Especially if you´re not from Germany, the question: "Why travel to Jena? Where is that even?" may arise. In the history of German fencing and the closely connected German student´s culture, however, this city in beautiful Thuringia holds a special place. It is here that Wilhelm Kreussler, the founder of our fencing style which was practiced in direct lineage probably right up to WWI, taught, as did his successors, be it different members of the Kreussler family, the Roux dynasty or the last fencing master who studied under a Kreussler, Bauer. It was also here that the Urburschenschaft, the first student fraternity of this type was founded, whose colours, black-red-gold became the official flag of Germany over time.
Monument commemorating the founding of the Urburschenschaft. Covered because it´s being restored at the moment.
As you can see, Jena´s symbol is St. Michael slaying the dragon. Fitting, as Michael is the patron saint of fencers.
Statue of St. Michael at the Michaeliskirche.
When walking from the train station into town, one can find this building by taking a slight detour to the right:
This used to be of the towers of the city wall. The original one was bombed in WWII, but it has been rebuilt. It is here that Wilhelm Kreussler had his school, on the first floor of the tower.
An old city map. Nr. 8 shows the "Red Tower" where Wilhelm Kreussler taught. The square adjacent to it is called "Bei dem Fechtboden", i.e. "at the fencing school".
Moving a little to the left, one can find this plaque:
It reads: "In memory of the academic fencing masters Gottfried Kreussler *1624, + 1682 and Johan Wilhelm Kreussler * 1664 + 1722". There are more Kreussler plaques around town:
The main gate of Jena´s university.
The university itself hosts an exhibition on student life in earlier days. There are quite a few notes toward fencing and dueling being common among students in Jena. A saying of these days that
characterized the universities of Thringia went: "Wer kommt von Leipzig unbeweibt, von Wittenberg mit g´sundem Leib, von Jena ungeschlagen, der hat von Glück zu sagen." Translation: "One who
leaves Leipzig without a woman, Wittenberg with his body in good health or Jena without having dueled has had much luck." These three universities are represented on the coin.
The ring of people you can see in one of the paintings are the spectators surrounding two duelists. The following paintings show the student who dueled being expelled and shamefully leaving at night.
The four figures again characterize students from different universities. Above the one from Jena (who´s just drawing his smallsword), it reads: "In Jena kommt der Renommist, der Galle zeigt und Eisen frisst." Translation: "In Jena, you can find the Renommist (old term for someone who takes any excuse to start a duel) who spews gall and eats iron."
On the other paintings, which were unfortunately too small to get a good pic, you can see duels taking place out of town.
The photographs show the Karzer of Jena, where students were locked up for dueling, provided they didn´t kill their opponent.
The portrait in the background shows Biegelein-Kreussler, the last fencing master named Kreussler to teach in Jena. He was born in Nuremberg and later adopted.
The harness he´s wearing under his jacket is the sign of him being head of the city guard.
Walking uphill, one can reach the historical Johannisfriedhof, the old graveyard. It houses two monuments of interest:
On the left, we can see the monument for Johann Wilhelm Kreussler +1722, on the right the one for Friedrich Kreussler *1632 + 1707.
Paying my respects. The family crest shows wild roses, so I left a few.
Last but not least, one can see the original portrait of Wilhelm Kreussler in the archive of the Universitätsbibliothek, the university´s library. Many thanks to Babett Forster, head of the university´s art collection for her friendly permission to use this image on my website!
If you ever happen to come to Jena, make sure to visit the museum 1806 in Cospeda: http://www.jena1806.de/
It offers detailed documentation of the battle at Jena and Auerfelde, where Napoleon defeated the Prussian army.
Pallasch at the Museum 1806
Of course, I also need to mention the beautiful nature just outside Jena. If you´re into hiking, this is the place. The Ziegenhainer Tal, home of the walking cane seconds at duels wielded and students used for self-defence against lower social classes, is nearby. You can also find the Fuxenturm there, one of the seven wonders of Jena, and enjoy the view from up there.
The text on the plaque reads: "Oh wunderbar ist Gottes Erde und wert, darauf vergnügt zu sein, drum will ich, bis ich Asche werde, mich dieser schönen Erde freun!" Translation:" Oh how wonderful is god´s earth, and worth to be happy in it. Thus I shall be glad for this beautiful earth until I turn to ashes." Nothing to add to that.