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Wednesday, May 18, 2011


May 1-4, 2011

The old Paulinerkirche (Church of St. Paul) on the Augustusplatz.

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The old Paulinerkirche of the eighteenth century, before the building of the modern University.

The Paulinerkirche (Church of St. Paul) was originally built at its present location in 1231–1240, as church of the Dominican monastery of Leipzig. The “Pauliners,” after whom the church is named, were its original Domincan friars. It was built as the Klosterkirche St. Pauli for the Dominican monastery in Leipzig and, when the monastery was dissolved, it became the university church for the University of Leipzig. After its foundation in 1409 the University had established close ties to this church. In 1539 the Dominican convent was dissolved and the monastery and church were handed over to the university in 1543. In 1545 Martin Luther dedicated St. Paul's as the Protestant university church. (See http// )

The Paulinerkirche in the early 1800’s

The Paulinerkirche in the late 1800’s. Thus, perhaps, Nietzsche saw it when he was a student at the University of Leipzig in the 1860’s.


Nietzsche in 1864

From Ronald Hayman, Nietzsche: A Critical Life, Penguin (1982):

“On 17 October 1865, together with Mushacke [a friend], Nietzsche arrived in Leipzig. He formed a favourable first impression of ‘the high-gabled houses, the streets so full of life, the bustling activity,’ but his elation evaporated as they began to view the lodgings advertised in the newspapers. Most were smelly, dirty and uncomfortable. But a second-hand bookseller who had rooms to let, Herr Rohn, led them into a narrow side-street called Blumengasse. He took them through a house, into a garden and then into another building, where he showed them a small room with an adjoining bedroom. Nietzsche agreed at once to rent the rooms, and Mushacke found rooms in the house next door. Unfortunately for Nietzsche, the bookseller had young children, ‘who scream rather a lot.’

The rain drips quietly onto the zinc-covered roof under my two windows. A lot of people live all round me, and I can see into their rooms. Thoroughly disagreeable faces! And in the gardens that spread out on both sides, everything is yellow, as if mummified, desolate. This is now my world.
The next day, going to register at the university, he found himself in the midst of a celebration. It was the centenary of the day Goethe had registered. This Nietzsche took to be a good omen, though the rector, shaking all the newcomers by the hand, warned them against modeling their university career on Goethe’s. Genius had wayward and devious ways of reaching its objectives.” (pp. 70-71)

A few days after his arrival, Nietzsche was browsing among the books in his landlord’s book shop when he discovered a copy of Schopenhauer’s Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Representation) which had been published in 1819. The rest is History.

The Paulinerkirche in the twentieth century.

To the right of the photograph, the Paulinerkirche, now part of the University. The building to the left was the Augusteum, headquarters of the University of Leipzig

During World War II the church suffered only minor damages during a bomb raid in 1943. Nevertheless, the church was blown up in 1968 after a decision by the Politbüro of the Central Committee of the SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany). Protestors against the blasting operation were arrested. In the 1990s, the rebuilding of the church was discussed but obstructed by the university. However, the new buildings at the University's main campus which are currently under construction are inspired by the form and shape of the old church, particularly its façade and a faux tower which, although modern, will clearly allude to the historic architecture of St. Paul's. The newly built heart of the university will also include a room for common prayer and regular religious services situated exactly at the place of the former medieval church. (See http// ).

