Walls And Other Fortifications – Germany And Austria

A glance at the map will show us that Nuremberg, as we know it, is divided into two almost equal divisions. They are called after the names of the principal churches, the St. Lorenz, and the St. Sebald quarter. The original wall included, it will be seen, only a small portion of the northern or St. Sebald division. With the growth of the town an extension of the walls and an increase of fortification followed as a matter of course. It be-came necessary to carry the wall over the Pegnitz in order to protect the Lorenzkirche and the suburb which was springing up around it. The precise date of this extension of the fortifications can not be fixt. The chronicles attribute it to the twelfth century, in the reign of the first Hohenstaufen, Konrad III. No trace of a twelfth-century wall remains; but the chroniclers may, for all that, have been not very wide of the mark. The mud and wood which supplied the material of the wall may have given place to stone in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. However that may be, it will’ be remembered that the lower part of the White Tower, which is the oldest fragment of building we can certainly point to dates from the thirteenth century. All other portions of the second wall clearly indicate the fourteenth century, or later, as the time of their origin.

Beyond the White Tower the moat was long ago filled up, but the section of it opposite the Unschlittplatz remained open for a longer period than the rest, and was called the Kiettengraben, because of the burdocks which took root there. Hereabouts, on a :part of the moat, the Waizenbrauhaus was built in 1671, which is now the famous Freiherrlieh von Tuehersche Brewery. Here, too, the Unschlitthaus was built at the end of the fifteenth century as a granary. It has since been turned into a school.

We have now reached one of the most charming and picturesque bits of Nuremberg. Once more we have to cross the Pegnitz, whose banks are overhung by quaint old houses. Their projecting roofs and high gables, their varied chimneys and over-hanging balconies from which trail rich masses of creepers, make an entrancing foreground to the towers and the arches of the Henkersteg. The wall was carried on arches over the southern arm of the Pegnitz to the point of the Saumarkt (or Trodelmarkt) island which here divides the river, and thence in like manner over the northern arm. The latter portion of it alone survives and comprises a large tower on the north bank called the Wasserthurm, which was intended to break the force of the stream; a bridge supported by two arches over the stream, which was the Henkersteg, the habitation of the hangman, and on the island itself a smaller tower, which formed the point of support for the original, southern pair of arches, which joined the Unschlitthaus, but were so badly damaged in 1595 by the high flood that they were demolished and replaced by a wooden, and later by an iron bridge.

Somewhere in the second half of the fourteenth century, then, in the reign of Karl IV., they began to build the outer enceinte, which, altho destroyed at many places and broken through by modern gates and entrances, is still fairly well preserved, and secures to Nuremberg the reputation of presenting most faithfully of all the larger German towns the characteristics of a medieval town. The fortifications seem to have been thrown up somewhat carelessly at first, but dread of the Hussites soon inspired the citizens to make themselves as secure as possible. In times of war and rumors of war all the peasants within a radius of two miles of the town were called upon to help in the construction of barriers and ramparts. The whole circle of walls, towers, and ditches was practically finished by 1452, when with pardonable pride Tucher wrote, “In this year was completed the ditch round the town. It took twenty-six years to build, and it will cost an enemy a good deal of trouble to cross it” Part of the ditch had been made and perhaps revetted as early as 1407, but it was not till twenty years later that it began to be dug to the enormous breadth and depth which it boasts today. The size of it was always a source of pride to Nurembergers, and it was perhaps due to this reason that up till as recently as 1869 it was left perfectly intact. On the average it is about 100 feet broad.

It was always intended to be a dry ditch, and, so far from there being any arrangements for flooding it, precautions were taken to carry the little Fischbach, which formerly entered the town near the modern Sternthor, across the ditch in a trough. The construction of the ditch was provided for by an order of the Council in 1427, to the effect that all householders, whether male or female, must work at the ditch one day in the year with their children of over twelve years of age, and with all their servants, male or female. Those who were not able to work had to pay a substitute. Subsequently this order was changed to the effect that every one who could or would not work must pay ten pfennige. There were no exemptions from this liturgy, whether in favor of councillor, official, or lady.. The order remained ten years in force, tho the amount of the payment was gradually reduced.

At the time of the construction of these and the other lofty towers it was still thought that the raising of batteries as much as possible would in-crease their effect. In practise the plunging fire from platforms at the height of some eighty feet above the level of the parapets of the town wall can hardly have been capable of producing any great effect, more especially if the besieging force succeeded in establishing itself on the crest of the counterscarp of the ditches, since from that point the swell of the bastions masked the towers. But there was another use for these lofty towers. The fact is that the Nuremberg engineers, at the time that they were built, had not yet adopted a complete system of Rank-works, and not having as yet applied with all its consequences the axiom that that which defends should itself be defended, they wanted to see and command their external defenses from within the body of the place, as, a century before, the baron could see from the top of his donjon whatever was going on round the walls of his castle, and send up his support to any point of attack. The great round towers of Nuremberg are more properly, in fact, detached keeps than portions of a combined system, rather observatories than effective defenses.

The round towers, however, were not the sole defenses of the gates. Outside each one of them was a kind of fence of pointed beams after the manner of a chevaux-de-frise, while outside the ditch and close to the bridge , stood a barrier, by the side of which was a guard-house. Tho it was not till 1598 that all the main gates were fitted with served as guard-rooms for observing the enemy, and also, by overhanging the base of the tower, enabled the garrison to hurl down on their assailants at the foot of the wall a hurricane of projectiles of every sort. Like the wall the towers are built almost entirely of sandstone, but on the side facing the town they are usually faced with brick. The shapes of the roofs vary from flat to pointed, but the towers themselves are simple and almost austere in form in comparison with those generally found in North Germany, where fantasy runs riot in red brick. The Nuremberg towers were obviously intended in the first place for use rather than for ornament.

At the end of our long perambulations of the walls it will be a grateful relief to sit for a while at one of the “Restaurations” or restaurants on the walls. There, beneath the shade of acacias in the daytime, or in the evening by the white light of incandescent gas, you may sit and watch the groups of men, women, and children all drinking from their tall glasses of beer, and you may listen to the whirr and ting-tang of the electric cars, where the challenge of sentinels or the cry of the night-watchman was once the most frequent sound. Or, if you have grown tired of the Horn- and the Schloss-zwinger, cross the ditch on the west side of the town and make your way to the Rosenau, in the Furtherstrasse. The Rosenau is a garden of trees and roses not lacking in chairs and tables, in bowers, benches, and a band. There, too, you will see the good burgher with his family drinking beer, eating sausages, and smoking contentedly.