It's not that Erlangen, which together with Nuremberg and Fürth forms a kind of Franconian triumvirate, makes any claims of being in the same league as the big boys when it comes to art, culture and history. But the town's design is of special interest in terms of urban planning and the influx of Huguenot settlers centuries ago has left a lasting legacy.
Multiculturalism in days gone by: Erlangen and the Huguenots
A brief historical note: after the Thirty Years' War Erlangen was virtually uninhabited. This only changed in 1685, when King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes which had granted freedom of religion to the Calvinist Huguenots. That caused a wave of Huguenot refugees which Margrave Christian Ernst turned to his advantage. He granted the Huguenots leave to stay in Erlangen in the hope of boosting the local economy. The first of several waves of Huguenots arrived in Erlangen on 17 May 1686. Mai 1686, mehrere Wellen folgten. It quickly became clear that the town was too small for all of them and that a new settlement was required. The location chosen was an area to the south of the original town. Designed by Johann Moritz Richter to be the ideal baroque town, it would offer plenty of light and space for 7,500 families, as well as factories, a church and two large squares. Everything was at right angles and in strict symmetry to the main street.
Der Bau begann am 14. Construction began on 14 July 1686 with the Huguenot church, still one of the town's leading attractions. In 1700 a decision was made to add a palace with a large park for the Margrave. When a fire destroyed almost all of the original town in 1706, this presented the perfect opportunity to extend the baroque designs of the 'new town' to the rest of Erlangen, creating an early masterpiece of integrated urban planning.
Of baroque beauties and beautiful surprises.
There is much more to Erlangen's baroque heritage, however, such as the Margravial Theatre dating from 1718, the oldest baroque theatre still in use in southern Germany. Or the Kunstpalais art collection, on display in baroque Stutterheim Palace on the market square. Erlangen's other art museum is housed at Loewenich Palais, right next to the newly built Erlangen Arcaden shopping centre. The municipal museum in the Altstädter Rathaus on Martin Luther square is in itself worth a visit to the town, not least for its collections from pre- and early history and antiquity. Looking at it like that, Erlangen has a surprising amount to offer – including plenty of surprises. And we haven't even mentioned the film festivals, the dance events, the comics festival, the poetry festival and many more besides.
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