Goethe Altar of Good Fortune

Good Luck Stone

goethe-good-luck-stoneThe ‘Good Luck Stone’, or ‘Altar of Agathe Tyche’, is the name of the monument that at the beginning of the year 1777, Goethe had erected in the meadows along the River Ilm outside Weimar. Its shape was rather simple: a sphere on top of a massive stone cube. The monument still stands there today, very near the summer house where Goethe lived at the time. The monument was very special for the 28yr old Goethe: one year before he had moved from Frankfurt to Weimar and here he had met a wonderful woman: Charlotte von Stein. She was his ‘soul mate’, calming her restless friend who felt like a ‘ball being thrown by one hour to the next’. The monument was a birthday present for Charlotte von Stein. Its meaning derives from the dedication to ‘Agathe Tyche’, the ‘Goddess of Chance’, who was often venerated as the patron of a town’s fortune in antiquity.
Tyche is not portrayed here as a person, however. Goethe chooses for his monument an explicitly symbolic stylistic form. This refers to familiar symbols from the time of the Renaissance. According to them, the solid stone cube embodies stability and consistency, also the incorruptibility of Justice. The sphere, in contrast, belongs to the realm of capricious fortune, instability, restless movement. Should these two opposing elements be brought together, they would not cancel each other out, but would rather strengthen each other and create thereby an image with a new –
ambiguous – statement of content. he opposing forces now strive for balance.
For Goethe this means overcoming his youthful passion, his unbridled emotionality and his ‘pursuit of purity’ and order, but without the need to abandon his creative freedom. The monument becomes his stabiliser. It is there to remind him daily of what he had learned from Charlotte von Stein.
‘May this beautiful notion of power and restraint, of caprice and law, of freedom and measure, of flexible order, excellence and deficiency bring you great joy’.

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