Look no further, you’ve reached the glorious centre of the Bavarian universe.
Müncheners call Marienplatz the Guten Stube
, the “front room” of their city.
It’s a constant hive of activity usually crammed with people coming and going.
Many come to watch the Glockenspiel, an animated clock in the tower of the square’s dominant Neue Rathaus (New City Hall). Others are meeting friends, bopping to buskers, open-air dining, shopping or simply passing by.
IN THE MIDDLE: Me at the square.
The square used to hold the city’s marketplace until it was moved to the nearby Viktuelienmarkt
It’s always been the city’s main focal point and had annual jousting competitions and public executions throughout the Middle Ages.
The square forms the eastern end of the central shopping axis that runs through to Karlsplatz-Stachus.
Munich’s main Tourist Information Office
is on the ground floor of the Neues Rathaus.
Thanks, you guys upstairs
The Mariensäule (Mary’s Column)
has towered over the centre of Marienplatz since 1638. It was built as a holy “thank you” after the Catholic-versus-Protestant Thirty Years War, when Swedish Protestant troops occupied the city.
Munich and fellow imperial residence Landshut had made it through the conflict virtually unscathed.
Angels and demons
THE "FRONT ROOM": Munich's main
square has always been a hive of acitivty.
Crowning the column is a gold dame they call the Patrona Bavariae
, a version of the Virgin Mary originally made for the Frauenkirche
When they took her down for a clean up in 1960 they found a wooden casket underneath that’s said to have contained shards from the Jesus’ crucifix. You never know, it might even be true.
At the column’s base are four “puttos”
(in Italian putti
) little cherub-type fellows frequently found in Renaissance art.
They’re engaged in mini-battles, fighting a dragon
(representing hunger), a lion
(war), a snake
(the faithless) and an evil reptile with a chicken’s head called a basilisk
FISHY BUSINESS: The Fish Fountain
was the scene
of a bizarre initiation ceremony. Now it's a place to
hang out and meet friends.
On the eastern side of the square near the Neues Rathaus sits the Fischbrunnen (Fish Fountain). It’s Munich’s most famous and oldest fountain - some believe it goes back as early as the 1300s.
Fishmongers kept their fish fresh in the fountain when this was the piscatorial part of the old market. It was the site of bizarre initiation ceremony called the Metzgersprung (Butcher’s Leap) which took place regularly until 1900 and continues in an altered form to this day.
To round off their schooling, young apprentice butchers were sheathed in nothing but a sheepskin and a calf’s penis hanging from their necks, spun around three times and thrown into the fountain.
Only after suffering through this potentially neurosis-inducing ceremony were they allowed to work as fully fledged butchers. It’s now the city’s most-loved meeting point.
The details (Tourist Information Office)
Check out my intereactive map of Marienplatz! You can also see it here
in a larger version.
Phone: 089 23 39 65 50
Location: In the arcade at the bottom of the Neues Rathaus, in the middle.
Directions: Take any S-Bahn or U-Bahn 3 or 6 to Marienplatz.
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