At long last – Gutenberg!

An accordion player provides a soundtrack to our visit to one of the oldest remaining sections of Mainz. Gutenberg's cousin's house, dating to 1450, resides in this square.

An accordion player provides a soundtrack to our visit to one of the oldest remaining sections of Mainz. Gutenberg’s cousin’s house, dating to 1450, resides in this square.

We finally made it to Mainz on Tuesday where Johannes Gutenberg, namesake of our course, invented movable type in the 1450s. You’d think a class called Gutenberg to the Web would have visited Gutenberg’s hometown before now, but the geography of our travels works out better this way. We also think there is value in seeing what Gutenberg hath wrought with his printing revolution and working backwards to the 15th century.

Posing with Gutenberg, with McDonald's lurking in the background.

Posing with Gutenberg, with McDonald’s lurking in the background.

Mainz, a city of 200,000 with 40,000 college students at Gutenberg University, is a 45-minute commuter train ride from Frankfurt. The city’s chronology can be traced through five distinct eras:

1) The Romans founded the city around 1312 BC, bringing wine with them. The Rhine River borders Mainz, and the Rhineland is now one of the largest wine producing areas in Germany.

2) The second era began with the spread of Christianity in the Frankish Empire in the 8th century. St. Boniface became the first Archbishop of Mainz, beginning a thousand-year tradition of powerful Archbishops in the region. Boniface is the patron saint of Germany, and he was killed in 754 by bandits in the coastal region of Frisia, but only after many baptisms and conversions to Catholicism. A famous statue on the grounds of the Mainz Cathedral shows Boniface with a sword though a Bible, as he is said to have held up the holy book to shield himself when his assailants struck. Saint Boniface’s feast day is celebrated on June 5 in the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Anglican Communion and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

3) During the French Revolution, Mainz was occupied by the French for 20 years. Napoleon and the French were the ones responsible for placing the first statue of Gutenberg in the town, as the famous son had been marginalized over the years. Gutenberg was in perpetual debt, and he lost his print shop, obscuring his fame – inside the town, at least – for nearly 400 years.

4) In the 19th century, Mainz became a fortification town, mostly to guard against future French invasions. There was a French-German War (Franco-Prussian War) in 1870-71, and the Germans were victorious.

5) In the 20th Century, WWI and WWII took an enormous toll on the town. A 1945 bombing raid destroyed 85% of Mainz in 20 minutes, with more than 1,000 dead.

Below is a photo gallery of our visit.

Scott Richardson, with the assistance of our guide Ursula, uses the replica printing press in the Gutenberg Museum.

Scott Richardson, with the assistance of our guide Ursula, uses the replica printing press in the Gutenberg Museum.

As a reward for his efforts, Scott gets to take home the page from St. John he printed.

As a reward for his efforts, Scott gets to take home the page from St. John he printed.

St. Stephens Church, which traces its origins to 990, boasts many windows designed by artist Marc Chagall.

St. Stephens Church, which traces its origins to 990, boasts many windows designed by artist Marc Chagall.

This is a detail of one of the Chagall windows depicting Moses holding the Ten Commandments.

This is a detail of one of the Chagall windows depicting Moses holding the Ten Commandments.

The old half-timber house area that remains in Mainz had many bakery shops from the 15th Century forward. This image on one of the buildings depicts two lions with a pretzel.

The old half-timber house area that remains in Mainz had many bakery shops from the 15th Century forward. This image on one of the buildings depicts two lions with a pretzel.

-A. Hatcher

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2 thoughts on “At long last – Gutenberg!

  1. Margaret Ice

    Thanks so very much for posting each day. My husband and I have really enjoyed hearing about each day’s activities and your reflections upon them. Loved seeing all the pictures as well and are loooking forward to seeing many more when Emily arrives home. What a fabulous adventure for the kids! We appreciate both of you taking your time to show them what they can’t get inside a classroom. Safe travels back to the US.

    Reply

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