While filming our Protestant Reformation special in Germany, I couldn’t resist stopping by a sight I’ve never heard of before that is related to the Reformation — the Panorama Museum in Bad Frankenhausen. Nearly unknown to American travelers, seeing this creative view of an epic event (the Peasants’ War of 1525) is an amazing experience. Sorry the audio on the video clip is weak — I had to whisper. Below is the entry I wrote up for the next edition of my Germany guidebook:
Panorama Museum — This museum houses a massive, 400-foot-long cyclorama that shows vividly, with an East German communist slant, the bloody Peasants’ War of 1525. Called the Bauernkriegspanorama, it stands in a 007-looking building atop the hill where around 6,000 peasants — armed with shovels and axes — battled the well-armed troops of the Holy Roman Emperor and were slaughtered, marking the end of the Peasants’ War. It portrays more than just a horrible battle. It’s the bloody transition between medieval and modern worlds. At the base are twenty great change agents at end of Middle Ages (Luther, Erasmus, other Reformers, Copernicus, Columbus, Dürer, and more) — gathered around a well. Above them is a colossal battle under a rainbow — the Imperial troops on the left, the doomed rabble on the right. Further to the right, an elegant couple (their backs to us) dances before a gallows. The message: The elites continue to win. This was done in the 1980s — the last years of communism — by Werner Tübke. The government of East Germany wanted to celebrate the struggle of peasants 500 years ago, reminding all of the same struggle they felt was valiantly being fought in their era by the working class (€6 includes a fine and essential audioguide, Sun-Sat 10:00-18:00, until 17:00 off-season, closed Mon, fine cafeteria, in Bad Frankenhausen — 30 minutes north of Erfurt, just follow signs, tel. 034671/6190, www.panorama-museum.de).