This famous Carillon
is a must-see for anyone visiting Munich
, and is truly beautiful to look at and fun to watch in action.
In the heart of Munich, there is a portion of the old city where only pedestrians are allowed to go, called the Fussgängerzone. In it lies the Marienplatz, named for the Mariensäule, a column erected by the Prince-Elector Maximillian in 1638. The north side of Marienplatz is occupied by the neo-Gothic Neus Rathaus (new city hall, built around the 1900’s.) The Glockenspiel in question was installed in the tower's twin oriel windows in 1904, shortly before the building was completed.
The windows dominate the face of the building, and feature brightly coloured figures in enamelled copper. The upper and lower window each depicts a separate event, and operate simultaneously when the carillon is activated. The upper window’s characters re-enact the “Schafflertanz”, the Dance of the Coopers, in memory of the end of the plague in 1517, and the lower depicts the Tournament which once accompanied royal weddings. A large clock face over the windows completes the façade.
It is a wonderful sight to see in operation, and just about everyone in the plaza stops what they are doing to watch these windows into the past. The diorama in the upper window shows the dance gyrating past the royal dais, with the king and queen’s throne, surrounded by their court and various hangers-on, visible in the background. The lower window acts out the tournament, featuring a motley group of jesters, jugglers, and dancers, followed by the jousting knights.
First the music begins to play, then the statues start to dance. Everything moves. What looks like just a vignette is actually a huge cuckoo clock movement. Large turntables nested within one another are studded with the animated clockwork statues along their edges, counter-rotating so the turning platforms presented the statues passing each other in opposite directions, dancing and gyrating.
The last statues on the lower platform are two jousting knights tilting at one another. The entire menagerie marches past two complete times, and at the end of the second rotation, the knights appear again, with the activity coming to a climax by one knight unhorsing the other. The crowd always exclaims in delight when the second knight flips backwards on his steed, lance pointing skywards. When all is done, a small door under the clock face opens and a cuckoo calls the hours, letting everyone know that the pageant is over.
When the whole thing is done, it is interesting to see the crowds of people suddenly became re-animated, going about their various ways.