To think of Heidelberg is to think of learning. One of the first of
European universities was established in this town by the Elector
Rupert; and here culture has flourished for centuries, in spite of
repeated sieges and a long history of disasters. What a grim story is
that of yonder old grey castle that frowns upon Heidelberg across the
River Neckar. Wars and rumours of wars form the chief chronicles of this
ancient town from the days of the Electors Palatine of the Rhine to the
invasion of the French.
Besieged by Tully after a protracted siege, held by the Imperialists,
seized by the Swedish troops, burnt by the French, who ravaged it again
a few years later–Heidelberg has been the scene of many calamities and
Again and again has the castle been bombarded and fired. The last
catastrophe happened in 1764, when the fortress-palace was struck by
lightning, set on fire, and almost destroyed. It is now a great ruin;
the part least injured dates from the sixteenth century. The massive
tower, with walls over twenty feet thick, was hurled down by the French
in their last assault.
Such architectural details as remain are of great interest. The chief
gateway has parts of the old portcullis; there are some statues of the
sixteenth century, and a triumphal arch. From whatever point of view the
Castle of Heidelberg is seen, it is a striking red pile, proudly
dominating the surrounding country, and overshadowing the Neckar.
A part of the castle is known as the English Palace. Here lived
Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I. and grand-daughter of Mary Queen
of Scots, who was united to the Elector Frederick V. This palace was
built in 1607, and the garden was made about this time for the enjoyment
of the young bride.
The celebrated great Tun of Heidelberg is in one of the cellars of the
castle. This prodigious cask was originally made in the fourteenth
century, and contained twenty-one pipes of Rhenish wine. A second tun
was constructed in 1664, and this held six hundred hogsheads. The French
emptied this, and demolished it. A third cask was made to hold eight
hundred hogsheads, and when filled, the citizens held a dance upon a
stage erected on its top.
Viewed as a work of architecture, the University is not an inspiring
structure. It stands in a small square about the middle of the town. In
the library are missals and a large collection of books. Attached are
the botanic gardens of the college. The vandal Tully, during his
campaign, ravaged the university, and destroyed a number of valuable
volumes and manuscripts.
One of the greatest names associated with the University of Heidelberg
is the philosopher George Frederick William Hegel, born in 1770. He was
a native of Stuttgart, and at eighteen years of age he entered the
University of Tübingen. There Hegel met Schelling, for whom he had a
deep admiration. After a time of struggle as a tutor, the philosopher
came to Heidelberg, in 1816, as professor. His theses do not seem to
have attracted the students of that date, for we read that only four
persons attended his opening courses of lectures.
Hegel found time during two years in Heidelberg to write a part of his
“Encylopædia of Philosophical Science,” a great work, which obtained
for the author a chair at the University of Berlin, where he lectured
for about thirteen years. He died of cholera, in 1831, at the age of
Another illustrious man of Heidelberg was the poet Viktor Von Scheffel,
to whose memory a monument stands in the terrace of the castle.
The castle and the university are the two historic buildings in
Heidelberg that attract the traveller. One does not easily tire of the
view from the hill three hundred feet above the ruins of the castle, nor
of the beauties of the environs, and the banks of the Neckar.
The city is made cheerful by its law and medical students, who drink
their lager beer with gusto, sing their staves, and keep up the old
university traditions and customs. There are bright clean streets, and
many shops that prosper through the college and the host of summer
Two fine bridges span the Neckar. The older bridge was constructed in
1788, and the new bridge was built about a hundred years later. It
connects Heidelberg with Neuenheim.
The old town is curiously elongated, stretching along the riverside.
Modern suburbs are extending to-day, to provide for a population
numbering about forty thousand.
Unfortunately, very little of old Heidelberg has survived the
devastation of wars and conflagrations. Even the churches were despoiled
of their monuments by the French soldiery, and scarcely one of the
ancient houses remains as a memorial of the Middle Ages.
Climb the hill of Anlagen, and you will reach the church associated with
Jerome of Prague, the contemporary of Huss. To the door of this church
Jerome affixed his heretical affirmations, and in the graveyard he
preached to a vast crowd.
Olympia Morata is buried here. This beautiful and cultured Italian woman
was a second Hypatia, who, however, escaped the too common fate of
innovating philosophers. She married a German doctor, after a flight
from her native land, and lived in Heidelberg, where her lectures were
attended by the learned of the town.
- The Project Gutenberg EBook of Old Continental Towns, by Walter M. Gallichan