September 17, 2021

Manfred Leistner, Weihnachtsburg / Christmas Castle

pictures (April 2021) courtesy of 
Marcus Obst from his website

The picture above shows an apartment building as seen from the street in Stützengrün, Germany. a small community of some 3200 inhabitants, located in the Ore Mountain Range. The exterior of this building includes a variety of decorative and architectural surprises.

Life and works

The man who provided all those surprises has also added the self-portrait below to an outside wall, stating the period of his creative activity as 1994-1998 and in all modesty only indicating his name with the initials M.L. 

The abbreviation M.L. refers to Manfred Leistner. About his activities as a non-professional artist there is not much information available in public sources.

It is known that he was born on June 10, 1928 and passed away on February 18, 2014. He owned the house discussed in this review, worked in a cement factory and retired in the early 1990s.

Perhaps to have something to do when retired, he decided to decorate various parts of the property, a project that kept him busy from 1994-1998.

Decorations on the front side

The sides of the house that are visible from the street have at least two separate decorations, as shown in the images below (crops from the top photo).

It is unclear to what extent the gray pavement tiles that cover most of the front and side facades are part of the project, but if that's indeed the case, then that was a fitting choice.

The picture left above shows the decoration on the corner of the front and side facade. It includes the sun lighting a trio of trees around a deer. The scene has been made with mainly washed concrete.

This is a form of concrete, which hardens for a few hours after pouring, after which the top layer is washed away, and the gravel in the mixture becomes visible. This type of concrete has an attractive architectural appearance and Leistner made extensive use of it.

It is hard to see in the topmost image of the house's facade, but the quadrangular gabled roof (far left in the image) is supported by a sculpture of a male made from sandstone. The picture above right shows him in an enlargement.

Similar sculptures of male characters can be seen in other parts of this art environment, which could mean that the character here at the top right is part of the creation. This is further enhanced by the fact that a decorative element of the same sandstone has been placed in the wall of the tower, just below the male character. 

What all this says about the tower-like structure as such remains uncertain, but it increases the possibility that this tower was added to the original front of the house and thus is a part of Leistner's decorative project.

Decorations at the courtyard

Behind the house is a courtyard with several buildings, including a garage. 

In the absence of a floor plan, the location of these structures is not clear. However, the photos do show that this courtyard is the most extensive part of the art environment

Like there is a house, as pictured above, with a front of masonry separated in the middle by a hall-round column of washed concrete. 

At the top of this column, a chapel-shaped niche accommodates a sandstone sculpture of a miner. Above this miner an eagle looks down from the far end of the ridge of the house, which is further topped by a copper-colored dome.

The house with the copper-colored dome is connected to a tower by a semicircular stone arch. When it comes to architecture, in German such an arch is referred to as Schwibbogen, a large arch stretched between two parallel walls without masonry that overloads it. 

Looking through this arch, another house can be seen. It has a window with a semicircular candle holder, which is known as the Erzgebirgischer Schwibbogen (Arch of the Ore Mountains), a typical part of the folk art in the area of the Ore Mountains. 

The building also has three niches with as many sculptures.

These three sculptures are quite different from the sandstone sculptures Leistner made of workers. It is therefore possible that he did not make these three himself, but bought them.

Next, let's take a closer look at the tower just mentioned.

The tower can be seen as a Christmas pyramid, a Christmas decoration that has its roots in the Ore Mountains Area in Germany. 

Such a pyramid is an upright, mostly wooden structure, with a number of four-  to eight-sided platforms with Christmas scenes..A vertical bar topped with a paddle wheel connects the centers of the platforms to facilitate their rotation by the rising heat of burning candles.

The tower created by Leistner indeed is topped with an aluminum-colored ceiling fan, which  probably doesn't rotate, but is meant to emphasize that this tower is a Christmas Pyramid. On top of the fan there is a model of a green and red colored locomotive.. 

Below the fan the stone tower has three square platforms with compartments that house small sculptures of personalities, including a scene that depicts the birth of Christ. These niches are lit by electric lights in the shape of candles.

To round off the tour of Manfred Leistner's art environment, below is an example of creations he also made, namely elongated stone slabs with sculptures in haut-relief.

The sculptures on the left and in the middle depict men and women, sitting on a chair, busy with all kinds of daily activities. The people in the middle are seated left and right of a (church?) building. The man on the right looks a lot like a friendly forester.

The semicircular candle holder in the middle is an Erzgebirgischer Schwibbogen, which we already encountered above.

Above an image of a relief referring to trains, an elongated one of a train on a viaduct and a smaller one with three wagons. Judging by the trains in this relief and by the locomotive on the ceiling fan, it seems that Leistner was a lover of trains.

To conclude

The photos above, taken in April 2021,  show that after the death of Leistner in February 2014, the site has been well maintained, which is partly due to the solid quality of the processed material, but which is of course also related to the good care of relatives.


As mentioned, there are virtually no public sources that discuss this art environment. The above review is based on the information in:
* Article and a variety of photos (April 2021) in the website of Marcus Obst;  the photos have also been published on Flickr

thanks to Marcus Obst, who drew my attention to this art environment

Manfred Leistner
Schulstrasse 14
08328 Stützengrün, Saxony Federal State, Germany
can (partly) be seen from the street

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