The last day of #MuseumWeek 2016 on Twitter is dedicated to LOVE and we guess the motto of the day is not only about all the Twitter hearts given to favorite tweets in this week. That’s why we want to present one of our favorite research subjects: European salon culture around 1800, which is involving a lot of love stories, too.
Not the first thing to think of when talking about a medievial castle. But only a view kilometres away from the regional history museum Burg Posterstein a popular salon hostess had her summer residence: Anna Dorothea of Courland (1761–1821) in the castle of Löbichau. Born in today’s Latvia the rich Duchess had wide connections to Europe’s high society.
That’s why Napoleon’s death mask is one of the first things to see, when you enter the salon culture exhibition in Posterstein. First enthousiastic about him, the Duchess of Courland became much more opposed against Napoleon during the time. She cultivated a livelong friendship to the French statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (1754–1834). Tsar Alexander I. (1777-1825) visited her 1808 in Löbichau and conveyed the marriage of her youngest daughter Dorothée (1793–1862) to Talleyrand’s nephew. At the Congress of Vienna Dorothee de Dino-Talleyrand accompanied Talleyrand and after his death she became his sole heir.
Bertel Thorvaldsen: Wilhelmine Benigna Biron, 1818, Originalmodel. Gips. 58 cm; Thorvaldsens Museum, Inv.-Nr.: A312[/caption]Anna Dorothea of Courlands oldest daughter Wilhelmine von Sagan (1781–1839) gained great influence an the congress as well, as she led a popular salon in Schenkenstraße in Vienna. From 1813 to 1815 she had a passonate relationship with Clemens von Metternich (1773–1859), the leader of the congress.
In Löbichau Anna Dorothea of Courland brought together poets, politicans and artists. Museum Burg Posterstein has been doing intensive research about her live and the lives of her daughters for more than 20 years. The museum is cooperating with the French history society Les Amis de Talleyrand. The cooperation was officially recorded with a contract between the Museum society Burg Posterstein (Museumsverein Burg Posterstein) and Les Amis de Talleyrand in 2015.
A whole week on Twitter is dedicated to the museums in the world: #MuseumWeek. At Posterstein Castle we blog on each days hashtag. Today everybody tweets and talks about #heritageMW, our chance to point at the mystical boroque castle church in Posterstein:
Seen from outside, nobody would expect something special inside the small church of Posterstein. Built inside the former castle mout, the church looks small compared to the castle itself. After fights with the neighbouring landlords in Nöbdenitz, the owners of Posterstein Castle built their own church in the second half of the 16th century.
Legendary baroque splendour
Although the church community always has been protestant, the church looks nearly cathlic style inside. The church became famous for the extremely rich equipment with baroque carvings that demonstrate masterly craftsmanship. The altar is seen as the highlight of the works. The baldachin, on which the passion is shown, is supported by four open-work, spiral hollow columns, made of one piece and decorated with leaves, tendrils and grapes. The pulpit shows the figures of the four evangelists and is crowned by a “roof” with a tall angel on top.
The artwork and the murder case
The only lead to the artist of Posterstein church’s wood carvings is a small inscription underneath the gallery: „Johannis Hopf 1689“. An old Posterstein legend tells that Johannis Hopf was a wood carver who committed a deadly crime on his way through the local region and was sent to the prison of the fortress. During his captivity he is supposed to make the carvings in the chapel. It is said that Hopf’s death penalty was changed into life long imprisonment as a reward for the magnificent decoration of the church.
In spite of intensive research the true story of the Posterstein carvings could not be explored yet.
It’s #MuseumWeek on Twitter and in other social networks. Today’s slogan is #peopleMW. Posterstein Castle focusses this year on Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel (1744–1824), a minister of the Duchy of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, who chose himself a very special burrial plot.
Starting his carrier at court in Gotha as a „page“ in 1760, he became minister in 1805. Between 1803 and 1808 he was – with diplomatic mission – travelling to Denmark, Berlin, Königsberg (Kaliningrad), Dresden and Paris. In Paris Napoleon received him in audience.
As a friend of Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1745–1804) Thümmel’s influence on court was huge. Today he is still known for his engagement in the county of Altenburg: He founded one of the first banks, supported the building of roads, mapped the region and founded the local hospital in Altenburg. In Thümmel’s house in Altenburg the local high society met for tea, among others his older brother, the writer Moritz August von Thümmel (1738–1817).
