Schöner Brunnen- The Beautiful Fountain in Nuremburg, Germany, is one of the most famous examples of German renaissance ironwork surviving to this day. Located in the Old Market area of the medieval city of Nuremburg, in front of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady ). The church was built between the years 1355 and 1561.
The pierced bars pass through each other forming a very strong structure. Ornaments were pierced and fitted into the latticework of the grills and each ornament was different from the next. This style from the German renaissance period still inspires modern ironwork. Piercing required a great deal of mechanical knowledge and skill to allow each part to pass through the next without binding. If just one part was off center, the whole assembly process became difficult or impossible.
The fountain enclosure surrounds and protects the beautiful fountain within. It is near the street and pedestrian areas of the city and since it is located outdoors, it may be viewed all the time.
The famous Christkindlesmarkt takes place in this same plaza and the Beautiful fountain and its gate and grillwork enclosure adds to the wonderful visual backdrop during the Christmas season. Across the street we always stopped to grab sausages and gluewein (a thick spicy wine served hot), consuming them in the frosty air of early winter while admiring the ironwork of the fountain. Then it was into the market for a little Christmas shopping.
Nuremburg was home to numerous great artists such as master painter Albrecht Dürer, the sculpture Adam Kraft, woodcarver Veit Stoss, poet Hans Sachs, explorer and cartographer Martin Behaim, and of course the master of graffiti and inspirer of those obnoxious little self sticking post-it notes, Martin Luther.
The fountain was originally built in the 14th century. The gates and grillework were made in 1587 by the Locksmith Andreas Kuhn. The top or crown of the grill was removed later as a matter of style of the era and replaced with the present crown in 1823 by Locksmith Pickel. For those unfamiliar with the terminology of ironwork, a grill is the iron panel or fence-like structure or latticework, the gate is of coarse the door structure that opens and closes, and the crown is the fancy decorative ironwork on top of the grill and gate structure. According to Margerete Baur-Reinholds' book Decorative Ironwork, the Germanisches museum in Nuremburg possesses a copper plate engraving showing the original crown that was mounted to the top of this grill previously.
The main structure of the grillwork is composed of square bars pierced on-the-diamond, each of which pass through each other. Pierced ironwork in which bars of square or round cross-section was a favorite style of the Germans during that time period and this style prevails to this day wherever smiths can be found who are good enough to be able to do it. Decorative motifs which were also pierced were fitted into the latticework of the grill as well. No two decorative motifs being alike. The pierced latticework was then riveted to the frame which itself was grooved and decoratively cut to add strength and character to the grillwork. Heavy decorative posts or pillars support the grill and the posts were decoratively forges and carved and topped with passion flowers.
The spindle flower is a unique and characteristically German finial or fanciful termination for a frame member or corner post. The spindle flower represents no real existing example of plant life and yet it is remarkable in that it creates the image of a flower made of iron, in the mind of anyone who sees it. Each corner post is topped with a passion flower and some of the lesser vertical frame members are as well.
There is more than one legend that has grown around this fountain enclosure. Each concerns the moveable brass ring placed in the crown at the right side of the gates. One of the legends tells us the brass ring was placed there by an apprentice who wanted to impress the master of the shop. The apprentice came into the shop early one morning, forged the pierced ironwork and then inserted the brass ring. How he inserted the ring is a secret. But if you reach up and turn the ring with your hand, it will bring you good luck. It is said that the master was pleased with his apprentices work.
I am certain that this gate was quickly torn down during the second world war and stored in a safe place as the allies needlessly bombed this city until nothing was standing. Some signs of the restoration are still visible where the gate was later reinstalled during the reconstruction period which followed that horrific war. I shot plenty of photos of these modern repairs as I was curious why they had been performed, and it was only later that I learned of the fate of this city and saw the photos of its devastation. The people did a wonderful job of restoring everything. Modern photos of this gate and grill look identical to those found in old books printed before the war.
Some things were receiving still more and better restoration. While we were visiting in 1990 and 1991, the restoration work crews had discovered the old wine cellar beneath the courtyard of the Kaiserburg castle. The staff always knew it existed and believed it was being used as safe storage for important artworks and artifacts that the owners wished to protect from bombing during the second world war. Archeologists had erected a makeshift shelter over a hole in the pavement of the courtyard to protect the cellar from the elements as they lowered cameras into the hole to inspect the cellar. We had to return home before we could find out what they found.
Christ Child's Market in Nuremburg Germany, takes place each year beginning in late November through December. Beautiful Christmas market in the medieval city of Nuremburg Germany. For more information see their website at http://www.christkindlesmarkt.de/index_e.html.
In medieval Europe each town had an open street market taking place once a day, once a week, once a month, or on some other special schedule. The Christkindlesmarkt takes place once a year and like each town which has a specialty or theme, the Christkindlesmarkt specialty is Christmas ornaments and wooden toys. Many are hand-made. The market is located in front of the Frauenkirche next to the Beautiful Fountain. This is a wonderful time of the year to visit this historic landmark and do some Christmas shopping at the same time.
Visit their Website even if you can't attend. Beautiful pictures and a tour of the historical parts of the medieval city. The city of Nürnburg is one of my favorite destinations to study medieval armour and weapons, medieval and renaissance wrought ironwork, and castle architecture. More tourist info is available at http://www.nuernberg.de/english/tourismus/tourismus.html.
More photos of the Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain) ironwork are found in Margarete Baur-Reinhold's book Decorative Ironwork ISBN 0-7643-0153-5. I used her book as part of my reference for this page. Additional photos can be found in books which promote tourism in Germany and the City of Nuremburg. For additional references click here http://www.gnm.de/indexE.htm to see the website belonging to the Germanisches Museum in Nuremburg.
Nuremburg's tourism and city information website. http://www.nuernberg.de/english/tourismus/tourismus.html
Kaiserburg castle information page can be accessed through the tourism and information page above or click here http://www.museumsgalore.nuremberg.de/kaiserburgmuseum/index.html. They have photos of some of their collection including armour, at that website.
Latest update October 23, 2006.
The author can be emailed at address in picture below:
This page originally created December 17th, 2001.