Die Gesamtregion rund um die Ostsee, von Dänemark bis weit nach Russland, war mit ihrem weit verzweigten Netz von Hansestädten im Mittelalter der führende Wirtschafts-raum Europas. Gerade auf dem heutigen Gebiet Norddeutschlands liegen einige damalige “Weltstädte”. Ökonomische Macht spiegelt sich bis heute wieder in den aus dieser Zeit stammenden Bauwerken. Gotisch geprägt und aus Millionen von Backsteinen gebaut entstanden sie überwiegend zwischen 1200 und meist bis spätestens 1600. Diese bauhistorischen Perlen finden sich heute als Dorfkirchen oder Kathedralen, als Bürger- oder Rathäuser, in Toren und Stadtmauern wieder, immer eingebettet in wunderschöner Natur.
Over several centuries, the “Queen of the Hanseatic League” played a leading role, and this is still clearly visible today. The self-confidence, power and wealth of its free citizens and merchants during the Middle Ages are reflected in the Brick Gothic buildings of this Hanseatic city, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. A prime example of this is Lübeck’s historic market square with its famous town hall and the mother church of Brick Gothic, St. Mary’s Church (“St. Marien zu Lübeck”). There is a long list of Brick Gothic buildings in Lübeck. Each of these buildings has its own history and deserves special appreciation. Of course, there are famed celebrities such as the Holsten Gate or the historic town hall. But there are also magnificent buildings that literally stand out from the city silhouette – most notably the imposing churches. No fewer than seven towers signal that Lübeck was once a great metropolis: St. Mary’s Church (“St. Marien”) with its double tower, St. Peter’s Church (“St. Petri”), the Cathedral (“Dom”), St. James’ Church (“St. Jakobi”) and St. Giles’ Church (“St. Aegidien”).
The Hanseatic city of Rostock was granted the city rights in 1218. It is a city of crafts and industry, home to one of the oldest universities in Europe (1419) and the centre of a strong bourgeoisie. Today, Rostock is a modern centre on the southern Baltic Sea. From the 13th to the 16th century, Rostock was one of the leading Hanseatic cities and acquired a highly representative character due to its large number of stately patrician and trading houses. The brick buildings still preserved from that period demonstrate the diligence and craftsmanship of their builders.
The minster town of Bad Doberan and Heiligendamm, wich is part of Bad Doberan and the oldest seaside resort on the German Baltic Sea coast, are located in the middle of a natural paradise formed by glaciers and the sea. These days it belongs to the region “Mecklenburg Baltic Coast”. Within easy reach from the Hanseatic cities of Rostock and Wismar, you can enjoy these holiday and spa resorts all year round, regardless of whether you are a Baltic Sea enthusiast, a gourmet of culture or someone seeking nature and recreation.
Just a few kilometres from the imposing gates of Neubrandenburg is a medieval gem whose restoration is the result of many years of hard work: Burg Stargard, a castle in a town bearing its same name of Slavic origin. The castle is the northernmost preserved hilltop castle in Germany and the oldest secular building in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Scenic highlights in the surrounding area include the Mecklenburg Lake District (“Mecklenburgische Seenplatte”) and the Müritz National Park. Stargard Castle was once the political and strategic centre of the Stargard region. The Margraves of Brandenburg had the castle built over a Slavic rampart between 1260 and 1290. Despite being destroyed over the centuries, the main parts of the complex have been preserved: the gates, the “Krumme Haus” (literally: curved house) and parts of the dodecagonal series of curtain walls, marked by the Brick Gothic style. A mighty moat surrounds the whole complex. The keep, a 38-metre round tower with a conical top, stands out as a landmark. Besides the castle itself, the Church of St. John (“St. Johannes”) and the former Chapel of the Holy Spirit (“Kapelle zum Heiligen Geist”) are also worth a visit.
For more than 760 years now, St. Mary’s Church has dominated the silhouette of Frankfurt (Oder). The hall church is some 80 metres long and has a 45-metre wide transept, making it one of the largest religious buildings in North German Brick Gothic style. Other Brick Gothic buildings also bear witness to the great past of this once wealthy Hanseatic town: the town hall, the Friedenskirche (“Peace Church”) and the former Franciscan monastery church. The author and playwright Heinrich von Kleist is the most famous son of this town on the river Oder.