Thümmel’s old-age residence close to Posterstein
When he retired, Thümmel lived mostly in his castle in Nöbdenitz near Posterstein. In the countryside around the castle, Thümmel had a pleasure garden and a path along the lake invited the guest to dander. Friends of the family, as the Duchess Dorothea of Courland (1761–1821), who had her summer residence near-by in Löbichau castle, came to visit Nöbdenitz to sail on the lake and to enjoy the garden. Thümmel was member of the Duchess‘ poets club and published several books with witty aphorisms.
Before his death Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel decided to get buried at an inconvenient place – under the so-called 1000 year old oak of Nöbdenitz. He bought the tree from the local church and let arrange a grave between the tree’s roots. The writer Emilie von Binzer (1801–1891), guest in Löbichau, met Thümmel when she was a young girl. She noted in her book „Three summers in Löbichau“ („Drei Sommer in Löbichau“) that Thümmel was old as the hills by the time she met him and that he had an old oak in standby state to be burried underneath.
Still burried under the 1000 year old oak tree
This grave was inspected in 1959 by the local teacher and historian Ernst Bräunlich. He documented that there was a small oratory with a wooden bench inside the hollow tree, to commemorate the dead. The minister’s body lies in a coffin parallel to the street. Today one can only look at the tree from outside. A sign tells its story. Only parts of the castle complex and garden outlived the years of the German Democratic Republic.
September 18th 2013: Under the hashtag #AskACurator Twitter users could ask curators of more than 600 museums in 35 countries questions about their exhibitions. Museum Burg Posterstein took part in it. – This is a review.
At Museum Burg Posterstein / Posterstein Castle (Twitter: @burgposterstein) both the museum’s director and Marlene Hofmann (curator of the permanent exhibition „Wehrhaft – Wohnhaft – Haft“ on the function of the keep at a medieval castle in 2012) answered questions on behalf of the museum. Right from half past 9 in the morning Twitter users asking questions kept us busy.
Media work, museums & social media
The first questions asked were about social media and media work in our museum. – One of our favourite subjects. You find our answers here.
(How do you handle bloggers? Do you contact them personally? Do you see them as a burden or as an opportunity?)
And of course, for us – blogging ourselves – bloggers are an opportunity and a complement to local journalists – unfortunately we don’t know that many museum bloggers in our region (so don’t hesitate to contact us!).
To sump up,#AskACurator Day 2013 was a great experience for us as a museum and yet another example for how museums can engage with other people and possible future visitors via social media. We enjoyed it and are looking forward to next year’s Ask A Curator.
We collected all questions and answers in a separate story on Storify. – There you can read the detailed questions and answers, too.
P.S.: There will be a #AskACurator Day in 2014 as well, just look for the hashtag on Twitter. But until that, don’t hesitate to ask us via e-mail, comments, Twitter or Facebook.
Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg, commander-in-chief of the 1813 allied armies against Napoleon, planned to occupy the town Altenburg as a strategically important place. From Altenburg further military actions against Napoleon could be planned. Also the Saxon, Russian and Prussian general Johann Adolf Freiherr von Thielemann (1765-1824) emphasized in a letter to Schwarzenberg on October 3rd 1813 the militarily advantages of the town, that has a castle lying high up on a hill that could easily be defended.
Tsar Alexander I. arrived in the evening
In fact Altenburg was the right place to accommodate thousands of soldiers as well as supreme commanders, generals, diplomats and their entourage over a longer period. On October 7th 1813 the allied troops occupied Altenburg. The headquarters were moved there from the town Penig. Tsar Alexander I. arrived on the same day and resided in Altenburg castle. Thereafter the Austrian foreign minister Metternich, the English legate Cathcart, the Russian diplomat Nesselrode and other politicians and important brass arrived.
On October 14th the Austrian emperor Franz received a message from Schwarzenberg that a stay in Altenburg would be save. The Prussian king and the Austrian emperor reached Altenburg on October 15th and stayed in the castle as well.
A town with 10.000 inhabitants accommodated more than 500.000 soldiers
In the year 1813 altogether 671 generals, 46.617 officers and 472.399 soldiers have been accommodated in the small town Altenburg, that had about 10.000 inhabitants at that time. Only in September and October 1813 the town spent the unbelievable amount of 147.681 thaler on the supply of the troops.
