The Many Museums in Mainz
In the grand scale of things, 2,000 years is but a grain of sand. The history of Mainz and the remains of its two millennia are well-documented in more than a dozen museums. Excellently-prepared exhibits, well-written support materials, handsome texts, tracts and books and modern inter-active equipment further enhance museum-going in Mainz. Because much on display was found there, and as one can still visit the sites and frequently see remnants which survived, these museums are special. This immediacy lends an additional degree of reality to the life and times of Mainz’s past. Visiting the town’s many exciting museums is like taking a journey through cultural and natural history.
The Landesmuseum – one of the oldest museums in Germany
It houses the most important art collection of the Rheinland Palatinate, among which are extraordinary items from Roman Mainz dating from the 1st to 4th Century. When a museum displays noteworthy exhibits dating from the Stone Age to the present day it most certainly deserves its first class image. The Landesmuseum, located in the former “Kurfürstenkaserne” with its characteristic Golden Horse on the roof, is one of the oldest museums in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The collections are continuously expanded upon, with new valuable exhibits being added dating back to Roman times, the Middle Ages, or baroque. Even the most seasoned of regular visitors always finds something new, be it Byzantine coins or Picasso’s portrait.
The Roman-Germanic Museum
Enjoys an outstanding reputation as a research institute and restorration centers. Of particular importance is its reputation for its permanent collections of the Pre-historic, Roman and Early Medieval periods. The Römisch-Germanische Zentralmuseum enjoys an outstanding reputation in Germany and beyond. Contributions to this reputation have been: the preservation of the remains of the South Tirolian “ice man”, the restoration of a Peruvian tomb, and even the organisation of field studies in Xian in China, where experts from Mainz examined important ore findings.
Visitors to this museum can expect a significant range of spectacular findings, which strikingly bridge the gap between the Stone Age and the Middle Ages, in the North West wing of the “Kurfürstlichen Schlosses”. The sensatlonal find of 1981: Roman ships. 13 A replica of a Roman column monument, 2nd century A. D. A late Celtic brass figurine of a wild boar. A view of Roman armaments. Gold earings from Egypt.
Situated in the old quarter of Mainz, the Gutenberg Museum is one of the oldest printing museums, attracting tourists and professionals from all over the world. It was founded in 1900, on the 500th anniversary of the birth of Johannes Gutenberg, and is dedicated to the life and work of Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. In this printing treasure trove, visitors can explore various sections on printing technology, book design, job printing and bookplates, graphics and posters, paper, type history and modern art books to gain a comprehensive insight into the history of type and printing. The museum’s highlights include the famous Gutenberg bible, which is one of the most beautiful printed books in the world. Closed on Mondays and Fridays, multilingual guided tours on request.
This name remains notable even in today’s breathtakingly rapid world of visual and audio media. The museum bearing this name in the city centre is a homage to the inventor of the printing with moveable letters, with his world renowned 42 line bible being one of the prime exhibits.
One can watch as “live” demonstrations are made of printing the way it was done 500 years ago in the museum’s workshop. Middle Age manuscripts, historical prints, artwork, printing presses, and typesetting machines of ages past round up the fascinating spectrum of items on display in this museum, which is with good reason one of the main attractions in Mainz.
The middle of the 19th century was a turning point in the history of sekt in Germany. In 1850, on the site of a former Roman military camp in Mainz, Christian Adalbert Kupferberg founded the Kupferberg sekt winery. A visit to the Kupferberg Museum takes you on a journey through 150 years of sekt-making. The fermenting rooms, which still store a number of older bottles, are found deep underground, and there are some beautifully decorated barrels on show in the historical cellar. A particular highlight is the Schützenfass, made in 1894 in celebration of the shooting festival. The museum is also home to the world’s largest exhibition of international sekt and champagne glasses. Showcasing the creative genius of artists working in the medium of glass, the collection features more than 500 glasses down the ages – from the Venetian ‘Cristallo’ of the Renaissance to the trendy designs of the present day. The museum’s Traubensaal room, a masterpiece of art nouveau, is also well worth seeing. At the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, it was used as an exhibition hall to promote fine German wines. Closed on Sundays, guided tours available.
Natural History Museum
Situated in the church of the former Reichklara Abbey, the Natural History Museum in Mainz was opened to visitors back in 1910 and is now the largest and most important museum of its kind in the Rhineland-Palatinate. Few other natural science museums in the world have such an extensive collection of prehistoric dinosaur tracks and insects from the Permian period on the Rhine. With more than 25,000 finds, it has a rich and varied collection of ice-age animals such as the hippo, steppe mammoth, elk, wolf, Javan rhino, giant lion, jaguar, sabre-toothed cat and the famous group of quaggas that all lived in the Rhine-Main region approx. 500,000 years ago. This extensive exhibition is guaranteed to hold your interest like no other.