The amber town Ribnitz-Damgarten is the economic, cultural and geographical centre between the Hanseatic cities of Rostock and Stralsund. It is the gateway to the charming peninsula Fischland-Darß-Zingst. Since 1950 the former Pomeranian border town of Damgarten and the Mecklenburg town of Ribnitz have been united. The double town offers beautiful leisure ports and a lovingly renovated and lively town centre. The fascination and variety of the “gold of the sea”, the Baltic amber, and its impressive presentation in the German Amber Museum in the Ribnitz Monastery, give the town of Ribnitz-Damgarten its byname.
This more than 750-year-old town on the Uecker river was badly damaged in the Second World War. Nevertheless, large parts of the 2.5-kilometre-long town walls with towers and defensive watch houses integrated into the walls (“Wiekhäuser”) have been preserved. The town centre has also been largely restored to its former glory. Today Pasewalk is as a small yet charming town where people love to live and where peace and relaxation can be found.
The town of Tangermünde was founded around the year 1000 on the watermeadows by the small river Tanger, protected by a castle. The importance of Tangermünde as a Hanseatic town and secondary residence of Emperor Charles IV is evident in its Brick Gothic buildings. To this day the town has been able to preserve its ancient townscape with numerous half-timbered houses. The old town is almost completely enclosed by an impressive fortification with three remaining gates. While the mighty castle tower is testimony to early brick building, the town hall, the Neustadt Gate and St. Stephen’s Church are part of the magnificent expansion of the town in the late Middle Ages.
Known far beyond the borders of Brandenburg, Chorin’s early Gothic Cistercian monastery, built from 1272 onwards, was the most ambitious building project in Brandenburg at that time. It was here that the High Gothic architectural system that had been developed in France was implemented completely in brick for the first time.
In 2002, the Hanseatic city of Wismar became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with Stralsund. Wismar is distinguished by its historic harbour, mighty brick churches, gabled houses and the market square. The historic town centre has retained its medieval ground-plan almost unchanged and bears witness to the layout of the maritime trading towns under Lübeck law. The preserved building fabric with numerous individual monuments testifies to the political importance and wealth of the Baltic cities in the Middle Ages. Another characteristic feature is the large number of medieval, mostly gabled town houses. One of these is the house at Mecklenburger Str. 12, which dates from 1295 and has a cycle of murals from the first half of the 14th century.
The Hanseatic and Lilienthal city Anklam has been making a name for itself for the past eight centuries. Initially as a member of the Hanseatic League, later through aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal and today as the gateway to the award-winning valley of the river Peene. The Brick Gothic landmarks tell the story of this proud Hanseatic city. Three routes will take you to these sights, including the Churches of St. Mary and St. Nicholas and the highest city gate in Pomerania, now home to the Museum im Steintor. The gaps torn into the urban fabric by the Second World War have been lovingly closed in recent years with a remarkable urban redevelopment.
Only an anchor’s throw away from Stralsund harbour, the old market square is dominated by St. Nicholas’ Church and the town hall with its filigree façade. They are the landmarks of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Stralsund. The Hanseatic city is rich in historical buildings of all stylistic periods. And yet it is primarily characterised by the bright red of the bricks. As an archetype of a medieval city, Stralsund’s almost unchanged ground plan still bears witness to the power and wealth of the Baltic cities in the Middle Ages.
Bardowick is one of the oldest settlements in Northern Germany. It was an important trading centre in the medieval times and was destroyed by Henry the Lion in 1189. After 1400 it developed into a flourishing centre for vegetable growing.
The town of Bützow was once the centre of the diocese of Schwerin and is surrounded by idyllic villages in the heart of Mecklenburg. The high tower of its collegiate church – a cultural monument of national importance – is visible from afar and defines the townscape. Besides the Bütow’s own Brick Gothic collegiate church, many other churches in the surrounding Bützower Land feature Brick Gothic elements, namely in Bernitt, Boitin, Laase, Moisall, Neukirchen, Qualitz, Rühn, Tarnow and Zernin. Each of the village churches is unique and worth a visit. Idyllically embedded in the gently rolling landscape between fields, forests and lakes, the centuries-old churches are still the centre of village life.
The Hanseatic town of Stendal is the economic, cultural and administrative centre of the Altmark region. Around 1165 it was granted market and town rights and in the 15th century it turned into a flourishing Hanseatic town. It was during this period that the characteristic religious and secular buildings of the Brick Gothic style were built, giving the townscape its distinctive character to this day. Its numerous towers give Stendal a silhouette reminiscent of Lübeck. The well-preserved and restored town centre not only has those older buildings, but also many residential buildings from the Wilhelminian period.
