Meersburg is one of those picture-perfect Old World towns.
Located in southwest Germany within the state of Baden-Württemberg, it sits on the shore of Lake Constance, where the borders of Austria, Germany and Switzerland meet. Meersburg, it is claimed, dates to the 7th century when a Merovingian king built a castle here. No trace of that castle exists, though a later medieval castle, the uncreatively called Old Castle, still stands with a commanding position above the much-newer lower town.
Everything here really owes its existence to the Reformation — particularly influential Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli — as the politics of the time drove the Roman Catholic prince-bishop of Constance, Hugo von Hohenlandenberg, from his see across the lake in 1526.
Constance’s loss proved to be Meersburg’s gain as the prince-bishops had both temporal and ecclesiastical authority within the broader Holy Roman Empire.
One of the main landmarks is the New Palace. The spectacular baroque and rococo building with sweeping views of Lake Constance today houses a museum detailing centuries of rule by the prince-bishops.
Beyond all the quaint cobblestone streets and endless photo opportunities for the Instagram set is the Bible Gallery.
Located at the far end of the upper town in the shadow of the Roman Catholic parish church and next to the local tourism office, the somewhat overlooked museum occupies a 500-year-old former Dominican convent. Established in 1988 by the Protestant Church in Baden, a union of Lutheran and Reformed churches, it seeks to make the Bible and its message known — something that is especially needed during this time of rampant secularization.
“We show visitors how the Bible influences our daily life even without us noticing it at first sight,” Bible Gallery director Thea Gross said. “The Bible is central to everyday life, including our calendar and our understanding of right and wrong.”
Spread across galleries on multiple floors, the exhibits include countless artifacts and other objects. There are even depictions of Jewish life at the time of the Old Testament. Everything, including a replica Gutenberg press that transformed the world, is intended to have the soft touch of evangelization.
“I ask children why they have Christmas holidays,” Gross said. “Some know Christmas, but many of them don’t know.”
If you go
The Bible Gallery reopens for the 2022 season on April 9. “The Luther Story,” a special exhibit on the life and work of Martin Luther, runs from September 17.
Visitor hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission fees vary but start at 3 euros (about $3.30) for children and 6 euros (about $6.64) for adults. A recently revamped self-guided audio tour is available in English.
Be sure also to visit the rococo-style chapel at the New Palace. Once the private chapel of the prince-bishops, it has been used as Meersburg’s Protestant parish church since 1864. Admission is free.
Given its location, Meersburg is easily reached by visitors on road trips across Germany and Switzerland. Nearby Friedrichshafen Airport has flights to and from Frankfurt on German airline Lufthansa. Meanwhile, the closest international airport is 90 minutes away by car in Zurich, Switzerland.
Dennis Lennox writes a travel column for The Christian Post.
Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.