The town of Bad Frankenhausen in the north of Germany’s federal state of Thuringia, with a modest population of about 9000, has been operating quietly as a spa town for almost 200 years. But now those same waters which heal and regenerate have turned one of the town’s most prominent landmarks into one of the world’s most off-beat attractions.
The church of Our Beloved Lady of the Mountain dates back to the 14th century. A spring has unsettled the ground beneath it and the church tower has been on something of a lean for much of its existence. It’s now further from the vertical than the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa and the town is scrambling for solutions to ensure it doesn’t topple over completely, though that can be a costly exercise as their friends in Pisa know only too well.
In the meantime the tower is attracting curious visitors to this rather out-of-the-way town. But it’s not the only oddity here: Bad Frankenhausen’s Panorama Museum, one of the last grand propaganda projects of the old East Germany, boasts one of the largest paintings in the world. This 1722 square meter behemoth commemorates a 16th century peasant uprising led by Thomas Müntzer. The museum was opened just a few weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
And north of the town lies the enormous Kyffhauser Monument, built at the end of the 19th century on top of one of the region’s tallest mountains. Like the Panorama Museum, it was an attempt by the ruling authorities (in this case, the Second Reich) to bolster its credentials with reference to a historical figure (in this case, Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor).