Friday, June 20, 2014

Colmar's Claims to Fame

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

                      - Emma Lazarus

What has become the symbol of freedom in America, the Statue of Liberty, was built by a Frenchman named Bartholdi who grew up in this house, now a museum, in Colmar. 

But it is really the verse, penned by a New York writer and auctioned off to raise money for the statue's base, that actually gave the statue its current meaning.  Bartholdi intended for the statue to be a symbol of America's founding principle of freedom, but Lazarus saw so many immigrants passing through Ellis Island that she believed America had become a place where others sought freedom.   That meaning is still associated with the statue today.

Voltaire slept here!
The French philosopher Voltaire, who espoused freedom of expression in all forms, rented two rooms here  for a year in 1753.  The porch is all that remains of the original building.
 The Unterlinden Museum consists of two parts, the museum and the former Dominican Convent where the famous Isenheim Altarpiece is on display.  One price (Seniors are recognized here for discounted admission.) grants admission to both museum buildings.  The former convent supplies audiophones that explain the history of the paintings free of charge.
Colmar was the last French town liberated during World War II, and this park seems to symbolize their feelings about that hardship.  While arms of steel encircle the area, limiting movement, the center is open to soar to the sky.

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