CHARLOTTE, N.C., December 27, 2016 — The city of Nuremberg, Germany has carried the baggage of an ominous reputation since the end of World War II. The city was the site of the Nazi Party’s most important rallies and gave its name to the Third Reich’s anti-Semitic laws. It was also the site of the famous Nuremberg war crimes trials of Nazi Party officials who were involved in both war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Though many favored Berlin as the site of the trials, Nuremberg was chosen for three primary reasons:
- The city was the site of numerous rallies where the rights of Jews were stripped away and their citizenship denied.
- The Palace of Justice was spacious and, for the most part, undamaged. The courtroom was large and could easily be expanded. There was also a large prison that was part of the complex.
- Finally, it was agreed that Berlin would become the permanent seat of the international Military Tribunal and that only the first trials would be held in Nuremberg. Thanks to the onset of the Cold War, further trials never occurred.
But there is another story from Nuremberg which is far less known. Though not exactly a Christmas story, it captures the essence and beauty of this holiday season. It’s a story about a young goldsmith and his undying love for a young woman of noble birth.
In those days, love was hardly a requisite for marriage, given that important national alliances could be made through the unification of noble houses. The children of aristocratic families usually wed within their status in order to preserve the family lands and financial standing in the nobility. Key to this socio-political process was the woman’s ability to bear sons who could inherit lands and fortune and thus maintain power and control among the elite classes.
But the path of love often ignores such traditions. There are dozens of stories of youthful lovers attempting to defy the traditions of the day and marry for love, thereby uniting beneath their station or above it.
As our German tale goes, a young goldsmith living in the Bavarian town of Nuremberg fell deeply in love with a noble woman named Kunigunde. Kunigunde’s passion for her lover was reciprocated, though it appeared it could never become a reality or that a lawful marriage could be consummated.
In an effort to appease his distraught daughter and to create a foolproof challenge that could not be accomplished, Kunigunde’s father made a proposal to the young artisan.
The goldsmith was told that he would be allowed to wed Kunigunde only if he could create a bridal cup from which two people could drink at the same time without spilling a drop.
Little more information survives as to the details of the story. Whether or not there was a time limit placed upon the goldsmith’s task or if there were any other stipulations required are not known, but the basic challenge was set and the goldsmith accepted.
It is not known how long the craftsman took to come up with his creation, nor do we know whether he agonized over the project, had a sudden burst of inspiration or wrestled with the problem for an undetermined length of time.
What we do know is that love won out over heritage and tradition. The youthful goldsmith succeeded in his task during the 17th century and was granted the honor of making Kunigunde his wife.
Today the Nuremberg Bridal Beaker, as it is affectionately known, symbolizes the age-old story of “if there is a will, there is a way.”
The solution, as with so many complex questions, is amazing in its simplicity.
A pewter figurine of a young woman was created with the hooped hemline of her skirt establishing the base of the first cup. The skirt, of course, had been hollowed out to create the cup.
The woman was then sculpted with her arms raised above her head and between her hands was placed another, smaller, cup held in place by a swivel.
When a drink was taken from the larger cup formed by the woman’s skirt, it allowed the smaller cup to swing outward so that a second person could sip at the same time without spilling a drop of liquid.
News of the marvelous “invention” spread throughout Bavaria and the young couple married and lived happily ever after. Oddly enough, the Nuremberg Bridal Beaker has become a treasured souvenir of the same city where so many Nazi war criminals were tried.
And the Nuremberg Bridal Beaker itself has never again been used.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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