The Residenz was a Benedictine monastery founded in the 8th century and developed into the Residence of the Duke Abbots of Kempten until 1803. This baroque building with double courtyards includes the “Fürstensaal” (Hall of the Dukes) with its austere stuccowork and the “Prunkräume” (Rooms of State) with gorgeous Rococo decoration which is unique in this part of the country.
April to September: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
October to March: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Adults: 3.50 EUR
Erasmus chapel is an almost mystic underground place. You won't see it if you don't know where it is. All that's visible in the square is a modern entrance to a stairway which looks as if it leads to an underground parking garage. Signs indicate what it really is.
Once upon a time St.-Mang-Platz was a cemetery with a funeral chapel, a two-storey chapel, the basement of which also served as ossuary. The upper part was demolished, the ground level of the churchyard rose and the lower part was filled with soil and disappeared underground. Only recently it has been rediscovered and excavated. Since 2010 the chapel has been accessible for visitors with guided tours.
The old walls have traces of architecture, inscriptions, fragments of frescoes. A couple of showcases display archeological finds. These are first explained by the guide. The most impressive part of the visit is the multivision show which is projected onto the old walls, showing the history, shape and use of the chapel and some aspects of Kempten's history.
The back room of the chapel still has the function of an ossuary: skulls and other bones which were found during the excavations were buried in there. You can peep in through some openings in the wall (photot 2).
March 16 - Jan 6 daily except Wednesday 11.00-17.00
Jan 7 - March 17: Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11.00-17.00
Tour and multivision show start at the full hour. If the guide is not waiting at the entrance, try inside the church of St Mang.
Admission fee: adults 2.50 €, kids and studennts 1.00 €. Guided tours take max. 30 persons. Tickets can be reserved in advance but under usual circumstances prebooking does not seem necessary unless you are with a large party.
The fountain in St.-Mang-Platz is an art nouveau work, created by the sculptor Georg Wrba in 1905. The central sculpture under the canopy is St Magnus of Füssen, the "Apostle of the Allgäu". Wrba shows him as a young man clad in a short tunic, holding up a cross. The vaults of the canopy bear the coats of arms of Bavaria, Augsburg, Kempten and the Holy Roman Empire, around them plant ornaments and native animals from the Bavarian forests.
Four bronze animal figures with riders are placed around the basin: a stag, a doe, an ibex and a unicorn. They are ridden by naked little boys. Look at their feet: Only one has human feet, the others birds' clawa, hooves or fins. They represent the four elements.
Being a capricorn, I am most impressed by the figure of the ibex!
St Mang square is, after Rathausplatz, the second large square in the lower town. The large gothic church of St Mang (= Magnus) is the parish church of the imperial city. In 1525 the magistrate introduced the reformation in the imperial city, since then the church has been protestant.
In the middle ages the square served as churchyard. Through the centuries a lot of material has accumulated; the ground level is a lot higher than it used to be. During recent excavations the old funeral chapel has been rediscovered undergound and reopened for visitors (see separate tip about Erasmuskapelle).
The square has recently been redesigned. The trees are still rather young and small and will hopefully grow. On a hot summer's day like this one would wish for a bench in the shade.
The former court gardens behind Residenz are a public park. The upper terrace has some flower beds and trees and lawns. The lower part is directed at the Orangerie building, erected around 1780. Instead of flower pots the Orangerie nowadays hosts books: It is the seat of the city library. Benches are there but not many, I would have appreaciated a couple more, if possible in the shade of trees.
Two gate towers along what used to be the Southern edge of the town have been preserved. They have no function as gates any more, there is a main road past them. Only pedestrians walk through the arched passages.
Waisentor ("orphanage gate" - I can only assume that there used to be an orphanage nearby or even in the adjacent building) looks a bit lost in the corner of the wide and busy street crossing of Freudenberg and Freudental.
A short walk downhill towards the river there is the second gate tower, Illertor. It once protected the entrance from the Iller bridge into the town.
The Alps begin about half an hour South of Kempten. On clear days you can spot the mountain chain from elevated viewpoints within the town - the best is probably the one on Burghalde behind the open-air theatre. A good zoom is useful to have...
An information board up there depicts the scenery and provides the names of the mountain peaks and directions to
A short steep climb takes you to the top of Burghalde, the castle hill. In the middle ages the castle was the starting point of the settlement. In those times this hill used to be an island, surrounded by two branches of the river. The castle was demolished in 1705, apart from the keep little is left of it. The present, romantic-looking castle is a 19th century building. The shed on the opposite side of the front yard protects the old baking oven (photo 3).
