WW1 Memorial and Wall in Wurzburg, Germany

Würzburg, DE (Apr 21)
5D M3
This last weekend, I finally began the route in Germany called the “Romantic Road” which runs from Würzburg to Neuschwanstein for 354 kilometers. Pre-COVID travelers would take 3-4 days and stay in beautiful little Guesthouses (small hotels with food and drink). I decided to take the route in sections until I complete it because right now we are not allowed to stay overnight in any lodging.
Friday I began in Würzburg, which I have been to a few times. But I had never been to the famous Residenz there. As usual, I stumbled upon something else–a multi-layered German memorial to those who fell in WW1 and WW2. The whole experience was strange to me. Trust me, I am glad we gave the Germans then good ass-whuppuns in WW1 and especially WW2. Hitler and his goons needed to be exterminated with extreme prejudice–no argument there.
However, if you have been to Germany, there are almost no “memorials” to those wars or the “boys” who fought in those wars. The Germans have rightly erased symbols and signifiers to Nazism, fascism–Hitler.
Here, though, was a memorial still standing. I think, “think,” that it is left standing because this is a memorial to the “sons” of Würzburg and includes WW1. You can see the “signs” below. The memorial–the main sculpture–moved me emotionally. I don’t know why–maybe you can tell me. I felt embarrassed that a war “memorial,” a war memorial of our mortal enemies, moved me–but it did. This part of the large sculpture is a memorial to those Germans who fell in WW1. Their names are inscribed on the wall behind. The sculpture also strangely reminded me of the innumerable renderings of Station 13–taking Christ’s body down from the cross.
Why do we do this? As humans? Why do we inscribe murder, death, erasure, hatred, senseless killing, out into the open(ing)? Why do we make killing other human beings grand and baroque? Six soldiers, old and young, carry their fallen comrade with sorrow, symmetry, and gallantry. The fallen comrade still sidles his rifle as if all this were nobility, bravery, loyalty.
You will see that, of course, this memorial reminded me of the Vietnam war wall in Wash DC. Names, names, and more names. Boys, boys, and more boys. Women too, but we have left them out until the Vietnam memorial. I lived the Vietnam war through a lens, every night, listening to the dead count. How many Americans died today? How many VC? I remember as a young boy, feeling proud and hopeful when more VC died than American men and women. But I also remember viewing that image of Americans leaving Saigon and the Vietnamese making a human chain holding onto that helicopter out of desperation.
Some of my dear friends didn’t live that war through a lens; they lived and died the war. I know–I have no right to say anything about this part of it so I won’t except this: thank you for your service. I still disagree mightily with the Vietnam war. History will probably tell us that this was the beginning of the end of America. And then George W and Cheney sealed our fated direction. Where is the wall of names for the more than 600,000 Iraqi’s we murdered since 2003? How long would that wall be?
But the names. The boys. The women. All the “sons” of Würzburg around the world and throughout history. The names of real humans. Their faces. They were not, are not anonymous. I still don’t know what to do with this memorial. Were they, are we, victims or perpetrators? Or both?
And for what? For God’s sake, for what?
I know, this was my beginning of the “Romantic Road.” Welcome to Hudson’s world.

Via Crucis: Stuppach, Germany

Via Crucis in Stuppacher, Germany
Don Michael Hudson, PhD


Stuppach, DE (May 21)
5D M3
“St. Joseph cut the umbilical cord. And the mother was smiling. The aunt was weeping.
No one knows whether that child had to walk the Via Crucis. Everyone does.”
“Via Crucis,” Clarice Lispector

Via Crucis in Stuppacher, Germany-Stuppacher Madonna

Stuppacher Madonna
Mathias Grünewald
Don Michael Hudson, PhD

I spent my college and graduate years studying ancient languages, hermeneutics, biblical studies, theology, Syro-Palestinian archaeology, and, of course, the history of “religious” art. Some pieces in particular captured my attention and imagination, and one of them is Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece. It is in Colmar, France, and one of my goals is to see this work before I leave for the summer.

But Matthias Grünewald created other masterpieces, and this one in particular I have wanted to see for 40 years. The “Stuppacher Madonna” resides in the smallest churches in one of the smallest villages in Europe. I couldn’t get close to it though–maybe 10 feet–because it is surrounded by glass. But I finally got to see this masterpiece. The “Isenheim” is majestic and full of beauty and grandeur. The “Stuppacher” is like no other Madonna and child. Though painted in 1519 (2 years after Luther’s public protest), I see this as one of those paintings/pieces waving goodbye to the Middle Ages and heralding the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
Notice how “human” and unstylized Mary and baby are. And Jesus with golden curly hair laughing, and Mary smiling, and a sun shining where the halo “should” be? How did he paint this in such a time? How did he get away with this? This revolutionary masterpiece rests in a small church of “no” consequence. In my mind, here we have one of the first humanist Madonna and Child. Realism rejects stylized; real life refuses religious pretension; effusive joy overflows and lights the ubiquitous dark world; mother plays tenderly with her child with no hint of what is to come.
And notice the white lilies in the foreground–they force us to view them, and they take our breath away. This is mother and child as intended. This is mother and child playing together in the lush and light garden of Eden. The innocence is hopeful and heart-breaking in the same moment. We know the end of the story–Station 13 weighs heavily in our minds. But Grünewald gives us this moment in time unseen up to his day; Grünewald’s rendition reminds of the light and love and downright joy of mother and child no matter who they be. There are billions of Marys; innumerable Christ-childs.
Mostly, never in my life did I think I would get to see this in real time.
Thank you, thank you.
“The Madonna was painted by the creator of the Isenheim Altarpiece , the master painter Mathis at the court of Cardinal Albrechts zu Aschaffenburg, also known as Mathis Gothart Nithart or Matthias Grünewald .
The Maria Snow Chapel in the Aschaffenburg collegiate church is said to be the original home of the image of Mary. From 1519 it was the center piece of the three-winged altarpiece and came around 1532 as a gift from Cardinal Albrecht to the Teutonic Order of Mergentheim. It has been repeatedly restored and initially attributed to Rubens.
After the abolition of the Teutonic Order (1809), the Maria-Schnee-Tafel found a new home in the parish church of Stuppach in 1812. After a Tübingen scientist finally awarded the “Stuppacher Madonna” to Matthias Grünewald in 1908, the picture was thoroughly restored from 1926-1931. It was then placed in a specially built chapel, which was attached to the late Gothic parish church of the Coronation of Mary (1607).”
Anton Friedrich gave this brief description of the world-famous Stuppach Madonna in his “History of a Village”.