Way, way back at the beginning of October, I went to Freising. (Rhymes with “prizing,” not “freezing.”)
Ah, Freising. Freising was a significant medieval town long before Munich. It’s a cathedral town, the heart of the archdiocese for centuries, until it was joined with Munich in 1821. By that time there had been a cathedral (the seat of the bishop) in Freising for over a thousand years.
The diocese was “founded” (in a looser sense) by St Corbinian in the early 8th century, when he came to Bavaria on his missionary journeys. He was sent by the Pope to meet with Grimoald, the duke of Bavaria, in hopes of rekindling the fires of Christianity that had probably dwindled over the years. Clovis, king of the Franks, converted in 500, and the Frankish kingdom was Christian from that time on, but the Bavarians on the southeast had fallen out of the royal orbit starting in the late 7th century. Two other missionary bishops, Rupert and Emmeram, had already been wandering through the area in the early 8th century, and Rupert had baptized Duke Theodo and other nobles, teaching and baptizing the locals in each place he went, and eventually founded Salzburg. In other words, there probably weren’t many “real pagans” in Bavarian anymore, but there might have been some syncretistic practices, or simply Christian practices that didn’t meet up with standards in other parts of the Christian world. For example, once Corbinian had founded a monastery and a school (on a mountain where there was already a church from earlier times), he got in trouble with the duke for denouncing his marriage to his brother’s widow. The duke had already repented of his “incest” (by contemporary standards) — which shows that some knowledge of the Church’s rules on marriage already held some sway. But Corbinian insisted that they separate, and the queen tried to have him killed. So he fled Freising until, as happened often enough in the early middle ages, the duke was killed and his wife was carried off by the Franks. This was 725. He then came back to Freising and continued his work, but died five years later in 730, around 50 years old, and his body has laid in the Cathedral since 769.
Not much later, in 753, my buddy* St Boniface arrived in Bavaria. He was an English monk, made a bishop by the Pope, so that he could wander around in Germany and get things into shape again. By now the Merovingian Frankish kings had lost power, and the Pippinids (soon to be Carolingians) were taking over. Charles Martel took Boniface under his protection, and beat the Bavarian dukes back into his control (for the moment), so that Boniface was able to found/restore/organize four new German bishoprics in Salzburg, Regensburg, Passau, and Freising.
(*I wrote my pseudo-thesis on him for my certificate in medieval studies.)
Anyway, that’s just a little of history from the very beginning of the city. I’ll only mention one other important character from the history of the city in the middle ages, and that is Otto of Freising. He’s one of the famous chroniclers of the 12th century, and became a powerful bishop, but he started out a son of noble parents who was attracted to the way of poverty and simplicity lived by the new Cistercian order. He joined the Cistercians and convinced his father to found Heiligenkreuz Abbey in 1133. (It is now the oldest continuously occupied Cistercian monastery in the world — since all of the oldest French foundations were sold or destroyed, and their monks killed or exiled, during the French Revolution.)
After being made bishop of Freising, Otto even went on a Crusade to Jerusalem (though his whole army died), and he was on such good terms with Emperor Frederick Barbarossa that he wrote a history of his reign.
Okay, SO. I was excited to go here, and I wasn’t disappointed…
The first thing you see when you get to the town is this bear.
And there are dozens more scattered all through the streets of the Old Town. This is because the bear is St Corbinian’s symbol. There’s a legend that says that once as Corbinian was traveling over the Alps to Rome, his pack horse was killed by a bear. I’ll just quote from an explanation I found:
One day, Corbinian was on the way to Rome. A bear attacked and killed his horse. St Corbinian decided to punish the bear by making it carry his luggage the rest of the way to Rome. The bear is on Pope Benedict’s coat of arms. It is a symbol of the beast “tamed by the grace of God,” and the pack he is carrying symbolizes “the weight of the episcopate,” according to Cardinal Ratzinger in his autobiography. “The bear with the pack, which replaced the horse, becoming, against his will, his pack animal — was that not, and is it not an image of what I should be and of what I am?” said the Cardinal in his book. The bear’s submission and retreat can also be interpreted as Christianity’s “taming” and “domestication” of the ferocity of paganism and the laying of a great civilization in the Duchy of Bavaria.
(Pope Benedict has two symbols of Freising on his papal coat of arms. He grew up in Bavaria, you might already know, and was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop in Freising Cathedral.)
It was a beautiful, warm, fall day. It was actually SO warm that I went around in short sleeves all day. We had a very warm fall, but are finally getting into colder weather – to which I say, bring it on!
The Dom – Cathedral – is built on a hill… thus, the Domberg. It is set back a bit from the old town, which goes along the River Isar. There is a very nice path through the forest and along the river here. It reminded me a lot of Whatcom Falls Park.
You can kind of see how the Dom rises up on the hill, though I couldn’t get very good pictures.
Walking through the old town…
The yellow building is the Heiliggeistspital Kirche (Holy Spirit Hospital Church). It was founded in the 14th century, possibly in response to the plague. In the middle ages, hospitals were religious institutions, and so shared many architectural elements with monasteries and cloisters. See:
Nowadays this is a home for the elderly. But the church was closed, so I couldn’t go in.
