The Master Draught (Der Meistertrunk) – A Rothenburg Festival

The Master Draught Legend Tells of How Rothenburg was Saved From Destruction:

One of the highlight festivals in Rothenburg is The Master Draught Festival or Festspiel Der Meistertrunk. Every year since 1881, the citizens of Rothenburg have been celebrating Der Meistertrunk a historical festival based on a legend of how the brave Mayor Nusch saved Rothenburg from destruction in October 1631.

Rothenburg Town Councillors Tavern Follow Me on Pinterest

Rothenburg Town Councillors Tavern

The Master Draught Legend

The setting is the Thirty Years’ War and after some bitter fighting, the Catholic imperial troops under Count Tilly had just taken control of Protestant Rothenburg. The town folk of Rothenburg did not give in easily and Count Tilly was enraged by their violent resistance. He gave orders for the town to be plundered and destroyed and for four of the town councillors to be executed. Pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears and the Mayor was ordered to fetch the hangman.

Meanwhile, the count was offered the finest of Franconian wine served in a huge tankard which holds 3.25 litres. In jest, he promised to spare the town if one of its councillors could down a full tankard of wine in one go. A former mayor, Bürgermeister Nusch took up the challenge and amazed Tilly by draining the tankard in ten minutes. Tilly kept his promise to spare the town, the folks of Rothenburg were jubilant and Mayor Nusch was said to have slept for the next three days.

Festspiel Der Meistertrunk

Based on this legend, Adam Hörber, a local poet, wrote “Meistertrunk”, a play which premiered in 1881. During the Festspiel der Meistertrunk the town’s near encounter with destruction is re-enacted over the four-day Whitsun weekend. In more recent times, the re-enactment also takes place during the July Summer Festival and the September Imperial Town Festival.

Events during The Master Draught Festival include historical military parades through the old town, Bavarian beer gardens, pageants by Rothenburgers dressed in period costume, colourful markets, games and entertainment, music and more.

Town Councillors’ Tavern

If you’re not in Rothenburg during festival time, you can see some of the re-enactment of The Master Draught in the gable of the Town Councillors’ Tavern. Every hour between 11.00 and 15:00 and between 20:00 and 22:00 the two windows located to the left and right of the town clock open to show the drinking scene by Nusch and Tilly in The Master Draught.

Incidentally, the tankard that Tilly was said to have drunk from was once the elector’s tankard, used as a welcoming tankard of the imperial town.  You can see this in the Reichsstadtmuseum (Imperial City Museum).

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