So, Leipzig is about halfway between Nuremburg and Berlin and the site of the Battle of the Nations. This was where Napoleon’s conquest of Europe ended (he was then sent to Elba – any one have any idea where in the world Elba is???) We also found that Benedict Carpzov the Younger had famously stated “Living outside Leipzig means living miserably.” Sounds like a must see kind of a place (or maybe a never see kind of a place, so you will never know what you are missing). Fact is, the real reason for Leipzig was our pretty hard and fast policy against driving for more than about 3 theoretical hours in a row without cease-bad for the circulation, and tempers.
As usual, we got a bit lost heading into town and (also as usual) we were more than a bit over our 3 hour limit. The thing I had really wanted to see in Leipzig was the Museum in der Runden Ecke which was the former home of the Nazi secret police. It closes at 5, we got there a bit past 4, then we got lost and ended up parking very far away from the museum. We walked toward it a bit, passing lovely buildings including the famous Altes Rathaus or Old City Hall, shown left, and purchasing some homemade pickles off a street vendor (at right). YUM! But we didn’t make it to the museum. Oh well.
Somehow, despite André’s normally flawless navigating, we missed the church but we did get to see something quite interesting on our way back to the car. This (plus the pickles) was what made the Leipzig visit worthwhile.
What we saw was Thomaskirchhof (St. Thomas Church) and, from the outside, it was rather small and not so impressive (except, perhaps for the weird white statue topped with green spikes standing nearby – I of course assumed this was yet another example of a misguided modern artist attempting to make a statement but actually just clashing with everything!). See exterior below. Once we entered the building I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the place and realized the spikey thing was just like the columns that held up the roof of the cathedral (sorry I didn’t get a better shot)
But that wasn’t the cool thing about this place. The cool thing was that this is Bach’s church. That’s right, the one and only Johann Sebastian. He served as cantor here for 27 years and composed about half of his works in Leipzig, trying them out on the congregation. He is buried inside the church. This guy is amazing. He’s the one who brought us Ave Maria and The Toccata and Fugue in D minor. He was the inspiration for names including Mozart (who also played in this church), Beethoven, Chopin, Goethe, Schumann and Mendelssohn. Imagine, for a few minutes, just sitting in this church and hearing such music that ears had never heard before… lucky bastards!
Here is Ave Maria and The Toccatta. If you want to hear the Tocatta with an organ – (highly recommend it) go to this link
Ave Maria with vocals?
Here they both are again – different versions – both awesome. Have I mentioned recently that I love youtube??
I find I just can’t leave Leipzig, however, without one more tale. During WWII, Thomaskirche was bombed and heavily damaged. After the war, they restored it completely, one would have no idea it was even touched (if not for Wikipedia). But, quite accidentally, during my research I found that Leipzig had also been home to a beautiful and famous synagogue. It was built in 1855 and completely destroyed, razed to the ground, during Kristallnacht. Sadly, it was never rebuilt to its former glory (or at all) after the war. I feel extremely sad about this, so sad it makes my heart feel heavy in my chest. I have to wonder why, when every other part of the town was restored, this was not…
So I close with a drawing that survived of the interior of the synagogue. Obviously, we were unable to visit it, but I wish we could have.