There is existing a detailed record (view here on Google books) on the year 1813 in Altenburg, written by the minister of finance of the town Altenburg, Friedrich Wagner (1792-1859). He is describing, how the citizens of Altenburg, all the villages and farms near-by and other towns in the neighbourhood (as Borna, Meuselwitz, Gera, Zeitz) had to deliver a substantial quantity of food, cattle, textiles and other things to the different armies.
All houses had to shelter 2, 3 or more wounded soldiers
Prisoners and wounded soldiers had to be accommodated and taken care of as well. The canon fire of the battle of Leipzig, 9 hours walk from Altenburg, could be heard in the town as well. After the first fights, masses of wounded soldiers arrived in Altenburg – and with them epidemic deceases. Nearly all official buildings of the town were already used some military hospitals, so that all houses in the Altenburg had to house 2, 3 or more wounded soldiers.
„Heaven help us to harvest“
The farms and manors in the region felt the war as well. Anna Dorothea Duchess of Courland, who owned the manor Löbichau near Posterstein, wrote in her letters from July and August 1813 that there was no day without soldiers who had to be accommodated. Often they took all food and horses with them. Special war taxes had to be paid and workers and farmers were recruited as soldiers. „Heaven help us to harvest“, the Duchess wrote to her friend. – Years after the wars of liberation from Napoleon the people of Altenburg had to pay special taxes to pay the war debts of the Duchy of Saxon-Altenburg.
Special exhibition at Museum Posterstein Castle
The Museum Posterstein Castle, regional history museum in the county of Altenburg, shows from September 1st to November 17th 2013 a special exhibition on the battle of Leipzig, which now is 200 years ago. Basis for the exhibitions are about 50 Napoleon caricatures, Wagner’s record of Altenburg in 1813 and original military letters from 1813. On October 13th a book will be published as well (in German). For more information, contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein)
We have unpacked our high-wheel bicycle for the Historical Society in Ronneburg, which is doing research. Maybe it is the bicycle which Hugo Barthol, head of a print shop in Ronneburg, used to travel to Italy for more than 100 years ago.
1884 Hugo Barthol from Ronneburg travelled by high-wheel bicycle to Italy – an uncomfortable and energy-sapping way of travelling. On his way he visited Straßburg, Kehl, Freiburg, Kandern, Basel, Schaffhausen, Konstanz, Friedrichshafen, Winterthur, Zürich, Luzern, Milano, Turin and Napoli.
(Based on research of the former director of the museum in Ronneburg, Prof. Dr. H. Schmidt)
Since the sixth century the Slavic settlement area expanded to the rivers Elbe and Saale. In this time Slavic tribes settled in today’s County of Altenburg, too. In the following time Germanic farmers, who already had settled in the region, were absorbed by the Slavic tribes.
The Slavic tribe, which settled most in the West, was called Sorbs. Their settlement area reached from the upper river Mulde and the river Elster to the river Saale. They structured their land with the help of natural forest borders in so-called “Gaue” (districts). In the centre of a Gau there was a Gauburg, a fortress. The county of Altenburg belonged to the districts Geraha and Plisni. Close to the villages Löbichau, Nöbdenitz, Vollmershain and Thonhausen there was the border between Plisni and Geraha.
The place name Meuselwitz reveals the town’s Slavic origin (Picture (c) Museum Burg Posterstein)
Place names and the form of a village reveal Slavic settlement
Almost 70 percent of all place names in the County of Altenburg have Slavic roots. Typical for Slavic place names are their endings: Former Slavic endings as –ici und -ovici are preserved as –itz (e.g. Raudenitz, Sommeritz) and –witz (e.g. Meuselwitz) in today’s place names, while villages that once ended on –ovo, -ova and –ove, today end with –a and –au, as for example Lohma, Kosma and Löbichau. Slavic place names that originally had the endings –ine, -ina and –ino, end today normally on –eu. With this knowledge today’s villages’ origins can be traced back by their names. While the villages Nischwitz, Nitschka and Zschernitzsch obviously have Slavic roots, their neighbour villages Grünberg, Heyersdorf and Weißbach originally were Germanic settlements.
Also the form of a village can give a hint on its origin. While the German settlements in the region often are a kilometre long row of houses and farms, the Slavic founded villages have a rather round centre, called „Rundling“.
Excavation in boxes
A part of Posterstein castle’s permanent exhibition deals with the region’s archaeology. To the collection belong for example potsherds from the Neolithic, hand-axes and querns from the stone-age as well as different other tools. As a part of the museum’s children’s program, children can learn about archaeology and try to be archaeologists themselves in the museum. With trowel and pencil they can search for archaeological artefacts in boxes with sand. Have they found something, they identify their find with the help of the museum’s collection. Afterwards they’ll write an archaeological report on their find. The program lasts about half an hour and is dedicated to children between eight and twelve years, for example for school classes and as a part of a birthday party in the museum.
Slavic finds (picture: Museum Burg Posterstein)
Current archaeological research in the County of Altenburg
In spring 2012, from March 4th to April 30th, Museum Burg Posterstein will show a special exhibition on recent archaeological research in the County of Altenburg. The focus will lie on the last years’ finds and the exhibition will be made in co-operation with the Thuringian department for archaeology and preservation of monuments (Thüringischen Landesamt für Archäologie und Denkmalpflege).
Since the end of August once in a while the earth judders in Posterstein Region. The nearest seismometer station in Heukewalde, driven by Jena University, noted light earthquake swarms in that time. In the so-called Vogtland region and parts of West Saxony quakes measuring 4.0 on the Richter magnitude scale were documented (see: Ostthüringer Zeitung). You can have a look at the latest seismometer graphs on the university’s web page, where you can search after the station with the name HKWD (Heukewalde)
Why does the earth shake?
The earth is divided in different tectonic plates. Especially on the borders of a plate, where two plates are pushing against each other, heavy earthquakes can occur. But Posterstein region lies far away from the borders of the Eurasian plate. Responsible for the mostly harmless so-called intra plate quakes, that happen once in a while, is pressure on the Eurasian plate from West and South. In the Vogtland region there are many smaller blocks and cracks that also earlier in the history have led to lighter earthquake swarms. Today the Seismic network of Thuringia monitors and scientifically explores the region. Earlier there was a seismometer installed in the cellar of Posterstein castle as well, but as vibrations caused by the castle’s visitors climbing on the tower distorted the measuring, the station was moved to near-by Heukewalde.
The Middle-European earthquake of 1872
The heaviest earthquake in the region was registered on March 6th 1872 – its centre lay between Posterstein and Schmölln. Karl Theordor Liebe (1828-1894), professor at the Princely Grammar School in Gera, was reporting on the earthquake’s impacts in Posterstein. Among others, he writes that the castle’s tower was shaking and bigger rocks came rolling down the hill. At that time deep cracks occurred in the three metre thick wall of the tower and in the walls of the castle’s bridge:
„On the old castle we have seen a lot of new cracks, which took there way through grout and stone. In the cellar of the old castle came so much material off the ceiling that more than a 100 litres of milk became useless. The new castle (manor house), which is standing next to the old castle, has 1.2 metre thick walls and in the first floor 0.9 metre thick walls. But there doesn’t exist a single room without cracks in the walls and ceiling”, wrote Karl Theodor Liebe.
The crack in the bridge was repaired during the restoration in 1997, but you still can see the crack in the tower on your way to the top of the tower.
Contemporary witnesses report
The teacher and historian Ernst Bräunlich from Posterstein recorded the memories of the pastor Johann Michael Nürnberger from Nöbdenitz, who had witnessed the 1872 earthquake himself: „In the village people came running out of their houses from all ways and they told that they were hasty leaving their houses in fear. The trees had been shaking and on the road they had heard a ratting as if 6 or 8 wagons with heavy load passed by in trot. In the village seven chimneys collapsed. The incidence was the main topic of conversation in a long time.”
The light quake from September 4th 2011 was noted by locals, too. The heaviest vibration could be observed between 4 and 5 in the morning. On our Facebook wall a witness wrote that she woke up because of the chattering in the sleeping room.
In the castle’s permanent exhibition you can have a look at a seismometer and read more about earthquakes in the Posterstein region – more information on www.burg-posterstein.de.
The clock hands are shining golden in the sun. When you stand on the bridge in front of Posterstein castle, you can see the turret clock. It strikes the full and the half hours.
Many intelligent people have commented on time during the years: Ovid, for example, is said to have spoken the words: “Times are changing and we are changing with them” and Orwell noted: “Times does not pass quicker than earlier, but we pass it in a hurry”. And already Einstein knew: “Time is what we read off the clock”. – How true!
Already Einstein knew: Time is what we read off the clock
That takes us back to the turret clock of Posterstein. Its clockwork dates back to the year 1902 and it was restored the last time in 2010. The gilding is authentic. On the clock face you can see the date 1869, probably the year when it was installed.
