Up to freedom and democracy. It was a beautiful, a great idea to create this path to history. Symbolic. A climb, free from giddiness, in the direction of the imperial cathedral with its delicate Gothic appearance. Along the exterior façade of the Kunsthalle Schirn, stretched out along the south side of the area between Römerberg and the cathedral – a structural, architectural concession to modernism. Fears were to be countered in this way that with the reconstruction of the historic row of houses opposite the Römer barely forty years after the war and the Nazi dictatorship, the spirit of the "new era" would now have to give way to an old German past, which was rejected and ostracized in terms of cultural policy and ideology after 1945.

The area at the foot of the cathedral, on which the houses of the Gothic old town crouched until it was destroyed in the war, was still fallow at that time. The brutal concrete building of the Technical Town Hall on the north side, almost adjacent to the slender church building, sacrilegiously marked the "new era" on historical ground. An "archaeological garden", uncovered remains of walls from the Roman-Merovingian-Carolingian early period of the city, eked out an existence of obsolete irrelevance. Frankfurt and its history.

Along this story, the gently rising construction of a footbridge led to the height of the upper Schirn level near the cathedral for the entrance to the Kunsthalle – to a large exhibition about the first National Assembly in St. Paul's Church, which in 1848 wanted to draw up a constitution for Germany with a liberal, democratic basic character. 150 years later, on May 18, 1998.

Make you forget about disturbing actions

In addition to the ceremony, this exhibition was a striking sign of once again doing justice to the outstanding importance of St. Paul's Church: for Frankfurt, for Germany. Also to make us forget the historically and politically disturbing actions that had turned the anniversary 25 years earlier into a dishonorable farce with the society-changing twist of the '68 revolt.

"1848 – Awakening to Freedom": This expressive motto characterized the exhibition, the result of a great creative, joint effort by the Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin and the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt under the patronage of Federal President Roman Herzog and supported by the Federal Republic of Germany, the State of Hesse and the City of Frankfurt. Many roads led to St. Paul's Church, the first German National Assembly. Liberté, egalité, fraternité – the French Revolution of 1789 with its radical slogans was at the beginning.

Demands for civil liberties against monarchist absolutism later tried to assert themselves in order to overcome the restoration policy after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Everywhere in Europe, not only in the states and free cities of the "German Confederation" created in Vienna, fought by the dynasties and authorities fearing for their position of power.

The exhibition impressively traced these historical paths with their ramifications. Up to the failure and ignominious dissolution of the National Assembly under external political and military pressure. However, their democratic, political ideas were not lost. After the First World War, it had a formative influence on the constitution of the Weimar Republic and, after the Hitler dictatorship, on that of the Federal Republic of Germany.