Thursday, 1 May 2014

A Fortress, a Photo Collection, a Dance Step

Luxembourg is a city of contrasts. On the one hand there is the cosmopolitan area of Kirchberg, with its European and financial quarters, contemporary office buildings and an increasing number of housing areas. On the other hand, the capital's old city, located around the "Bockfelsen", highlights the 1000-year-old history of the fortress. Since 1994 this part of Luxembourg is part of the Unesco World Heritage Sites. Famous architects such as the French Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban developed the fortification to such an extent that it was referred to as the Gibraltar of the North. Even the historic old city has always been cosmopolitan.

From the 16th century onwards those in charge of the fortification included the Roman emperors, Burgundians, Habsburgs, the Spanish and French Kings and eventually the Prussians. The last parts of the fortification were demolished after the London conference in 1867. The remains can still be visited today and are very much a unique tourist attraction.

In July 2012 the fortification museum "Dräi Eechelen" in Kirchberg was inaugurated. It welcomes visitors just next door to the museum for contemporary art. The casemates are the capital's must-see, old underground tunnels of which 17 km are preserved and can be accessed from two different locations. Above-ground, a stroll over the Corniche, a footpath which native author Batty Weber called the most beautiful balcony in Europe due to its panoramic view on the historic outskirts, is yet another highlight. In addition, visitors can also stroll along the defence wall or wander on the historic Wencelas tour to gain an insight into the past. Exceptional visits are organised by the Friends of the History of the Fortress; the perfect way to discover the capital's historic setting.

Since 2010, the dancing procession of Echternach, named after the charming abbey village in the east of the country, is part of the immaterial world heritage. When Willibrord, the founder of the local Benedictine monastery died in 739, pilgrims flocked to Echternach to pay homage to the missionary. The first testimonials of the three-step dance steps go back to the 11th century. Despite the common opinion, especially in the media, people don't hope forwards and back-although the routine has changed over the course of time.

Since 1947 the following applies: to a polka melody pilgrims take a left and then a right jump. This religious ritual supposedly showing Christian joy, incorporates the body into the prayers. Even today, the dancing procession on Pentecost Sunday attracts more than 12'000 people each year, of which 8'000 do the jumping steps. The Abbey Museum highlights the life and deeds of holy Willibrord.

In Clervaux, in the north of the country, the photo collection " Family of Man" consists of yet another highlight. The collection has been curated by world known fashion and art photographer Edward Steichen, who was born in Luxembourg in 1879 and emigrated with his parents at the age of two. As the head of the photography department at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) he chose 503 out of more than 2 Million pictures, which went on display in New York in 1955. His pictures have one important message: the unity of people. Steichen highlighted various aspects and parts of human life: birth, love, family, work, old age, belief and war. Only five pictures of the exhibition were taken by Steichen himself, the others were taken by 272 other great photographers from 68 countries, such as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Robert Doisneau, August Sander and Ansel Adams. In 1966, the American government gave the last completely preserved exhibition as a gift to the Luxembourgish state.

Since 1994, the permanent exhibition is displayed at the castle of Clervaux. After a few years of restoration works, the historic collection was reopened in summer 2013 in presence of members of the Steichen family. The "Family of Man " is part of the Unesco's world documentary heritage since 2003.

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