We agree, then, that Nietzsche’s many biographers must in a general way tell the same story. Having conceded this point, however, let us consider Julian Young’s brief history and description of Nietzsche’s boarding-school, Pforta:
Originally a Cistercian abbey called Porta Coeli (Gate of Heaven), Pforta (‘Gate’—now to education rather than heaven) had been transformed into a school in 1543 by the Prince-Elector Moritz of Saxony…Pforta, or Schulpforta (Pforta School), as it is known today, is about an hour’s walk from Naumburg—Fritz sometimes walked home for the holidays. It lies just south of the ambling Saale River in a wooded valley that extends from the western edge of Naumburg to the narrow gorge of Kösen. The school estate comprises some seventy-three acres of gardens, orchards, groves of trees, buildings, and cloisters, protected from the outer world by a thick twelve-foot-high wall, which forms an almost perfect rectangle. A branch canal of the Saale flows through the middle of the enclosure, separating the work buildings and gardens and most of the teachers’ houses from the school itself. (Young 2010, 21-22)Now compare this to the following passage from the late Curtis Cate’s biography, Friedrich Nietzsche:
Originally a Cistercian monastery bearing the Latin name, Porta coeli (Gate of Heaven), it had been transformed in 1543 into a ‘Prinzenschule’ by the Protestant Prince-Elector Moritz of Saxony. Situated slightly south of the Saale river in a wooded valley extending from the western edge of Naumburg to the narrow gorges of Kösen, Pforta or Schulpforta, as it is known to this day, consisted of some sixty acres of gardens, orchards, groves, buildings and cloisters, protected from the outer world by a thick twelve-foot-high wall, which formed an almost perfect rectangle. A branch canal of the Saale flowed through the middle of the enclosure, separating the vegetable and other gardens, the ‘household’ barns and workshops and most of the teachers’ houses from the school buildings and quadrangles. (Cate 2005, 17)These two passages are strikingly similar; they are much closer to one another than either is to the corresponding passage in Ronald Hayman’s Nietzsche: A Critical Life, which reads: “Built in the twelfth century as a Cistercian abbey, with walls twelve feet high and two-and-a-half feet thick, [Pforta] was isolated in a valley about four miles from Naumburg” (Hayman 1982, 27). Hayman tells the same story as Cate and Young, to be sure; but his version of the story is unique. How shall we explain the parallels between Young’s story and Cate’s? . . .