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A Picture Book made of Stone: A Photo Album for Wine
Once, in the time of Rokoko, written or painted album pages that were devoted to wine or chase were the big fashion of the time. Right outside the city walls of Naumburg, in the valley of blossoms near the city part of Großjena, there can be found what is likely to be the most unusual album ever made.
In the middle of a vineyard, twelve pictures, larger-than-life, were cut from the walls of a terrace made from sand stone. The picture book made from stone, called in German "das Steinerne Bilderbuch", is one of the most unusual monuments for wine which can be found – and the biggest relief in Europe which was cut from a stone wall.
The father of the album was the jeweler Johann Christian Steinauer who became rich as a purveyor to the court of Duke Christian II. of Sachsen-Weißenfels from 1705 on in Naumburg. In 1720, Steinauer decided to buy a vineyard. As homage to the Duke's tenth anniversary of reign, however, he developed the idea of having a relief cut out of the walls of his vineyard. The sculptor remains unknown, but his sculpture is nothing less than a masterpiece of art: On a length of 150 meters, the sculptor created twelve scenes, ten of which showed stories from the Bible while the remaining two pictured a fox chase and Duke Christian on horseback.
Six of the pictures depict wine stories from the Bible: There is the intoxication of Lot by his daughters, Noah as the first winemaker, Christ within the wine press, Josh and Caleb coming home with a heavy bunch of grapes and the parable of the workers in the vineyard of the Lord. Picture number five shows the marriage of Kanaa where Jesus transformed according to the Bible water into wine - bearing the inscription: "God always transforms water into wine/ Blessed be the fruit/ But damned be the mixer/ Who doesn't strive for refreshment."
In the foundation of Steinauer's villa right above the vineyard, however, in 1913 a spectacular discovery was made: Four bottles of the vintages of 1678, 1680 and twice from 1687 were found. The bottle from 1678 is on display in the Wine Museum of Speyer – it is the oldest still completely filled wine bottle in Germany. One bottle from the vintage of 1687 was actually opened and tasted in Berlin, the other bottle from 1680 was opened and tasted in Naumburg. The last bottle stayed with the owner of the villa, Meder, it has been lost ever since. The "Naumburg bottle" of 1680, however, can still be seen in the city's Museum.