A Stone Picture Book

In the time of Rococo, written or painted album pages that were devoted to wine or hunting were the big fashion of the time. Just outside the city walls of Naumburg, amongst the blossoms near Großjena, you can see what is possibly the most unusual album ever made.

In the middle of a vineyard, twelve pictures, larger-than-life, were cut from the walls of a sandstone terrace. 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 cut from a stone wall.

The initiator of the album was the jeweler Johann Christian Steinauer who, from 1705 on, became wealthy as a purveyor to the court of Duke Christian II of Sachsen-Weißenfels in Naumburg. In 1720, he acquired a vineyard and commissioned a cycle of scenes to be carved into the cliff walls at the foot of the vineyard, dedicated to the Duke on the tenth anniversary of his ascension to power. The sculptor remains unknown, but his sculpture is nothing less than a masterpiece: 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 hunt and Duke Christian proudly 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, Jesus stamping grapes in a wine vat, 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 according to the Bible, Jesus transformed 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, built directly above the vineyard, a spectacular discovery  was made in 1913: Two bottles from the vintages of 1678 and 1680 and two 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, and has been lost ever since. The "Naumburg bottle" of 1680, however, can still be seen in the city's Museum.