The castle contains a rather new museum about castles in the Allgäu region (which was already closed when we came late in the afternoon). A funny detail is the picture of Sir Mouse and his Donkey in the window by the modern museum entrance (photo 4).
The Southern part of the hilltop hosts an open-air theater where occasional performances take place in summer.
A guided tour of the Residenz will take you through the state apartment of the Prince Abbot. There is no monastic simplicity, the abbot resides and represents like, and as, a worldly prince. Paintings and stucco deal with some religious and many worldly topics.
Decorating and furnishing the rooms took ten years from 1732 to 1742. The result is a synthesis of the arts in all splendour the baroque era was capable of. Painted frescoes and three-dimensional stucco are combined and sometimes it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends - see the hunting party with the stag in photo 3.
Please refer to the website of the Bavarian Palace Administration for up to date information about opening hours, admission fees and guided tours.
The Benedictine abbey of Kempten had the status of an imperial abbey and their abbot that of a prince. The prince abbot had the worldly rule over a medium-sized territory. After more or less total destruction in the 30 Years War both the church and the convent building and abbot's residence were rebuilt from scratch right after. Works on both construction sites began in 1652. Completion of the interiors took until the 1740s.
The so-called Residenz reflects the princely status of the abbot, its dimensions are those of a large palace. It consists of four wings around a wide rectangular courtyard. Small towers emphasize the corners. In the West it is directly connected to the choir of the abbey church.
Most of the building is now occupied by the distict law court. The parade rooms of the abbot can be visited with guided tours (see separate tip).
The art works inside the Basilica of St Lorenz that impressed me most are the scagliola pictures of the choir stalls. The stalls are placed around the intersection under the dome. Each seat is ornated with a colourful picture on the back wall. They show landscape scenes, buildings, ruins as taken from baroque paintings. All of them are different. Have a close look at them: The scenes are full of details, like birds in the air, waterfowl on a lake, leaves on a tree or the two little monks walking on a forest trail (photo 3). They are elaborate masterpieces in the technique of scagliola (stucco) inlays.
The church of the Benedictine abbey is Kempten's main catholic church. After the destruction of the medieval precedessor in the 30 Years War, construction works started in 1652. It is one of the first large churches in early baroque style that were built in Southern Germany after the long decades of the war. The architects Michael Beer and Johann Serro were master builders from Graubünden. The church was not entirely completed, though: the spires are neobaroque additions from around 1900 (but they befit the church well).
The baroque interior is light and white and full of art works. Entering through the many portal in the West you will see just the nave and the high altar in the distant background. Walk further in, round the transepts and choir and the intersection. Only from there the view into the dome opens up and you'll see the various perspectives of the architecture.
The excavations of the Roman baths are protected under a roof and can be visited for a small entrance fee. In the hall you can walk around the excavation site and look at it from all sides. Boards and showcases show reconstructions of the baths, explain their use and present some original pieces which were found during the excavations. To illustrate the use of the different rooms a couple of things have been placed among the excavations (photo 4).
The baths were originally built in the late 1st century as the private baths of the Praetor (governor), his court and guests. Later they became public.
March, April and November: Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 - 16:30
May to October: Tuesday - Sunday 10:00 - 17:00
December to February: closed
Entrance fee: adults 4 €, kids under 16 2 €. The ticket is also valid for the archeological park with the temples.
The excavation site at the ancient Roman Forum can be visited for free, it is a park with meadows and trees and open to the public any time. To be honest, there is not much left of the buildings. Their foundations are lined out, and there is a copy of the famous statue of Emperor Augustus.
On top of the stone structure in the middle of the meadow there is a 3D model of the forum buildings, don't miss that. Sometimes even a virtual VTer might make an appearance in there... (photo 3).
Several boards explain the history of the place and the ancient buildings. The explanations are in German only, but there are plenty of drawings and maps displayed which will give you an idea what it once looked like even if you cannot read the texts. There is also a map which shows the ground plan of the ancient town in black and the present town in green colour (photo 5).
The Iller, a side river of the Danube, divides Kempten in two. The Roman settlement was located on the high right river bank, the medieval town was however built on the left bank which remained the centre of the town. The water has the typical light turquoise-green colour and opaqueness of the rivers coming down from the Alps. A weir controls the water level and leads water to the power station where it serves to gain electricity.
A path on the right bank offers a view of the river and the lower old town with St Mang church. It is just a short walk, but photogenic. Fine night photos can be caught from the road bridge during the 'blue hour' (photos 4 and 5).