Aula Magna Lipsia, in progress

It is felt as an outrage, today, to remember that in 1968 the Communists decided to blow up the Paulinerkirche as an unnecessary reminiscence of what had been, and to a large extent still was, the religion of the Saxons since the sixteenth century. But one must also think about the opposite perspective, in order to properly understand conflicting emotions. What was the perspective, what were the assumptions, of the Communists upon arriving at the decision to demolish the old church in 1968? I suggest they thought they were well rid of that religion, and to condemn the old building was a way of acknowledging that perceived fact and of emptying the land to build something else for their own time. They carried no brief for the Lutheran Church. Well may they have asked themselves, as Nietzsche had before them, why did the Monk Luther have to revive Christianity at a moment when it was perishing in a blaze of aesthetic glory, and Humanistic scholarship, in Italy and in the Netherlands? What did Lutheranism and its established tradition mean to the Communists of 1968? The Lutheran Church had not, with a few very significant exceptions, condemned the Nazis from it pulpits. It was a Church that accepted anti-Semitism in its core beliefs, as a consequence of the death of the Savior. It was a rigid, cold, cruel religion, the projection of Luther onto religion of what he had experienced as a boy in the family home. This brutally repressive religion was also the upholder of the patriarchy, and of the subjection of women, of the Hausfrau that was meant only to live for her children, or in Church and Home: “Kinder, Küche und Kirche.” This religion had also helped perpetuate the ideological domination of its pious ministers, spokesmen as they were for the military and business elite of the Wilhelminian Empire, over the working class. The Lutheran Church had become an Establishment in the German States under its jurisdiction, which included Saxony. This was the perspective of the Saxon Communists of Leipzig in 1968, in summary, to erase all memory of the cruel religion of their forefathers, which had done nothing to protect the people from the devastating catastrophe of Nazi domination, and had always stood for class and patriarchal rule. For them, the demolition of the old Paulinerkirche must have felt like a joyful liberation.

Model of the projected Aula Magna Lipsia, a combination of classrooms and the Paulinerkirche, which is to become an all-purpose room, and its façade, integrated into the perimeter of the building.

The reconstruction now in progress of the hallowed grounds of the University of Leipzig is based on the notion of creating an Aula Magna Lipsia, on the grounds of what used to be the Augusteum and the Paulinerkirche. The Paulinerkirche will be remembered by the outline of its ancient façade and the old face of the church, integrated into the larger building of the Aula. Aula means ‘classroom.’ The Aula Magna Lispsia is the main classroom of the University. “Lipsia” derives from ‘Lipsk’ and old Slavic (Upper Sorbian) word meaning "settlement where the lime trees (linden trees in America) stand". The Slavic origin of the name of the city is an acknowledgment of the Slavic origins of the people and history of the city. Leipzig is both German and Slavic in its historical origins.

The University of Leipzig was founded in 1409; it is thus the second-oldest university of modern Germany. In 1519 the castle Pleißenburg was the site of the famous disputation ('Leipziger Disputation') between Martin Luther and his opponent Johannes Eck. The Reformation was finally introduced in the city in 1539. Throughout the centuries, Leipzig was in centre of trading and commerce. Already in 1701 street lighting was installed and the progressive city soon became nicknamed 'Klein-Paris' (Little Paris) or 'Pleiß-Athen'. The famous Battle of Leipzig of 1813 ended with a victory of the allied armies of Prussia, Russia and Austria over the troops of Napoleon and his allies, among them the kingdom of Saxony. The population of Leipzig increased rapidly during the late 19th century, the period of industrialization. In April 1945 Leipzig was liberated by the US Army and in July of that year became part of the Soviet zone of occupation. The 'Monday demonstrations' at the church St. Nikolai which began in September 1989 were a series of peaceful political protests against the East German government. The demonstrations eventually ended in March 1990, around the time of the multiparty elections that led to the reunification of Germany. (See http// )

Goethe in Leipzig

The square, Augustusplatz, was laid out in 1785. At that time it was still named 'Platz vor dem Grimmaischen Thor' ('Square at the Grimma Gate'). In 1839 it was renamed Augustusplatz in honour of Friedrich August I, the first king of Saxony (b.1750, 1763 Elector F.A. III, 1806 King, d.1827). In 1953 the square was renamed 'Karl-Marx-Platz' but in 1990 it was again named 'Augustusplatz'.

The Augustusplatz before the second world war.

The Augustusplatz today. To the left of the photo, the University’s administrative headquarters dwarf the projected Aula Magna Lipsia.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if I've ever seen that image of Nietzsche! How wonderful to see his smirk! He looks so disgusted! Usually he's older and it's covered up by a giant mustache.