Global art in Bad Frankenhausen

A fantastically cunning monumental painting

Holidaymakers in Thuringia who are interested in art and culture can hardly miss it – literally or metaphorically: in the centre of the Kyffhäuser Nature Park, the striking building of the Panorama Museum sits enthroned on a solitary, though historically significant mountain and can be seen from far away. On a canvas measuring more than 1,700 square metres, the artist Werner Tübke immortalised his own interpretation of the “Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany” – with more than 3,000 figures in around 75 brightly coloured key scenes.

The address of the Panorama Museum in Bad Frankenhausen – “Am Schlachtberg 9” (On Battle Mountain 9) – hints at a historical background, but not at all at the fact that a unique art experience, which is now regarded as the “Sistine Chapel of the North”, has been created here in the middle of the countryside, outside the tranquil saltwater spa resort of Bad Frankenhausen. When you enter the round, windowless hall, the painting will take your breath away to begin with – that is how impressive the dimensions and the depiction of the thousands of figures and the real-looking landscapes are. Surrounding the art and culture tourist in a 360° view, there are, believe it or not, 123 metres of painting with a height of 14 metres. The canvas, which was actually produced in a single piece, weighs more than a tonne

A monument of superlatives in Bad Frankenhausen

To honour one of the most tragic figures of medieval history, the theologian and radical Reformer Thomas Münster, and as a reminder of one of the last battles of the German Peasants’ War in the 16th century, a huge memorial was erected – at the scene of the events and with a monumental panoramic painting as the focal point. In 1976, the graphic artist, painter and art lecturer was commissioned to create this work by the East German Ministry of Culture. From a technical point of view, he was probably deemed to be the only person who would be capable of executing this project, which seemed virtually impossible. The building was opened in September 1989, just before Reunification.

The stage is set

Werner Tübke researched the subject for three years. As a basis for the scenes brimming with details, he primarily used well-known literary classics, each of which deals with the “fight for freedom” in their own way. In the process, Werner Tübke focused on historically proven events and bible passages, but also incorporated myths, stories and even his own life. He painted the underlying context into the figures and the typical scenes of the 16th century. “He invoked them,” says the art lover – and furnished them with innumerable details that reinforce the expressiveness of the painting, such as the intentionally oversized fox tail, which was seen as a symbol of subservience in the Middle Ages. Werner Tübke arranged every scene in the way that made scene in his head – bit by bit, the amazed visitor can work their way through it mentally.

Full of life like a theatre performance  

The artwork could be regarded as a stage set for humanity’s revolutionary concept of freedom. And for the perpetual battle, which looks apocalyptic in Werner Tübke’s artistic universe, for the fulfilment of often very simple, but fundamental needs – to secure livelihoods, rights and co-determination and to protect life and limb. In this multifaceted pictorial world, the suggestion is made to the audience that they are part of the work. History plays out before you within touching distance. An execution that is particularly sophisticated in terms of both the painting and the structure – in some places using methods that are familiar from the art of the 16th century – makes the monumental painting extraordinarily vivid. And a multi-dimensional impression is created: a ledge can be perceived as such. Simply by mixing and applying paints that have an unfathomable luminosity, it was possible to compose a detailed specialist treatise. They even add realism to the seasons. Snow is made so palpable that you shiver when you look at it. The design of the hall’s floor, the lighting like an church and other tricks of the interior architecture enhance the enormously strong impact.

 

As a template for his picture in the Panorama Museum he created a painting on a scale of 1:10. In the “Tübke Cabinet” area, the entire creative process behind the panoramic painting is presented vividly. The 20-minute documentary film “Schlacht am Bild” (Battle of the Painting) clearly shows the immense physical and mental challenges that faced Werner Tübke and everyone involved at the time.

Think what you want – the “freiheyt” (freedom) of our times

Museum director Gerd Lindner encourages visitors to discover and interpret the painting for themselves. “Because there is a lot of it and it is very complex!” he says succinctly. The artist himself, Werner Tübke, left the greatest possible scope – he never said anything about what he had painted. This also had another advantage: “At the time of Reunification, the painting turned out to be aesthetically weatherproof,” states Gerd Lindner “because Werner Tübke avoided specifically pointing towards a particular ideological orientation by only citing the original sources in pictorial form and not following the interpretations of the historians of what was then East Germany.

Even more reasons to visit the museum

On the first floor of the round building, the art lover will discover many a pleasant surprise. Well-known contemporary artists will find a well-regarded platform for their works here during exhibitions which usually last three months. There are regular visitors – they even come twice or three times a month.

Clearing your head again

The museum café with a glazed front façade and a terrace in the summer offers regional specialities and has a wonderful view of the landscape. A number of hiking routes, including the Kyffhäuser Trail, run around the Panorama Museum. A walk goes well with the cultural experience. In the fresh air, you are better able to sort out what you have seen in your mind’s eye, silently remembering those who lost their lives fighting for their freedom on this spot.

 

 

“freiheyt 1525. 500th Anniversary of the German Peasants’ War”
Thuringian State Exhibition 2025

It goes almost without saying that the Panorama Museum has been chosen as one of the locations for the State Exhibition in 2025. After all, the location in its entirety expresses the different ways and means that people adopt to assert their very personal understanding of freedom. The dynamism of Werner Tübke’s artwork appears even more vivid because of the originals and copies that inspired him and have been brought together as international loans for the State Exhibition.

 

Make a mental note!
Thuringian State Exhibition 2025

Under the heading "freiheyt 1525. 500 years of the Peasants' War", Thuringia 2025 commemorates the events of the German Peasants' War in Thuringia in 1525. The center of