One of Two Known Views To Show the Heidelberg Bridge Destroyed in 1565
The detailed engraving from Sebastian Munster's mid-16th-century 'Cosmographia' provides an impressive iew of Heidelberg, Germany, from the North, from across the River Neckar.
An impressive stone bridge traverses the river in the foreground. This bridge, named the Old Bridge or "Alte Brücke" in German, was an essential link between the city's two halves. The bridge is the sixth iteration of the Bridge, constructed in 1470, which would be destroyed by ice floes in 1565. In the present view the bridge is covered, with a wooden roadway that is open at the sides. The two towers of the bridge gate can be made out at the southern end of the bridge, while the monkey tower (Affenturm) is on the nearest pillar, towards the north end of the bridge After several temporary wooden replacements, a permanent stone bridge was not constructed until the late 18th century. Nevertheless, Munster's engraving captured the original bridge in its prime, hinting at its significance to Heidelberg's identity and urban fabric.
Near the river, the Zeug Haus stands, a fortified structure serving as an arsenal. It adds a distinctive military aspect to the urban panorama, a clear sign of the city's preparedness in times of conflict.
Two churches, St. Peter Church and the Church of the Holy Spirit, can also be seen. St. Peter's Church is among the city's oldest, its architectural features borrowing from various periods, including the Carolingian, Romanesque, and Gothic eras. In contrast, the Church of the Holy Spirit, established in the late 14th century, towers above the marketplace and houses the burial sites of Palatinate electors.
Beyond the city, on the hillside, the Arx Regal and the Heidelberg Schloss are visible. The Royal Fortress is an emblem of defense and power, while the Heidelberg Castle, despite its later ruinous state, comes across as an architectural marvel of its time, showcasing styles from Gothic to Renaissance.
Finally, two coats of arms punctuate the engraving. Likely symbols of the Elector Palatine and the city of Heidelberg, they signal the historical and political lineage of the region.
In all, this birdseye view from Munster's 'Cosmographia' depicts Heidelberg as a vibrant city with a complex mix of religious, royal, and civic elements. The image, though static, seems to teem with the life and activity of the city in the mid-16th century.
Münster's Cosmographia was the first German-language description of the world, and one of the defining books of the Renaissance. It contained 471 woodcuts and 26 maps over six volumes. First published in 1544, the Cosmographia was hugely popular in addition to being influential for contemporary cartographers like Mercator and Ortelius. It was published in at least 35 editions by 1628; these editions included examples in Latin, French, Italian, English, and Czech. After Münster's death, Henri Petri, and later his son, Sebastien Petri, took charge of printing editions.
Münster drew from his own travels in the work in addition to using other ancient and more modern sources. These sources included Herodotus, Strabo, and Titius Livius, as well as Marcantonio Sabellico, Beatus Rhenanus, and Aegidius Tschudi. Münster additionally collected reports from recent travelers, which he integrated into his descriptions. These descriptions generally included detailed overviews of the customs, dress, and organization of peoples around the world, earning him a prominent place in the histories of geography and anthropology.
Sebastian Münster (1488-1552) was a cosmographer and professor of Hebrew who taught at Tübingen, Heidelberg, and Basel. He settled in the latter in 1529 and died there, of plague, in 1552. Münster made himself the center of a large network of scholars from whom he obtained geographic descriptions, maps, and directions.
As a young man, Münster joined the Franciscan order, in which he became a priest. He then studied geography at Tübingen, graduating in 1518. He moved to Basel, where he published a Hebrew grammar, one of the first books in Hebrew published in Germany. In 1521 Münster moved again, to Heidelberg, where he continued to publish Hebrew texts and the first German-produced books in Aramaic. After converting to Protestantism in 1529, he took over the chair of Hebrew at Basel, where he published his main Hebrew work, a two-volume Old Testament with a Latin translation.
Münster published his first known map, a map of Germany, in 1525. Three years later, he released a treatise on sundials. In 1540, he published Geographia universalis vetus et nova, an updated edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. In addition to the Ptolemaic maps, Münster added 21 modern maps. One of Münster’s innovations was to include one map for each continent, a concept that would influence Ortelius and other early atlas makers. The Geographia was reprinted in 1542, 1545, and 1552.
He is best known for his Cosmographia universalis, first published in 1544 and released in at least 35 editions by 1628. It was the first German-language description of the world and contained 471 woodcuts and 26 maps over six volumes. Many of the maps were taken from the Geographia and modified over time. The Cosmographia was widely used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The text, woodcuts, and maps all influenced geographical thought for generations.