The Museum possesses rich collections of flora and fauna from pre-historic to modern times. Additional exhibition rooms are devoted to geology, paleontology and earth science. A broadly-based pedagogical program, specifically designed for youthful participants, is a major aspect of the Museum’s offerings.
Geologists, paleontologists, zoologists, botanists and natural scientists all avidly visit the museum where they can rediscover Ice Age animals as well as see the petrified testimonials to times gone by. The museum also has a zoological department, where interesting facts can be collected about the indigenous fauna and its way of life. Guided tours, lectures and museum games all help to make nature accessable to old and young alike.
Cathedral and Diocesan Museum
The Cathedral and Diocesan Museum is located in the Cathedral’s two-storey, late-Gothic cloister and in the former chapter house. With more than 3,000m² of exhibition space, it is the second-largest museum of its kind in Germany – presenting works of art from over two millennia. For many centuries, Mainz cathedral treasury ranked among the finest in the Western world. Produced between the 14th and the 18th century, the surviving inventories describe a wealth of liturgical instruments and paraments. The treasury prospered under Archbishops Willigis (975-1011) and Peter von Aspelt (1306-1320). Cardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg (1514-1545), who brought the “Halle’sche Heiltum” reliquaries from Halle to Mainz during the Reformation, also added another 300 items of the most exquisite quality. Closed on Mondays and religious holidays.
Museum of Ancient Shipbuilding
The Museum of Ancient Shipbuilding opened its doors in Mainz in 1994. In a collection unparalleled in Germany, the museum presents the original remains of five ships dating back to the late Graeco-Roman period. Known as the “Roman ships of Mainz”, their construction differed from mediterranean shipbuilding at the time, demonstrating a technical advancement that allowed standardised production. The ships on display represent the last in a long tradition of ancient shipbuilding. Archaeological evidence shows that part of the Rhine fleet was stationed in Mongontiacum (the Latin name for Mainz) soon after a Roman camp was established around 12 or 13 BC.
Visitors also have the opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes in the research laboratory and in the museum’s workshops. Located in the former market hall near the historic quarters, the ancient shipbuilding research section of the Roman Germanic Central Museum became an independent museum in 1994. In a collection unparalleled in Germany, the museum presents the original remains of five ships dating back to the late antiquity era. These were discovered in 1981/82 during excavations for the extension of the Hilton Hotel of Mainz. The shipwrecks were located about 7.5 metres below the current street level, apparently in a shut-down section of the harbour. Based on their typical shape, these were military ships that were abandoned following the catastrophic defeat of the Roman Rhine army by invading Teutons in 407 AD.
In the year 206 AD, the Roman troops had already been withdrawn from the right bank of the Rhine in upper Germany, while the Rhine was the very endangered regional border. The military ships served as border patrols but also as speedy troop transport vehicles. The mission of the museum of ancient shipbuilding is to scientifically deal with all sources concerning Roman shipbuilding. This includes the reconstruction of ancient ship models based on antique depictions and Roman ship remains found throughout Europe. Based on these sources, the model builders create all ship models intended for display in the exhibition at a scale of 1:10 before the eyes of the museum’s visitors. The project is financially supported by the Ministry of Labour, Social and Health Affairs as well as the job centre of Mainz. The two ships based on the original sources present an informative depiction of the size and shape of Rhine ships and their use in the late antiquity era. Large-scale illuminated images highlight the construction and use of the ships in their historic context . The museum of Ancient Shipbuilding also co-ordinates the creation of internet picture databases of European ship archaeology, which contain detailed information concerning the ship findings of Mainz as well the museum.
Kastel Local History Society
In 1983 the Kastel Local History Society (GHK) conceived the idea of preserving and making more accessible Kastel’s 2000-year history for the current generation as well as for coming generations. It laid the groundwork for creating a “Historical Kastel Room” in the Reduit, which was dedicated on July 7, 1984. The resonance was remarkable. Ever more archeological finds from Kastel came to light and were added to the collection.
Soon the room could no longer contain the collection, and the way was made free for the “Castellum Museum.” With a small circle of volunteer workers and financial support from the two state capitals, Mainz and Wiesbaden, and from many firms and citizens, it was possible to turn the plans into reality. On May 19, 1990, as part of the celebration of Kastel’s 2000th anniversary and in the presence of over 1,200 guests, the museum was inaugurated within the historic walls of the Reduit, which dates from 1832.
Photos courtesy: Touristik Centrale & Stadt Mainz©