Visit Mainz, Germany, By Mouse
(official web site
), on the Rhine River, is in a large metropolitan area of about a half million population, 27 miles
southwest of Frankfurt
. It is in the so-called Rhineland. We visited it on our first trip to Europe in 2002 and again in 2005. Johannes
, inventor of the moveable type printing press, was born here in 1398. He also developed the printing press and produced
the first printed Bibles here in the mid 1400's. One of the museums in Mainz is devoted to him
and has a replica of the first press
and several copies of the first printed Bibles. Since Ron is interested in communication technology we wanted to visit the museum.
In 2002 we got to it just after it closed at 3 PM on a Sunday, which was very frustrating because it would not reopen until the following
Tuesday. We did not want to stay that long and left Mainz. But we did have an eerie little adventure before we left, which you
can read about in our 2002 letter
. When we were in Frankfurt, Mainz was just a short train ride away, so we tried again. This time
we were successful.
The museum included a demonstration in which a docent printed a page from the Bible on a replica of the
original press. And, of course, we saw the original Bibles, which were huge volumes. You can see how large they were in the
photos in which the docent is holding up the page he printed. The museum also displayed a large number of other printing presses
illustrating how they developed over time. There is no underestimating the importance to the world of this invention. It led
to no less than the extension of literacy beyond those in religious orders and a few merchants to the rest of humanity. Before
the printing press, almost no one could read, because there was almost no reading material available to the average person to read.
The printing press supplied that.
Mainz has a long history which goes back before Roman times. It was an important Roman
military outpost and suffered through many fights among Saxons, Franks, Goths, Huns, Celts, Slavs,and Italians. Later different
Christian forces also fought over it. It's history also includes large settlements of Jews that flourished and sometimes were
persecuted in the form of expulsions and massacres.
Nazis established themselves in the city as early as 1933 and during WW II there was a prisoner of war camp located there. Like in
many other German cities, the center of Mainz was almost totally destroyed, and the city was rebuilt. There are many buildings rebuilt
in the pre-war style. Its center today is a very pleasant and pretty place in which to walk. And there is a cathedral
. You can see
the bell tower in the first photo on the upper left on the photos page, captioned "tower in Mainz".