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Jewish Bamberg - A Walking Tour through the Town

Jewish Bamberg - A Walking Tour through the Town

von: Ortwin Beisbart, Rudolf Daniel, A. Yael Deusel

Erich Weiß Verlag, 2016

ISBN: 9783940821492 , 100 Seiten

Format: ePUB

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Jewish Bamberg - A Walking Tour through the Town


Stop 1
The Civic City on the Hills (the City on the Left Bank of the Regnitz)

The most suitable place for starting the tour is Pfahlplätzchen (Pfahl Square).

Around 1600 this was called Jüdenplatz (Jews’ Square), although at that time no Jewish Bambergers lived there anymore. It was part of the early medieval vicus judaeorum (Jewish quarter). The settlement extended from here into Judenstraße (Jews’ Street) – initially called Judengasse (Jews’ Lane); later Alte Judengasse (Old Jews’ Lane). Adjacent to it to the west was the cathedral precinct, also called cathedral hill; to the south-west, the cathedral close of the city on the hills; to the north, the Sandy Area; and to the east, the grounds of the Franciscan monastery. The almost square block of houses was the former Jews’ Court, situated on the southern edge of the Sandy Area. The Jewish quarter was enclosed by Pfahlplätzchen, Balthasargässchen (Balthasar Lane), Schranne, and the diverging part of a lane called Lugbank. Only gradually did the number of buildings along Judengasse increase: on the hill side, with houses inhabited by Christians. The present view, however, does not match the original. On a plan of the cityscape from 1602, mainly one-storey buildings can be identified. This was probably the situation in medieval times; the centuries have reshaped it by new and altered buildings and by additional storeys: and in the process, street and house building lines were changed as well.

Jews’ Court

This may be regarded as the center of the first Bamberg community. The square block of houses consisted of eleven properties, aligned towards a common inner courtyard. The entrance was a gatehouse. The houses had, therefore, no exits on the street side. The most important building of the Jews’ Court was the synagogue, which was situated on the south-western corner.

The present (now deconsecrated) St. Mary’s Chapel has its location in common with the first synagogue, but nothing else – even if it is occasionally called a former synagogue, or even “Jewish Chapel”. The synagogue – which verifiably existed in this place – and with it the complete Jews’ Court, was confiscated in 1422 by the Episcopal ruler, Frederick III of Aufsess (who had ruled since 1421), and – as also happened in various other places – reconstructed as a chapel of St. Mary. The present structure, already on a higher street level than its predecessor, was inaugurated as a new edifice in 1470, presumably on the foundations of the synagogue.


Ill. 1: The former Jews’ Court, present condition


Ill. 2: Zweidler plan (copperplate engraving by Peter Zweidler, 1602). Former Jews’ Court (outlined in blue)


Ill. 3: Development phases of the Jews’ Court und its neighborhood

?: Location of the former synagogue (now the deconsecrated St. Mary’s Chapel)

ToH: Gatehouse to the former Jews’ Court

TaH: Dance house of the former Jews’ Court (presumed)

Sch: School house/women’s school (presumed)

BaH: Former bath house of the Jewish Community

KoG: Collegial house of the Franciscan Monastery (now a government building)

HMB: Former house with the picture of the Virgin Mary (demolished)

LBr: Leschen Fountain

Red: Buildings still in existence

Blue: Location of former Jewish buildings

Grey: Former street alignment (until around 1970)

Brown broken line: Area of the former Franciscan Monastery (until around 1830)

The street sign “Judenstraße” fixed to the chapel dates back to the time when quite close on the opposite side there was another building (the so-called Haus zum Marienbild = House with the picture of the Virgin Mary), and when the old, narrow Judengasse started here. On the northern side, in an extension next to the synagogue, was located the synagogue for women, also used as a schoolhouse (today 3 Pfahlplätzchen). Possibly this was also the location of a Talmudic school. It is only documented by hearsay reports concerning the senior rabbi “Samuel ben Baruch” (from Mainz, 1st half of the 13th century) in whose school, probably established in his private home, a number of rabbis were educated. A prayer book, started in 1275 (ill. 5), testifies to this day of a flourishing Jewish community, even if it might not be counted among the very “greatest” ones.


Ill. 4: Present street frontage of the former Jews’ Court on Pfahlplätzchen (from the north-west), overbuilt after the expulsion from 1422

A mikvah, a ritual immersion bath which had to be supplied with natural water, also formed part of the essential accoutrements of a Jewish community. This may be assumed to have been within the Jews’ Court, but this has not yet been verified. For one thing, however, there was a public fountain on Jüdenplatz; and for another, there is the Leschenbrunnen (Leschen fountain), at the corner of the dogleg in Lugbank, below present-day street level, which supplies running water even today. Accordingly, there must certainly be a water-bearing bed at the foot of the Kaulberg, which might have supplied the ritual immersion bath with the necessary mountain water.



Ill. 5: Jewish prayer book (Sidur) from Bamberg (after 1275), bought by Hartmann Schedel in 1502, today in the Bavarian State Library in Munich, Hebr. 410C.

Translation of a Sidur page:

“and besides you we have no G-d,

forgiving and pardoning King,

only you, praise be to you, Eternal One, who forgives and pardons”.

[Following are abbreviations of the prayers which are usually said before the Hoscha’anot]

Hoscha’ana: Help!

For your sake, Our G-d, help!

For your sake, Our Creator, help!

For your sake, Our Redeemer, help!

For your sake, Our Savior, help!

Judenstraße (Jews’ Street)

Starting from Pfahlplätzchen, Judenstraße extends southwards. The former Judengasse, however, only included the northern part, which went as far as the T-junction at Eisgrube on the right hand side, and on the left to a spot between the houses at 9 and 11. Nothing is left there from the original development, either. In this area Christian and Jewish families lived next to each other, as well as in Pfahlplätzchen on the opposite side. The Ringvogelhaus (No. 4) mentions a Jewish house owner (before 1425) on a breast-plate in the entrance area. No Jews lived in the southern part of Judenstraße as far as the gate – even if, for example, many people might think of a rich Jew as having owned the magnificent baroque Böttingerhaus (erected between 1707 and 1713 for a court official of the prince).

As in Judenstraße, so also on the southern and north-western side of Pfahlplätzchen, there is no longer any trace of the original, late-medieval houses, some of which were the property of Jews. Due to town planning strategies in the 1960s, some houses have been irretrievably lost: the already mentioned “Haus zum Marienbild”, opposite the former St. Mary’s Chapel, as well as three houses of the former vicus judaeorum, due to a widening of Balthasargässchen (Ill. 3). Two new student dormitories, set back for traffic flow reasons, changed the impression of space considerably. Monument conservators refer to it as one of the greatest “architectural crimes” in the town’s recent history.

Jews’ Court from the Eastern Side (Schranne)

If you leave Pfahlplätzchen via Lugbank, you will notice on the right-hand side a house with an angled facade and yellowish plaster (8 Lugbank). It is there that the gatehouse of the Jews’ Court was located. If you carry on to the eastern side of the former Jews’ Court you will see – beyond the irregular-shaped square (Schranne) – the mighty building complex of the abbey house (18th century; today office buildings) of the former Franciscan monastery. The monastery extended – separated by a small lane – right up to the eastern side of the Jews’ Court. The former compact architectural style is no longer in evidence due, above all, to the demolition of the monastery church (today a car park), which was built between 1320 and 1350. Compared with this building, the block of houses of the former Jews’ Court, with the additions and transformations that have occurred since its dissolution, appears quite modest. Here, it may be presumed, there was accommodation for Jews without civil rights, as well as a house for invalids. On this side, 6 Schranne, the so-called Tanzhaus (dance house) is supposed to have been situated. A building so named was where non-religious celebrations took place, because celebrations involving large numbers of people were otherwise unthinkable under such confined living conditions.

The Bamberg Jewish community in the middle ages made use of two other institutions outside their residential and working area: the (late medieval) community cemetery, and a public bath. Of the cemetery – and the existence of one is always the sign of a solid community – there is no surviving trace. It was located outside: that is, north of the Sandtor (Sand Gate), which no longer exists, and so outside the oldest town wall on the left side of Untere Sandstraße (Lower Sand Street), enclosed by Schrottenberggasse (Schrottenberg Lane) to the south (map reference A), and the...