The Goethe House in the old town of Frankfurt am Main was the family residence of the Goethe family, most notably Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...
, until 1795. Johann Wolfgang was himself born here in 1749 to his parents, Johann Caspar Goethe, a lawyer, and Katherine Elisabeth Textor, daughter of the mayor
In many countries, a Mayor is the highest ranking officer in the municipal government of a town or a large urban city....
(Bürgermeister) of Frankfurt. Johann Wolfgang lived here along with his sister Cornelia until 1765, aged sixteen, when he moved to Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...
to study law, returning sporadically thereafter. Goethe subsequently wrote about his childhood spent here in his autobiography Aus Meiner Leben: Dichtung und Wahrheit
Dichtung und Wahrheit
Aus meinem Leben: Dichtung und Wahrheit is an autobiography by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that comprises the time from the poet's childhood to the days in 1775, when he was about to leave for Weimar....
, (Out of my Life: Poetry and Truth), (1811–1833), and describing his birth thus:
- "On the 28th of August, 1749, at mid-day, as the clock struck twelve, I came into the world, at Frankfurt-am-Main. My horoscope was propitious: the sun stood in the sign of the Virgin, and had culminated for the day; Jupiter and Venus looked on him with a friendly eye, and Mercury not adversely; while Saturn and Mars kept themselves indifferent; the moon alone, just full, exerted the power of her reflection all the more, as she had then reached her planetary hour.
- She opposed herself, therefore, to my birth, which could not be accomplished until this hour was passed."
Showing a prodigious intellect and talent from an early age, Goethe wrote Götz von Berlichingen (1773) and his first substantially acknowledged novel The Sorrows of Young Werther
The Sorrows of Young Werther
The Sorrows of Young Werther is an epistolary and loosely autobiographical novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, first published in 1774; a revised edition of the novel was published in 1787...
(1774) here as well as laying the foundations for his celebrated interpretation of Faust
Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend; a highly successful scholar, but also dissatisfied with his life, and so makes a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Faust's tale is the basis for many literary, artistic, cinematic, and musical...
. Today, the visitor can see the study with its writing desk as it would have been used by Goethe to pen these early works.
HistoryThe house was bought in 1733 by Goethe's grandmother, Cornelia Goethe, a guest house hostess. It was in fact originally two houses, dating from around 1600 in typical medieval wooden-fronted style, until 1755, when Goethe's father extensively remodeled and modernized them into the single structure we see today. Goethe writes in his autobiography that his father was careful to preserve the double overhang of the facade, which was not permitted in new buildings under the codes of 1719 and 1749, emphasizing that it was a remodeling of the existing structures and not a new construction.
After leaving the Goethe family in 1795, the house went through a series of owners, until its purchase in 1863 by geologist
A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid and liquid matter that constitutes the Earth as well as the processes and history that has shaped it. Geologists usually engage in studying geology. Geologists, studying more of an applied science than a theoretical one, must approach Geology using...
Georg Heinrich Otto Volger was a German geologist born in Lüneburg. He studied natural history at the University of Göttingen, and later taught classes in natural history at the Muri monastery in Aargau....
(1822-1897), who restored it to the condition the Goethe family had left it in, as a monument to its famous inhabitant. The house was destroyed during Allied bombing on May 22, 1944, but was restored after the war between 1947 and 1951, as closely as possible to its original condition and furnishing, giving an insight into what life was like for a reasonably wealthy resident of Frankfurt in the 18th century. It is next door to the Goethe Museum, which opened to the public along with the restored Goethe House in 1954, and nearby are the excavated foundations of the Jewish ghetto, which, along with the Jewish cemetery, gives a further glimpse of the older Frankfurt as Goethe himself would have experienced it.