Then I headed to the old town and ran into tons of other visitors.
Here is the central square — the Marienplatz, after their own Mariensäule. It was a Saturday and they were having some kind of market. In the background on the left you can see the Rathaus (town hall) and on the right, St Georg.
On the east end of St Georg, a memorial — to the “fallen sons and brave heroes” of World War I, and to the victims of World War II.
St Georg is a Gothic church, which seem to be more susceptible to modern minimalist “restoration” or redesign, at least here in Germany. Which sucks, because I love Gothic churches.
In the back is a little chapel with this beautiful faux-manuscript listing the soldiers (and others?) who died in WWII. The verse is: “I will take thee, saith the Lord, and keep you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you.”
There was this appetizing display on the altar steps, because it was just a day or two after St Michael’s Day, one of the traditional harvest holidays. You’ll see more of them…
Ye olde “tabernacle made out of sheet metal” approach.
But they had some neat medieval devotional artwork like this Pieta, and their Stations of the Cross were also medieval.
Back out into the town…
I started making my way up the hill to the Domberg…
Looking out over the rooftops of the town!
And now I am going to play a horrible trick on you, and SKIP the Domkirche. It is huge and needs its own post. So just imagine that I just guided you through the main church, and down into the 12th century crypt, and back up to the stunning sacrament chapel designed (like the nave and high altar) by the famous rococo-master Asam brothers, and then through the cloister with its tombstones of five centuries worth of Freising clergy, and back out into the sunshine of the Dom square.
P.S. Don’t forget Pope Benedict is an honorary citizen of Freising.
And now we are going to take a look at the Dom Museum, with its huge collection of local and religious historical artifacts and, for lack of a better word, thingies.
Inside the museum.
A painting of Freising. I am abandoning all attempts to cite which artworks I’m going to show you, because it would have required taking a separate picture of each label, and that would be a) boring, and b) a waste of camera memory.
There was a really neat exhibit on the way icons and frescoes were painted.
If you have fun picking out saints by their depictions/attributes, you will have fun here. I know that’s a big if.
Detail. Check out the landscape behind the Crucifixion…
This is a painting of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, a devotional that focuses on Mary’s grief as a mother. The swords pierce her heart like Simeon prophesied.
This was interesting… a program of images all about the end of the world and the Last Things. Have a look in close up:
Have no idea what is going on here. There’s a dragon and the town in the background looks trashed. Maybe the two guys walking together are having a vision? I never took a class on Revelation.
This is easier… angel choirs, with the Lamb surrounded by the symbols of the Four Evangelists.
And then this is… I don’t know again. Iconographically, it echoes Jesus being tempted by the Devil, but it’s an angel and a pilgrim (?) so I’m not sure what it is.
I love the delicacy of this carving, but Mary looks like she needs a nap.
Jesus welcoming the little children.
A late Gothic statue of Christ. His expression was arresting.
There was also a statue of St John looking really sassy.
Some king dying, surrounded by clergy and bishops and monks…
Moving on, they had an awesome coin collection. Here are some Bavarian coins from the middle ages.
And also ROMAN coins. That one on top was minted during the reign of Caesar Augustus… that Caesar Augustus.
And this one is from Justinian!
For me, it’s still a little like a whack on the head to really see that these people existed outside of books.
This was worn by the Prince-Bishop of Freising in the 17th century.
Moving on to devotional items, this teeny-tiny reliquary would be worn around the neck. I like the labels: “Agnus Dei” – must be around a bit of wax, skipping that explanation – and “Inkognito.” They don’t know whose relic it is, but it’s gotta be someone’s.
Then there were rooms with all KINDS of stuff, detailing the centuries of German Catholic popular devotion.
These things are pretty ingenious. They are like mini-prayer books or shrines, made of paper and cloth, that a layperson could fold up and keep in their pocket throughout the day.
THE VENERABLE BEDE. These copies probably aren’t that old, but still.
A crucifix from Salzburg, made in 1120.
Some old medieval wall paintings they saved.
Another late medieval Pieta. This one shows you why they often made Mary bigger than Jesus. He’s practically falling off her lap.
This icon of Mary Hodegetria was made in Constantinople around the year 1000, and came to Köln (Cologne) in the second half of the 11th century.
And finally, vestments.
It’s kind of creepy when they stand their headlessly.
Aaand I came back out. There was really so much more there, but my camera was running out of room (I had to go back and delete stuff) and I pretty much knew that only Courtney would be interested, anyway. Ha.
So I sat on the hill for a while and read about St Corbinian, and then I headed back into the town…
I forgot before to give you this picture from behind St Georg.
I then hopped in to the city museum (all in German) and got a few cool pictures. This watercolor is from 15-something and is the second oldest existing view of the city.
By now the Marienplatz had emptied out…
And I headed back to the S-Bahn station and back home.
But I did get a few postcards reminding me that POPE BENEDICT CAME TO FREISING AND HE IS FROM HERE!
Here he is inside the Dom.
And that is all about Freising! Until the Dom post!