Angels are as much part of a traditional Christmas celebration as a decorated tree, carols, cookies and mulled wine. But one German collector thinks they do not just have to be remembered during the festive season.
Man's best friend?
For Johann Fischer, angels are welcome throughout the year, as they represent protection, trust and hope. He has spent the past 20 years collecting them.
The former insurance salesman had a car accident in 1985 which almost cost him his life. On the night of the accident, he had visited his daughter in hospital. She had given him a fabric angel for his comfort and safety. Fischer believes the angel saved his life. Today, his "guardian angel" resides in his car, protecting him on his travels.
A stone angel in a cemetary
During his lengthy hospital stay, Fischer had time to think about his life. In his job, he had dealt with safety on earth -- now he would ensure it in heaven.
He used the compensation money he received to build up his collection, which now boasts over 12,000 angels, combing flea and antique markets up and down the country.
"I don't want to love the angels as individual entities but as a whole mass," he said. "That's what makes collecting them such a pleasure."
Angels in every nook and cranny
A satirical take on angels
Fisher's house and the garage are filled to the brim with angels. He has not catalogued them in any particular way, so kitsch and tacky angels stand side-by-side with more artistic ones or sacred pieces, a plump cheeky cherub might be randomly placed next to an angry knight brandishing a sword. There are candles in the form of angels, as well as angel clocks and pocket watches, pieces of jewelry and even rings. One exhibition room has a showcase with a guardian angel protecting children and soldiers who sings "Silent Night."
The collection continues to expand as visitors come with their own offerings, and people across the world send Fischer items in the post. The address is not difficult to remember. By a lucky coincidence, Fischer also happens to live in Engeldorf, which translates into English as "angel village."
A Christmas angel at a department store in downtown Düsseldorf
Four years ago, the angel museum received official recognition when it was entered into the Guinness Book of Records. Since then, visitor numbers have soared. Unfortunately, Fischer cannot keep up. His leg was injured in the accident and it is becoming too tiring for him to continue conducting regular guided tours of his fable-like "angeldom."
"I'm in the process of placing the entire angel collection in good hands because it's a shame to not let people see it," he said. "The pleasure people get is indescribable -- not only at Christmas but the whole year round. That's why I want to make sure the angels are in good hands before I die."