DURER (cont.)

In our study of the great artists so far, we have found that each glorified some particular city and that, whatever other treasures that city may have had in the past, it is the recollections of its great artist that hallow it most deeply today. Thus, to think of Antwerp is to think instantly of Rubens. Leyden and Amsterdam as quickly recall to our minds the name of Rembrandt. Seville without Murillo would lose its chief charm, while Urbino is Raphael and, without the revered name of the painter, would seldom draw the visitor to its secluded precincts.

To the quaintest of European cities the name of Albrecht Durer instinctively carries us—to Nuremberg.

“That ancient, free, imperial town,
Forever fair and young.”

Were we to study Durer without first viewing his venerable city which he so deeply loved all his life that no promise of gain from gorgeous Venetian court or from wealthy Antwerp burgers could detain him long from home, we should leave untouched a delightful subject and one deeply inwoven in the life and thought of the artist. Were we to omit a brief consideration of his time and the way the German mind looked at things and naturally represented them in words and in pictures, we should come away from Durer impressed only with his great homely figures and faces and wondering why, in every list of the great artists of the world, Durer’s name should stand so high.

Having these things in mind, it will not then seem so far away to speak of Nuremberg and Luther before we rehearse the things which make up the life of Albrecht Durer.

Nuremberg does not boast a very early date, for she began her existence just after the year one thousand when men, finding out surely that the end of the world was not come, took as it were a new lease of life. The thing she does boast is that her character as a mediæval town has been almost perfectly preserved up to the present day.

There were many things which made Nuremberg an important city in early times. She was conveniently located for traders who shipped vast amounts of merchandise from Venice to the great trade centers in the Netherlands. For many years she was a favorite city of the Emperor and here were kept the crown jewels which were displayed with great pomp once a year.

The country immediately about Nuremberg was sandy but carefully cultivated. There were also large banks of clay very useful to the citizens in the manufacture of pottery. Like the salt of Venice, it was a natural source of wealth to the citizens. Very early we find a paper mill here, and here, too, were set up some of the earliest printing presses. Perhaps the most interesting of the early wares of this enterprising city were the watches. The first made in the world were manufactured here and from their shape they were called “Nuremberg Eggs.” We have a story that Charles V. had a watchmaker brought in a sedan chair all the way from Nuremberg that he might have his watch repaired. Here was manufactured the first gun-lock, and here was invented the valued metallic compound known as brass.

From all these sources the citizens grew rich, but their wealth did not make them forget their city. A little more than fifty years before Durer’s birth, the Emperor being very much in need of money, they bought their freedom. For this they paid what would be, in our money, about a million of dollars. It was a goodly price, but they gave it freely. Then they destroyed the house where their governor or Burgrave had lived and they were henceforth ruled by a council selected from their own number.

The city lies on both sides of the river Pegnitz which divides it into two almost equal parts. The northern side is named from its great church, St. Sebald’s, and the southern for that of St. Lawrence. Originally the city was enclosed by splendid ramparts. Three hundred and sixty-five towers broke the monotony of the extensive walls. Of these one hundred are still standing today. In days gone by, a moat thirty-five feet wide encircled the wall, but since peace has taken the place of war and security has come instead of hourly danger, the moat has been drained and thrifty kitchen gardens fill the space.

In the church of sainted Sebald sleeps enshrined his holy dust,
And in bronze the Twelve Apostles guard from age to age their trust.Longfellow

Within the city are some of the most beautiful buildings both private and public. Here, too, sculpture, which the Germans cultivated before they did painting, has left rare monuments. Among these last we must notice the wonderful shrine of St. Sebald in the church of the same name. For thirteen years Peter Vischer and his five sons labored on this work. Long it was to toil and vexing were the questions which arose in the progress of the work; but the result was a master-piece which stands alone among the art works of the world. Nor can we forget the foamy ciborium of the Church of St Lawrence. For sixty-five feet this miracle of snowy marble rises in the air, growing more lacey at every step until, in its terminal portions, so delicate does it become that it seems like the very clouds in fleeciness.