 8th century, if tradition is to be trusted, the abbots of the cloister at Tegernsee stationed an outpost of their rich abbey, thus fastening upon the settlement its permanent name, which, in its varying forms – Muniha, Munichia, Monaco, Mönchen, München, or Munich – means ‘the Place of the Monks.’ Here, in 1158, again because of the ford, Duke Henry the Lion established and fortified a station where tolls could be levied on the convoys of Reichenhall. Munich’s visible character, no less than her origin, is determined by her river. The Isar is the source and center of that dominance of green which sets this city apart from others. All the roads of the plain lead to Munich. Salt dug from the caverns in the mountain sides brought her into existence, wealth of metals, and tall, fair pines were floated down the river to swell her riches. An examination of the woodcut shows a number of rafts used in this industry, while the timber is stored in a number of places at the water’s edge.

Knights, men-at-arms, and pike-men, passed and re-passed here in countless armies, led by the German King of the Romans to work his will upon the Cisalpine land, which gave him crown and title, and to wrest imperial unction form the hand of an unwilling pope. Over the passes, which may be seen from the high places of Munich, wound the caravans, bringing to the northern tribes the silks of Lombardy, the cloth of Florence, and costly spices for which the argosies of Venice held the gorgeous East in fee.

Munich owes her existence to a deed of rapine. Since 903, the Isar Village of Oberföhring had belonged to the rich and powerful Bishops of Freising, who fortified it, built a large bridge over the river, and levied tolls upon the rich convoys of salt from Reichenhall. Jealous of this lucrative revenue, Henry the Lion attacked Oberföhring, demolished bridge and fortress, and obliged the salt carriers to cross the Isar three miles further up stream, at Muniha, which may have been a village, but more probably a monastic hospice established by the wealthy monks of Tegernsee. Here the duke built a new bridge, established a new station, market, and mint. In the state archives of Munich, a fragment of parchment, dated June 14th, 1158, records the imperial ratification of this act of violence.

And thus this little community was born of salt and water. It grew rapidly, but soon lost her truculent Welf master. In 1181, Henry the Lion was deposed by Frederick Barbarossa and the house of Wittelsbach was set over the land which it has held since then. The first of the line was Otto of Wittelsbach, who had faithfully served Barbarossa as warrior and diplomat; and thus the emperor repaid their fidelity, declaring the duchy of Bavaria hereditary in the family, and bestowing upon its members the additional powers and title of Count Palatine of the Rhine.

In 1302 and until 1347, Bavaria was ruled by the first of the two princes who in the thousand and six years of the Holy Roman Empire, obtained the honor of the imperial crown – the emperor Louis, the Bavarian, to whom country and capital alike owe much. Louis was successively Duke of Bavaria, German king, and Roman Emperor. His reign was a ceaseless struggle to preserve the authority of the Empire against the papacy on the one hand, and his belligerent vassals on the other. When he died in 1347, the papal ban which had been laid upon him and his descendants to the fourth generation did not hinder the faithful burgesses of Munich from receiving his body and burying it in the Church of Our Lady – forerunner of the Frauenkirche, where his dust still rests.

While yet a village, Munich was surrounded by a wall less than a mile in circumference. To this was added a second or outer wall, as appears by the woodcut, capped by more than 100 turrets and running parallel to the inner wall, being separated from it by the usual moat. When the outer wall was strengthened, the fortifications were also increased, although, throughout the five centuries of their history they were never put to the test of a real siege. The heart of the modern town still remains within the limits set by the walls erected in 1319. Munich has grown by circles, like the ripples caused by a stone thrown into a pond. Its walls and gates have disappeared.

The oldest church in Munich was that of St. Peter, which is the single link which connects us with the beginnings of the town. Mentioned twelve years after the foundation of Munich, it has passed through more vicissitude and change than any other church in the city. The building of the 12th century was probably a Romanesque Basilica, with a flat wooden roof and two west towers, enlarged 100 years later, and burned to the ground in 1327. The rebuilding progressed slowly and it was not until 1338 that the new church, still uncompleted, could be consecrated. Of this 14th century structure, the walls of the choir still stand, Romanesque in style and massive in character. But the nave seems to have been Gothic, as well as the single heavily-buttressed tower which replaced the double towers of the old church, and still stand. It is difficult to identify St. Peter’s on the woodcut.

As we look beyond the double wall, just beyond the city gate, in the center of the illustration, we note a large church with two towers that terminate neither in steeples nor in cupolas. This structure is the largest and greatest of the works of medieval Munich and is built of brick. It is 3230 feet long, 118 feet wide, and 108 feet high to the clusters of the vaulting. The towers, 318 feet high, are square until level with the roof gable, then octagonal, and finally surmounted with round caps of copper which were added at some time between 1492 and 1530. Apparently the towers were still without cupolas when this woodcut was made, which may have been sometime before the publication of the Chronicle in the middle of 1493. The cupolas are vegetable-shaped, very much resembling an onion, and towers of this design are referred to by the Germans as ‘Zwiebel Thürme’ or Onion Towers. The twin towers of the Frauenkirche (‘Church of Our Lady’) have been likened by George Eliot to gigantic pepper-pots, and have been referred to by local humorists as mugs of beer, capped with foam. These towers are visible even from advantageous view points among the Alps. This structure was built as a parish church at a time when the city had not yet become the seat of a bishop. Today it is the cathedral of the archdiocese of München-Freising (‘Munich-Freising’). It was built not by a prince of the church, nor by a secular one, but by the people, as an expression of their collective faith. An interval of 100 years separates the completion of the town parish church, the Peterskirche, from the consecration of this, the next considerable ecclesiastical enterprise of the citizenry. Twenty years of building saw the completion of the roof and towers. Only the characteristic copper cupolas were added later as already stated.

The Frauenkirche was built upon the site of an older parish church dedicated to Our Lady. On February 9th, 1468 the cornerstone was laid. The citizens built it themselves, appointed their own architect, and laid down the lines for him to follow. A certain unity of plan and consistency of detail distinguishes this church from other great medieval structures. It is no miracle of frozen music, but an embodiment of solidity and strength, realizing three ideals – size, massiveness, and height.

The traditional monastic origin of Munich, perpetuated in its name, may also be noted from its civic armorial device – a child clad in an ecclesiastical garment, resembling a monk’s habit, its hand raised in blessing. This quaint symbol may originally have represented one of the many versions of the Christ-Child legends, and the child probably held in its hands a Bible and the keys of St. Peter. But popular fancy worked a characteristic transformation, replacing the religious symbols by a beer-mug and a radish – the traditional local means of provoking a caving for the contents of the mug. As a French writer has wittily observed, the sentiment indicated by the raised hand has become Prosit (‘Cheers!’) instead of Pax Vobiscum (‘Peace be with you’).

In the days of the Chronicle Munich already appears to have been a densely built up town, and well fortified. It is unfortunate that a number of the larger structures behind the walls cannot be identified. As usual in these panoramas, the inhabitants are not at large. The only implications of activity are from the rafts in the river, the timber stacked up on the shore, and what would appear to be a mill, to the left and further end of the bridge.