Urban Ressources (City Walk 10)

Picture of the second-hand department store “brauchbar” from the outside, in the centre of Erfurt (photo: Yasmin Diederichs)

At the beginning of the summer term we started with our 10th City Walk which was dedicated to the topic of urban ressources. Three stops in the Old Town of Erfurt gave us the opportunity to  discuss different aspects of the subject: commercialism and different interpretations of poverty in past and present, in religious and more urban environments with the visit of the Second Hand Shop at the Johannesturm in Erfurt, monasticism and the ambivalence of wealth and poverty, production and contemplation at the Augustinian monastery, and, finally, the Collegium Maius and the St Michaelis church as two significant urban institutions of the Christian university life in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period.

Mirjam Wien gives an impulse to the group on mendicant orders (photo: Yasmin Diederichs)

At the Second Hand Shop ‚brauchbar‘, Mirjam Wien introduced us to modern forms of daily reusing and reinventing. The shop is representative for other stores of this kind, which have set themselves the goal of reusing objects and selling them at a reasonable price. Therefore, there are many reasons for people to visit them. People who cannot afford new items can shop here. Other customers are consciously looking for second hand goods in order to live in a resource-saving way. As Mirjam pointed out, notions of poverty are diverging. Thus, in religious terms, poverty in the material sense is often understood as an antithesis to wealth in material, is rather a conscious rejection of abundance and can be understood as a virtue, for example in the context of asceticism.

Constanze Schaller gives a short tour of the monastery of St. Augustine (photo: Yasmin Diederichs)

Continuing in this thought Constanze Schaller led us further to the “Augustinian Monastery”. Since the mid-13th century, the Augustinians tried to settle here. They did not retreat to lonely areas to cultivate contemplative prayer, but as a rule settled in  cities like Erfurt. There they were mainly concerned with preaching and pastoral care, later with education and mission, too. The monastery was its own business with many lay brothers to support it. They also processed the woad for which Erfurt was known beyond its borders. In 1556 the last monk died and the monastery was secularized. During the Second World War the storage rooms were destroyed and many people seeking protection died. Only in September 2008, the Woadhouses were reopened. It is a modern building on partially rebuilt foundations, which now only slightly resembles an Erfurt “Waidspeicher“. It contains guest rooms and a prayer room in the basement.

Looking at the grave slab of Zacharias Hogel I, II and III (photo: Yasmin Diederichs)

After a short stop at the church of the monastery we walked right to our third place of religious and urban re-use. Mateusz Fafinski led us to the university heart of medieval Erfurt and encouraged us to think about the re-construction of historic buildings and the meaning behind it.[1] In the Middle Ages, the Michaeliskirche was the church of the University of Erfurt. The university’s teaching buildings were directly opposite it, including later the Collegium Maius, the main building of the Old University in Erfurt, which existed from 1392 to 1816. The old building housed the rector’s office, lecture halls and the university’s Great Festival Hall. The building and its over 400 years of history were destroyed by American bombs during an air raid in February 1945. There were lots of discussions about the future use like in other greater cities, where the city centre became the focus of major debates and political instrumentalisation.[2] During the GDR, plans for the redevelopment of the site, which would have strongly interfered with the structure of the old town, were not implemented. In 2011, the regional church office of the Protestand Church in Germany (Evangelische Kirche in Mitteldeutschland) moved into the re-erected Collegium Maius – a new era for a contested cultural heritage.


[1] Darlington, J. (2020) Fake Heritage: Why We Rebuild Monuments. Yale University Press.

[2] Trüby, S. (2018) ‚Neue Frankfurter Altstadt durch Rechtsradikale initiiert‘, FAZ.NET, 16. April, available here: https://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/neue-frankfurter-altstadt-durch-rechtsradikalen-initiiert-15531133.html



Cite this blog post
Aileen Becker (2023, May 10). Urban Ressources (City Walk 10). Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations. Retrieved June 15, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/v3g6

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