The towers of St. Mary’s Church stand out from afar. Together with the tower of the Holy Spirit Chapel and the central gate tower, they make up the familiar four-tower sight of the town. The well-preserved Dominican monastery, St. George’s Chapel and the town wall with its six towers also bear witness to the flourishing of Prenzlau in the Middle Ages. With the regional garden show Landesgartenschau, which drew many visitors in 2013, the town on Unteruckersee lake became even greener and livelier.
The town of Eberswalde and the municipality of Chorin are surrounded by a landscape of forests and lakes. The town is one of the Brandenburg foundations of the Ascanian dynasty, who provided the margraves of Brandenburg until 1319. The Cistercian monastery of Chorin, eight kilometres away, is also an Ascanian foundation and served both as a house and burial monastery for the sovereigns. Today, the city of Eberswalde shows a felicitous interplay between venerable old structures like St. Mary Magdalene’s Church (“Maria-Magdalenen-Kirche”) and modern buildings like the Paul-Wunderlich-Haus. Chorin is one of the most popular day-trip destinations in Brandenburg, primarily because of its former Cistercian monastery.
Brandenburg an der Havel
Brandenburg an der Havel is the earliest and most important urban centre of the Mark Brandenburg and also its eponym. The town centre is made up of three parts: the cathedal island (“Dominsel”), the Old Town (“Altstadt”), and the New Town (“Neustadt”), all of which were independent until the 18th century. The town of Brandenburg was never severely destroyed by fire and war, nor by excessive wealth, and has preserved a whole universe of medieval architecture. You can study all stages of the Mark Brandenburg Gothic style here, and you will also find examples for nearly every type of religious and secular architecture. The largest medieval construction volume were the two town fortifications, which were built of brick almost simultaneously around 1300. You can still make out their full length of respectively 1.7 and 2.4 km of ditches and ramparts delimiting the medieval town. The four preserved gate towers will give you a good idea of the elegance and strength of these defences. The two town centres also have an outstanding collection of historic town houses. These range from the Ordonnanzhaus at Altstädtischer Markt, a rich town house from around 1300, which was luxuriously rebuilt at the end of the […]
Today, more than 40,000 people live in Buxtehude at the gates of the great Hanseatic city of Hamburg and on the edge of the Alte Land with its magnificent fruit tree blossoms. Buxtehude was given the title of fairytale town through the Brothers’ Grimm story of the hare and the hedgehog. The historic old town is a particular attraction with its alleys, its historic canal and harbour as well as its Brick Gothic buildings and half-timbered houses from the past five centuries.
The six Lüneburg convents still bear witness to the once rich monastic landscape in the Principality of Lüneburg. The oldest foundation is Walsrode (before 986), then followed Ebstorf (around 1160), Lüne (1172), Wienhausen (around 1230), Medingen (1241) and Isenhagen (1243). Ebstorf, Lüne and Walsrode followed the Regula Benedicti (Rule of Benedict). Medingen, Wienhausen and Isenhagen belonged to the Cistercian Order. The convents are remarkable not only for their architectural features, but also for the continuity of their use – they survived the Reformation as Protestant convents. They also house many important medieval and early modern objects. The Ebstorf Map, the sculpture of Christ in Wienhausen, created around 1500, and the abbess’s crook in Medingen, made in 1494, are just a few examples. All of the convents may only be visited as part of a guided tour, as they are still inhabited.
The 750-year-old ducal city of Wolgast, situated on the Peene River, currently has about 12,500 inhabitants and is often referred to as the “gateway to the island of Usedom”. The Peene Bridge, Northern Germany’s largest bascule bridge, connects the town with the island of Usedom. Its beautiful waterfront location gives this port town a unique flair. In nearby Lassan there is St. John’s (“St. Johannis”), a three-aisled hall church of the first half of the 15th century with a rectangular chancel of the 13th century, which is worth seeing. St. Michael’s Church (“St. Michael”) in Krummin is another brick church from the 13th century with neo-Gothic extensions and a west tower from the 19th century.
The university and Hanseatic city of Greifswald is a city with maritime charm close to the Bay of Greifswald (Greifswalder Bodden), between the islands of Rügen and Usedom. Alongside the Hanseatic League, the founding of the university in 1456 contributed significantly to its development and still does today. Greifswald gained worldwide fame through the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, one of the most important painters of the Romantic period. He made the Eldena monastery ruins a central motif of his work.
