The Fischbrunnen (fish fountain) in Munich

Fischbrunnen am Marienplatz, Foto:

Meeting place and site of traditional events

Let's meet at the Fischbrunnen! One of the most popular meeting places to explore Munich is the fish fountain in front of the main entrance of the New City Hall on Marienplatz. Here you don't just meet up or throw a coin in the water for good luck. The Fischbrunnen is the location where traditional celebrations such as the "Metzgersprung" (young butchers jumping into the water) or "Geldbeutelwaschen" (wallet washing) take place every year.

Bronze figures and turquoise illuminated basin

The Fischbrunnen at Marienplatz is one of the draw wells, because it once had access to the groundwater under the city centre. Since 1884, water has been flowing here from the Mangfall Valley, which is why this date is engraved in the edge of the basin. The well water is not for drinking, but on hot days you can use it for refreshment. Today, the fountain itself consists on a turquoise basin made of conglomerate (conglomerate rock from the northern Alpine foreland), which makes the water shine so brightly. Three bronze butcher's boys are placed around the central column and pour water from buckets into the basin. At the top of the column is a bronze fish created by the sculptor Otto Kallenbach. It is meant to remind us of the time when the Marienplatz was home to a fish market. Today, when you look at the bottom of the fish fountain, you may discover one or two cent coins that shine in the turquoise water in the sun and are said to bring good luck to the donor.

Washing the wallet - good luck for the entire year

Marienplatz München Fischbrunnen, Foto: Katy Spichal
Foto: Katy Spichal

Another popular tradition for happiness is the so-called wallet washing. According to legend, it is said to ensure that one spends the rest of the year without financial worries. This tradition dates back to 1426 and was practiced on Ash Wednesday. The simple people used this tradition to demonstrate to their employers that after celebrations or carnival the wallets were empty - and that a wage increase was necessary. In Munich, the event is revived every year, with the Lord Mayor or one of his deputies being present.

Metzgersprung (butchers jump): Baptism after the apprenticeship

, Foto: Metzger-Innung München
Foto: Metzger-Innung München
The Munich Butchers' Guild organises the Butchers' Jump every three years. It resembles a kind of baptism celebration the end of the apprenticeship. In the past, butcher's apprentices dressed in sheep's clothing and marched through the streets to the Fischbrunnen. There they were acquitted from their apprenticeship and subsequently jumped into the water. For the grand finale they threw nuts at the spectators. Water has always been regarded as a purifying force, as it is for the butchers of the City of Munich, who have been reviving the old tradition of the butchers' jump at the Fischbrunnen in front of the New City Hall every three years since 1995. Until the Second World War it was held on Rose Monday. The tradition goes back to the plague, which caused fear and terror in Munich 450 years ago. Then the Schäffler (vessel makers) and butchers marched and danced through the streets with music playing. Nobody wanted to miss this funny spectacle. The Schäfflers dance and the butchers' jump are still reminders of the guilds' traditions today.

How the Fischbrunnen was constructed

There has always been a fountain on the Marienplatz. The first one, whose location is no longer known exactly, was dated 1318. In 1343, the "Bürgerbrunnen" (citizens' fountain), later also called "Marktbrunnen" (market fountain). The latter was replaced by the Fish Fountain designed by the sculptor Konrad Knoll. The new fountain was completed between 1862 and 1865. Knoll was responsible, among other things, for the statues of "Heinrich des Löwen" and "Ludwig des Bayern" at the Old Town Hall. Knoll's fountain featured bronze water-spouting dolphins and lion heads. Four butcher's boys poured water out of buckets, four boys played music above them - and on top an old journeyman with a raised cup was their feet. During the Second World War the fountain was destroyed and rebuilt by Josef Henselmann in 1954. Among other things, he used the still preserved figures.



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