Römerberg

Frankfurt lost almost all of its splendid old town centre, the Römerberg, to bombing in the Second World War. Taking its name from the Römer, a building on the site of a Roman merchant's warehouse, the Römerberg focussed on a large market square where massive trade fairs were held in medieval times – major events in the medieval calendar. It remains the historic heart of Frankfurt to this day – in striking contrast to the skyscrapers of the Westend, Frankfurt's powerful financial district – but the beautiful half-timbered houses that make it look authentically medieval are reconstructions dating from the 1980s.

At the eastern end of the square is the Dom Sankt Bartholomaüs (Cathedral of St Bartholomew), a 14th and 15th-century Gothic building in red sandstone, much-restored after little more than the tower and the outer walls had survived the bombs. Although called the Dom (cathedral), it has never been a bishop's seat. It is also called the Kaiserdom (Emperor's cathedral) because this is where the Holy Roman Emperors were chosen by the seven Electors (in its Wahlkapelle, the 'Chapel of Selection') and where they were crowned from 1562 until the late 18th century.

At the western end of the square is the Römer, which in 1405 (along with the two neighbouring buildings) became the Town Hall; only the impressive, step-gabled façades are original. Inside was the Kaisersaal (Emperors' Hall; reconstructed), where imperial coronations were celebrated with colossal feasts.

On the south side of the square is the charming little Alte Nikolaikirche (Old St Nicholas's Church), formerly the court chapel, a Romanesque building dating from the 13th century, and later dressed in a distinctive style of Gothic. In vivid contrast is the Schirn Kunsthalle (or 'Kultur-Schirn'), which lies between the Nikolaikirche and the Dom. Built in 1986 as a cultural centre to house temporary exhibitions, and uncompromisingly modern, it has been given several disparaging nicknames, including the 'Federal Bowling Alley' and 'Murder at the Cathedral'. Nonetheless, it hosts major art exhibitions of the kind that commands international attention.
www.dom-frankfurt.de (German only)
www.schirn-kunsthalle.de

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