Kempten's city hall is a medieval building from the 15th century, though with some changes and refurbishments in the renaissance era and also in later centuries. The coat of arms with the double-headed eagle, vertically divided in black and silver, indicates Kempten's status as free imperial city. The small tower with the onion-shaped roof has a cute weathervane in the shape of a knight blowing a trumpet and holding a long sword (photo 3).
The fountain in the middle of the square has a bronze column from the time around 1600 (now a copy).
The square seems to be the town's living room. Several Cafes and restaurants have outdoor seating. The buildings around the square, some original baroque, others rebuilt after World War II, are all painted in white or pastel colours, which gives the square a light and friendly atmosphere.
In the archeological parc in Kempten you can visit three different location, which are located close to eachother. Two you have to pay for (roman bath and temple district) and one is for free (forum foundations).
On the large grass area closeby the roman bath you will find the foundations of the former roman town Cambodunum, the roots of modern Kempten. A plattform allows you to have a better overview over the area and also shows you a model of this building compound. You willnotice how much has been distroyed also when the adjacent living quarters were built.
I like this area especially in summer as it is very quiet and invites to have a rest with an ice-cream from the italian ice-cream bar closeby.
The most stunning historical art in Kempten you will find in the Rooms of State in the Residence Building of the former monastery. An amazing decoration of the walls and ceilings with paintings and stucco shows the claim of power of the former benedectine monastery. I have visited the rooms already several times and still feel how special the place is when going through.
The guided tour (only guided) normally is in German, but if there are not many people I am sure they also will explain in English. You will learn a lot about the history of Kempten and of course of the monastery. Even if the tour is not in English, I recommend to visit it!
April to September:
daily except Monday
9.00 - 15.45 every 45 Minutes
daily except Monday
10.00 - 16.00 every 45 Minutes
November to March:
10.00 - 16.00 every 45 Minutes
during days of christmas market daily,
12.15 - 16.00 every 45 Minutes
Residence, Entrance on westside
about 1 hour
3,50 € per person (entrance and obligatory guided tour)
The Burghalde is a motte in the south of the old town that used to be surrounded by the Iller river. There once was a late Roman fort and in the medieval times a castle. Today there’s only a tower left from these times. The Wächterhaus (guard’s house) nearby is newer, it dates from the late 19th century. Inside that guard’s house you’ll find the Allgäu castle museum (Allgäuer Burgenmuseum, open on week-ends only) with exhibitions about the history of the castles in that region.
Also there’s a little herb garden, with description of each of the herbs. You better don’t touch them as there are also poisonous plants and those that cause skin irritation!
Besides, there’s an open-air theatre, and you have a nice view on the mountains from there!
Cambodunum, that’s the old name of the Roman town at the place where you now find Kempten. This Roman town developed mainly from the 2nd century AD, but there had been a Celtic and Roman settlement already before. That makes Kempten one of the oldest towns of Germany.
Today you can find remainders of this old settlement in the “Archäologischer Park Cambodunum”, also called APC. One of its sights is the Kleine Therme/ Small Thermae. This first was a private bath for the Roman governor, his staff and his guests, and later was restructured to also offer public latrines. There’s not too much left, just the ruins of walls and floors, but there are very good descriptions of what you are seeing. It isn’t large, although there were quite a lot of rooms - changing room, heating rooms, sweating bath, latrine and several bathing rooms. It’s impressive if you recall that this was built 2000 years ago and what they already could do at that time!
The place is roofed and has glass walls, and is also accessible for wheelchairs.
There’s another place nearby that you can visit, the Gallo-römischer Tempelbezirk. This is the area where used to be several temples, dating from the first and second century. Some of the temples were partly reconstructed and rebuild.
Besides, there used to a “Forum”, which was town hall, church and market square in one, surrounded by public buildings. You only can see the foundations of it, and there’s a model of how it may have looked in the first century.
Admission (“Kleine Thermen” plus temple area): 3 € adults, 1,50 € children. We got a reduced ticket as we only visited the thermae. The “Forum” is free.
The “Erasmus Kapelle” is a chapel below the St Mang square – or rather what is left of it. It has a long history, with first being a bone house under the cemetery chapel in the 13th century. There was a double church, with the basement being dedicated to St. Erasmus and the upper church being dedicated to St. Michael. Later, the chapel then went into possession of the town and was used as place for linen quality checks with the basement being a kind of drinking parlour. In 1857 then the building was destroyed and the basement was filled with all the stones. In 2008, the square was redesigned and they found the remainders of this chapel and as there still was much left they decided to open this place for visits.
When you visit this place you can see the remainders of the vaults, windows and wall paintings. They also found many bones and buried them next to the chapel, and you can see skulls through a hole. There’s also a showcase with some of the findings, and some kind of interactive panel which gives you quite a lot of information about these pieces. Especially the paternoster rings were interesting as I’ve never seen such things before; they are made of bones and it’s an early version of a rosary.
You’ll also watch a film down in the chapel that takes about 10 minutes and which was projected on three of the walls, showing things of interest on the wall. This was interesting but also a bit difficult to follow as it was so fast!
You only can visit the chapel with a guide who will give you some explanations on the history of that chapel. There’s a maximum number of visitors (I think it’s 30), as it’s not a large place!
Admission: 2,50 € adults. Combination ticket Residence & Erasmus chapel 4 € (adults).