Its brick gables and its charm of a bustling university town give the thousand-year-old Lüneburg an exciting flair. Narrow cobblestone streets and an abundance of small shops and restaurants invite you to explore and discover the town. The harbour is another tempting attraction with its centuries-old houses towering over the river, its Old Crane and a quaint mile of pubs right on the waterfront. The church district around the Hanseatic city of Lüneburg has numerous communities with a remarkable variety of Brick Gothic churches. These include Adendorf, Barskamp, Betzendorf, Dahlenburg, Embsen, Lüdersburg, Neetze, Radegast, Scharnebeck and Thomasburg.
Jüterbog is a historic town in the Fläming region, about 60 km south of Berlin. It was once a major scene of the Reformation, as it was here that Dominican friar Johann Tetzel preached and sold indulgences, thereby enraging Luther in Wittenberg, not far away. Jüterbog also has an important past as a medieval metropolis and trading centre; today this is reflected in its preserved medieval buildings. At that time Jüterbog belonged to the Erzstift Magdeburg, the secular dominion of the archbishopric of Magdeburg. Architecture and art reveal changing Magdeburg, Brandenburg and Saxon influences. The access roads to the old town of Jüterbog are still marked by the towers of the three town gates. Defensive Zwinger walls connected them with outer gates, which have been preserved at the Neumarkt and Dammtor.
Pütt, as Parchim is affectionately called in Low German, is situated in the hilly setting of a terminal moraine, halfway between the German conurbations of Hamburg and Berlin and at equal distance from the Mecklenburg Baltic coast. The surrounding area, rich in forests, rivers and lakes, has the highest Douglas firs in Europe, numerous wetlands and a well-developed tourist infrastructure, offering a wide range of activities on land, water and in the air.
Neukloster, which was largely spared by the Second World War, is a town rich in history and medieval buildings. 800 years ago Cistercian nuns found a place in the sun here and called this Campus Solis – Sonnenkamp. From 1648 to 1803, the tranquil Neukloster belonged to the Kingdom of Sweden, as did Wismar. From the 1860s onwards, the town gained supra-regional importance through its grand ducal teacher training college and the state institute for the blind. Today Neukloster is a modern small town with a school centre.
Güstrow, formerly a ducal residence, takes its honorific name from expressionist sculptor Ernst Barlach. The town is famous for its magnificent buildings spanning six centuries, its artists and the largest collection of nativity scenes in Northern Germany. Güstrow Palace is particularly striking: one of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in Northern Europe, it dominates the town’s silhouette with its brick cathedral and parish church. Three museums keep the most extensive collection of works by Ernst Barlach. The game park and the Inselsee lake offer exciting outdoor experiences. One of Güstrow’s most impressive buildings is its Renaissance palace. It contains one of the most important medieval collections in Northern Germany, the “Mittelaltersammlung Schloss Güstrow“ with works from the brick churches and monasteries of the region. The collection includes altars (such as the Neustadt altar), sculptures, church furniture, altar utensils and reliquaries and is notable for its individual works of art of outstanding art-historical significance as well as its regional coherence.
This small and idyllic port metropolis in the north of Schleswig-Holstein certainly lives up to its reputation. You can sense Fensburg’s Scandinavian flair everywhere you go, throughout the cosy alleys of the old town, in the historic merchants’ yards, and along the harbour. This truly is a town of two cultures. The history of Flensburg is firmly anchored with the history of its Danish neighbours. You can still see the traces of the past in Germany’s rum town today if you follow the rum and sugar mile or visit one of the two rum houses.
The historical heart of Schwerin is on an idyllic island in the middle of Lake Schwerin, which already had an important Slavic settlement in the 10th century. The majestic palace that stands there today, surrounded by water and enchanting gardens, reflects the eventful history of the old ducal residence. Its golden towers dominate the historic cityscape together with the cathedral, the baroque Schelf Church and the neo-gothic St. Paul’s Church. The old town is characterised by its magnificent classicist buildings and impressive half-timbered houses. On the Alter Garten square you will find the State Museum with its outstanding medieval collections and the theatre. The tower of the mighty brick cathedral offers a fantastic view over the large expanse of water of Lake Schwerin set in a charming landscape.
Neubrandenburg is situated in an idyllic landscape directly by a lake, the Tollensesee. The third largest city in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the economic and cultural centre of the Mecklenburg Lake District region. The town centre’s historical layout, its medieval fortifications with integrated watch houses (the magnificent “Wiekhäuser”) and Gothic town gates give Neubrandenburg its special charm and attraction, making it a perfect place to visit.