Alte Mainbrücke (Old Main Bridge) in Würzburg

This Old Main Bridge was built from 1473-1543 (a mere seventy years), to replace an earlier bridge which had been destroyed.

Würzburg and the Old Bridge from Marienberg Fortress

Here’s a wider view of Würzburg, with the Old Main Bridge in the middle.

The name of the river that flows through Würzburg is the Main, which is pronounced [maɪ̯n] — sort of like the English word mine (not main).

People on the Old Bridge in Würzburg

The Old Bridge is now closed to automobile traffic, so it’s pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists. There are nice cafés at both ends of the bridge. In the photo we are facing east, looking towards the city center and St. Kilian’s Cathedral.

Statue on the Old Bridge in Würzburg

Around 1730, several statues of saints were put up on the Old Bridge. This particular one is Saint John of Nepomuk, who was murdered on March 20, 1393 by being thrown into the Vlatava (Moldau) River in Prague (some say he was burned and tied to a wheel first) on orders of King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia.

The traditional explanation for this murder was that John of Nepomuk was a priest who was the Queen’s confessor. The King wanted to know what sins his wife had confessed, and John refused to tell him.

This doesn’t seem to be the whole truth, however. The real reason seems to have been a dispute about who should become the abbot of the Benedictine monastery at Kladrau. This was part of a broader conflict between Church and State that was raging in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) in the late fourteenth century.

Of course, there was no conflict between Church and State in Würzburg, because the reigning Prince-Bishop was both. This was also the case in Liège, Belgium, which was the capital of a large ‘ecclesiastical principality’ that was ruled by Prince-Bishops for over eight centuries.

The city of Salzburg, Austria, took this one step further because for about six hundred years it was ruled by men known as Prince-Archbishops, who lived in baroque luxury in their Residence which was (and still is) directly adjacent to the Cathedral.

The city of Münster in Westfalen, Germany, was also ruled by Prince-Bishops except for a few months in 1534-1535, when the Prince-Bishop was exiled and the city was taken over by the Anabaptists, as described in the novel L’Œuvre au Noir by Marguerite Yourcenar.

My photos in this post are from 2005. I revised the text in 2022.

See more posts on Würzburg, Germany.

8 thoughts on “Alte Mainbrücke (Old Main Bridge) in Würzburg”

  1. It always amazes me how well many historic buildings and monuments in Germany have been reconstructed post WW2. It’s a good thing.

  2. I love reading about and seeing photos of Germany! My mother was born there but came to the US with her family when she was just a toddler. I’ve never been to Germany, myself.

    1. Yes, two of the arches were blown up by the retreating German army in 1945. The American army made temporary repairs soon thereafter, and the destroyed arches were replaced in 1950.

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