The St Mang square is named after Saint Magnus of Füssen who lived in the 8th century. I must admit that I’ve never heard of him before, but he seems to be well-known in that region and is also called “Apostle of the Allgäu”. So it’s so no surprise that there’s also a St Mang church in Kempten, which is at that square. Besides there’s a fountain from 1905 in one corner that shows St Magnus.
The square is pretty large and was redesigned some years ago. When they did so, they found the remainders of the Erasmus chapel (see other tip).
Near the residence, you may notice a 4m high mill wheel. The quarter around was reconstructed in 2010, and as part of this, they build that mill wheel. A rivulet (the “Mühlbach”, i.e. millstream) flows down the street, and I felt like in Freiburg where such rivulets at the streets are pretty normal. That rivulet here is following the course that the earlier rivulet did take hundreds of years ago.
The Court Garden (Hofgarten) is found just behind the residence and is laid out in three terraces. It’s a nice place to relax and when were there, several people were sitting on the lawn, enjoying the sunny weather.
At the northern end of the gardens is the Orangery which was built in 1780 as greenery. Today it’s hosting the town’s library.
The St Lorenz basilica is a nice bright church next to the residence. Like the residence, it was built after the Thirty Years' War, i.e. in the second half of the 17th century. It’s more or less two churches in one: there’s a basilica-style nave for the parish, and an octagonal choir for the monastery. Since the Benedictine monastery was closed in 1803, the basilica is only a parish church.
The “Residenz” is a former Benedictine monastery. It was founded 752, then destroyed during the Thirty Years' War and was rebuilt afterwards by the Duke-Abbot. Nowadays most of the building is used by the court, but you can visit the Rooms of State with a guided tour. The rooms are very pompous, with interesting paintings - where sometimes a leg or arm comes out of the picture. Our guide was very good and gave us lots of explanations about the details of the paintings. The tour took about 1 hour which was just perfect to get a good impression of the rooms.
Admission: 3,50 € adults, 2,50 € reduced. Combination ticket Residence & Erasmus chapel 4 € (adults).
There’s a clock at the entrance near the ticket counter that shows when next guided tour starts, but note that the ticket counter only opens just in time for the start of the tour. So if you’re there 10 minutes earlier don’t be surprised that nobody is there, just wait!
Kempten has a very nice town hall. It was build 1474, replacing an earlier half-timbered house. On the front which is facing the square, you can see the weapons of the patrician families, and on the southern front there’s a fresco of “Heinrich von Kempten”, who (as of a legend) once did rescue the emperor. I must add that Heinrich has been naked, as he just had been in a tub when he realized the emperor was attacked – so don’t wonder why there’s a naked man on the town hall facade!
In the front of the town hall is a fountain with a replica of the original fountain from 1601. There are also other nice and old houses at that square, like the Londoner Hof (1764) with its rococo front. And of course you here find several cafés!
The construction of the Basilica in Kempten was started in 1652 as the first large construction of a church in Southern Germany after the Thirty Years' War. Master builder were Michael Beer and Johann Serro. Inside you will find a very rich decorated interior. On the webpage of the church community you can download a guide for the Basilica. I have linked the English version as pdf here.
A quite newly opened site (Sept. 2010) in Kempten is the Erasmus Chapel located beside the Stankt Mang Church in the lower town. Walking around there you will at first not notice the presence of the chapel, as there is no structure above ground, except a modern glass covered staircase leading down under the Sankt Mang Square. The chapel is the remain of a double church that existed here and went through drastic changes.
Already in the 7th century people were buried here at the site beside the Sankt Mang Church in graves. At that time the river Iller was flowing much wider on both sides of the hill now known as Burghalde. To gain land for settlement the river was relocated to the side where it is flowing nowadays. In the 13th century the cemetary was extended and for it the bone chapel St. Michael was built. It had an upper and a lower part. While in the upper part the services were hold, in the lower part bones were placed from the cemetary to keep space left for new graves. After a fire in the 14th century the bone chapel was rebuilt and devoted to the St. Erasmus. As a result of the reformation, in 1557 the upper church was changed to a place where textile was controlled (Kempten had a strong textile industry) and the lower part reconstructed to a wine bar. In 1857 the building was close to a ruin and the city decided to break it down. The debris was dumped in the lower chapel what protected it until it was rediscovered.
To visit the Erasmus Chapel you need to buy a ticket at the St. Mang church just opposite of the square. You will learn much about the history of this place with a great multimedia show projected on the original walls of the chapel!
Opening times (only guided tours):
16. March – 23. December:
Start of tour daily except Wednesday 11.00 to 17.00 Uhr at the full hour.
24., 25., 31. December und 1. January closed
7. January – 15. March: only Saturday, Sunday, Monday
Adults: 2,50 Euro
Children from 10 years, Students: 1,00 Euro
Here's my journal entry for the Basilica: "It is an imposing church with magnificent baroque decoration. Above the altar is a multistoried dome/cupola that is open, airy and graceful. In the choir are four sets of carved wooden choir stalls and many have panels that are pictures of various early scenes. These are by Scagliola. As I was admiring them, a middle-aged gentleman said something to me in German. I explained I didn’t speak German and he walked on only to reappear momentarily and say in English, “A magnificent church, yes?” I agreed with him in my poor German and he smiled and went on his way."
There were flowers on the pews that must have been from a wedding the previous day. The effect was lovely.