Frau Rath’s Room

The brass lantern on the small round table in the corner belonged to Goethe’s mother.

When Goethe was a child Frankfurt did not yet have streetlights, so the inhabitants were required to supply light themselves. After nightfall they thus had to carry a lantern; the number of candles reflected the city of Frankfurt’s strict social fabric. According to an old tradition, three candles were reserved for the nobility, two candles were permitted the affluent middle class, and the less well-off could be recognized by their single candle. It was not until 1762, during the French occupation, that night-time streetlighting was introduced in Frankfurt.

The Goethe family belonged to the middle class, Johann Wolfgang Goethe was only ennobled in 1782, during his Weimar period.