The chime, which you can hear every half hour, is even older. The bell is dating back to 1571 and it is garnished by the family crest of the knights Pflugk, which owned the castle for several generations. On the clock is written: “Caesar Pflugk of Stein let cast me in Freiberg Anno MDLXXI”. Earlier on the manor Posterstein the bell rang when work had to begin and end and when there was fire, the chime of the bell signalized fire alarm.
How German settlers in 19th century founded a new hometown in Missouri
A motley group of emigrants from Saxony-Altenburg, Dresden region and Hannover stranded on a rock in Mississippi river in 1839. Right beside the river the strict Lutheran settlers founded the town Wittenberg. Frequently the legendary river carried Wittenbergs houses away – that is why only the Wittenberg Boat Club and a crumbling old post office remind of the town today.
The emigration was organized by different clergymen, under the leadership of reverend Martin Stephan from Pirna near Dresden. As a result of social problems after the Napoleonic Wars and tightened taxes in the countryside, parallel to first revolutionary riots, a lot of people in Altenburg region considered to try out their luck in the „new world“. In the beginning they considered Australia as a new home as well, but south from St. Louis in Missouri they were offered 10.000 acre land to a cheap price.
In Winter 1838/39 five ships with settlers from the kingdom of Saxony and the duchy of Saxony-Altenburg headed for the so called „new world“. The devotional emigrates took 900 copies of Luther’s catechism with them on board of the ships. Even during the long crossing the children were taught. All ships reached the US, except for a small boat called „Amalia“, which apparently collided with a bigger ship near France.
Altenburg, Dresden, Wittenberg, Frohna, Paitzdorf and Seelitz in the „new world“
As mentioned before, the settlers arrived in Missouri in 1839. At that time this region still was a nearly uninhabited wilderness. The newcomers probably wouldn’t have survived the first winter, if they wouldn’t have been supported by the Lutheran community in St. Louis. In today’s Perry County the German settlers founded towns, which they named after the regions and towns they came from – like Dresden, Seelitz, Johannisberg, Altenburg, Frohna, Paitzdorf and Wittenberg. Dresden, Seelitz and Johannisberg were later on suburbanized by Altenburg, Missouri. Of course the emigrants only reported the best things to their friends and families in Germany and in the following years a lot of other people from Altenburg region moved to the new founded Altenburg.
You don’t need to fear Indians, wild animals and Mexican soldiers in Altenburg
Reverend Martin Stephan lived a very little moral life in the new world, while he let himself celebrate as a king. When the community finally had realized how badly their spiritual leader had betrayed them, they dismissed him. The first president of the Missouri synod, which has two million members today, was Ferdinand Wilhelm Walter from Langenchursdorf. Gotthold Heinrich Loeber from Kahla overtook the job as reverend in the new founded Altenburg. In a letter to Germany on September 10th, 1839 he described the life in the new world, where the most people at this time did still not live in houses, but in temporary sheds. To comfort his reader he added that one did not have to fear Indians, wild animals or Mexican soldiers in Altenburg.
As one of their first projects, the settlers built a school in august 1839 to provide grammar school education for the children: Religion, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, French, English, history, geography, mathematics, physics, natural history, philosophy, music and drawing were on the schedule. The goal was to prepare the pupils for later university studies. In the first year seven boys and three girls were enrolled.
Welcome to Altenburg, Missouri!
In October 2010 historians from the German Altenburg travelled to the American Altenburg to take part in an international conference named „Home is where our story begins“. Already decades before the genealogist Wilfried Piehler from Gera (Thuringia) established first contacts to Missouri. Inhabitants from Altenburg, Missouri, have already a few times visited Altenburg County in Germany. Some of them surprised the Germans by speaking German with Altenburg dialect from 19th century.
On the two-day conference local historians and genealogists from Missouri presented their research on the history of the town. German historians, as Sabine Hofmann from Lindenau Museum Altenburg, described the history of the German Altenburg. On Friday, March 18th, 7pm, Wilfried Piehler and Klaus and Sabine Hofmann will present the results of this conference at Posterstein Castle. To learn more about the history of Altenburg, Missouri, you should take a look at the book „Altenburg Missouri and the surrounding Parishes” (editor: Mary Beth Mueller Dillon, Lynhorst, Indianapolis, 2010).
(by Marlene Hofmann, also published in Ostthüringer Zeitung, March 16th 2011, http://www.otz.de/)