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This selection takes you to some of our highlights – to famous, magnificent and unusual exhibition pieces, as well as architectural peculiarities. Thus you are able to gain some insight into the museum and its history dating back over 800 years: From the famous city models and the Staufer period, to the impressive historical wooden staircase from 1842, and finally to special pieces from collectors and donors of the museum.

The well-known model of the Old Town was built for the museum from 1925 to 1961 by brothers Hermann and Robert Treuner. It shows what the historical buildings and streets looked like in 1927 and thus documents the Old Town, which was almost completely destroyed by the bombing of Frankfurt during the Second World War. The unsustainable social and hygienic conditions at the time are nowhere to be seen in the model’s cleanly painted alleys and facades. In this sense, the model was always a construct: It created a reduced, harmonious, romantic and homogenous image of the Frankfurt Old Town in a way that it likely never existed.

The secular symbols (insignia) of the German kings and “Roman” emperors were kept in various locations in the empire until the 15th century. Alongside Aachen and Nuremberg, Frankfurt acted as a capital city of the Holy Roman Empire from the 12th century onwards: 31 kings and emperors were elected here and 10 were also crowned. The copies made in 1913 were part of a larger “programme of remembrance” of Frankfurt's tradition as a place of election and coronation.

The silver bowl from the 12th/13th century is an extremely valuable and rare find. There are only a few silver objects from this era that have been preserved. The quality and place where the bowl was found suggest that it was used for a king. It remains the only surviving piece of the courtly lifestyle in the Staufer period in Frankfurt. It was most likely used to serve salt – back then a luxury product. The bowl was found in the 1980s during excavations for the underground car park on the Frankfurt Römerberg and was almost certainly part of a larger silver ensemble.

Around 1280, the Saalhof lost its function as imperial residence. The building was renovated and expanded many times. The wealthy wool and cloth traders Heinrich and Johann Bernus had the Saalhof expanded into a representative Baroque city palace in 1715/17. In 1841, the building was expanded once again by Frankfurt architect Heinrich Burnitz. The original spiral staircase survived the bombings of the Second World War unscathed.

An important exhibition object on the Staufer period is the Staufer building itself. The semi-circular Saalhof chapel was built shortly after 1200 at the east wall of the residential and fortified tower built just a few years beforehand. The clear construction joints  with which it is attached to the tower show that it was built at a later date. Access was possible through the preserved corridor from the hall in the palace building. Today, the “Morgenstern‘sche Miniaturkabinett” is housed in the chapel. The three painters and restorers worked for nearly every Frankfurt collector of their day.

Waldschmidt collection
Since the 16th century, the city library had collected not only books but also rare, precious and unusual objects. And as the Frankfurt merchants needed to know where their trade partners and goods came from, valuable astronomical instruments were also preserved. A particular highlight of this collection – if not the whole museum – is the 1515 world globe by Johannes Schöner. It is the oldest globe in the world to feature the entry “AMERICA” on the southern half of the New World.

Dalberg collection
Dating from the Late Middle Ages, the Annenretabel by the Master of Frankfurt (1504) is an exceptional work from the painting collection. The Antwerp painter was commissioned for the painting for the Dominikanerkirche. The four panels of the closed altar each portray two saints; when opened, a middle picture with the Holy Kinship can be seen and the two wings with the birth and death of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Prehn collection
As a confectioner Johann Valentin Prehn (1749-1821) belonged to the artisans class. However, the quality of his produce must have given him such a good reputation and income that he was able to acquire a large art collection. He collected over 800 small-format paintings in 32 wooden collapsible crates. There has probably never been a collection like it in Germany! Prehn had a particular preference for landscapes, sacred historical paintings, portraits and genre paintings. Occasionally, a tendency towards curiosities, and to amusing, bizarre and erotic subject matters can be recognised, including “a beloved object”, which – as was common in the 17th century – is hidden behind a curtain in shame.

Kratz collection
Parklands, the backdrop of a palace and Chinese people between exotic plants can be seen on the it. And yet this vase is not from the Far East, but is rather a product from Frankfurt. Painted blue on a fine white tin glaze, the Frankfurt faiences that were produced between 1666 and 1772 in the Porzellanhof near the Konstablerwache square are imitations of elegant Chinese models. Frankfurt entrepreneur Wilhelm Kratz (1873-1945) developed a passion for these unusual products from his home city and collected over 800 pieces by the Frankfurter Fayence-Manufaktur.

The four-storey Rententurm (Toll Tower) was built in the middle of the 15th century together with the city gate (Fahrtor). The port, where all commercial goods arrived via the Main, lay before it. Taxes for incoming and outgoing goods were collected in the “Rentamt”, the toll office in the first floor of the tower; the tower was closed to the public for over 500 years. In the course of the renovation of the museum’s old buildings, the clock was also restored, and with it the two large black dials that had been part of Rententurm’s characteristic appearance since the 19th century. The historical tower clockwork is a pendulum system clock from 1937.

Fellner collection
Besides his study of plants, the Frankfurt citizen Johann Christian Fellner (1800-1883) was particularly interested in weapons. When a municipal Historisches Museum Frankfurt was established in his home town in 1877, Fellner decided to donate the entire collection to the city of Frankfurt. Since then, the pieces have formed the core inventory of the Militaria collection at the museum. The lobster-tailed pot helmet (zischagge), a Hungarian balaclava, is a special piece from this collection. It still has pieces from the original 17th-century leather lining of which few examples have survived to the present day.

One of the oldest painted views of Frankfurt originates from painter Jakob Marrel (1613-1681), the step-father of Maria Sibylla Merian, born in 1647. Marrel created the painting in 1651 when he finally settled down in Frankfurt. It combines a floral still life with butterflies and other insects with a view of Frankfurt from the West. Both of Marrel’s grandfathers were jewellers from Wallonia. At the end of the 16th century, up to 8,000 Flemish religious refugees had found refuge in Frankfurt. They helped the impoverished city blossom economically and culturally.