The stone bridge that spans the river was built between 1135 and 1146. At the time it opened up international trade and put Regensburg on the map as part of the trade routes between Venice and northern Europe especially since it was the only bridge across the Danube between Ulm and Vienna. The bridge is part of the medieval city that encompasses the UNESCO World Heritage Site for Regensburg.
When we were there the bridge was undergoing some renovations on the opposite end of the bridge but was still open to bike and foot traffic. The bridge is long spanning 310 meters (1,017 feet) and was built with 16 arches. From the bridge one can get beautiful views of the city with the cathedral, although the large building beside the bridge is an old salt storage building.
Historically, the knights traveling to the 2nd and 3rd crusades crossed over this stone bridge (much of it still intact) on their way to fight for the Holy Land.
Of note is the small sausage kitchen near the old city end of the bridge. This historic Wurstkuche dates back to the building of the bridge and was where the workers could buy their lunch. Today it still sells sausages to hungry travelers and is considered the world’s oldest fast food restaurant.
The Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) has a rich history because of it being where the Perpetual Imperial Diet (Assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire met from 1663 to 1806 effectively making Regensburg the center of the empire and an attraction for tourists from centuries ago. A visit to the assembly hall on the second floor of the building is described as something worthy of a visit; unfortunately, it can only be seen on a guided tour and we did not have one that day so we were forced to admire the building from the exterior. Our city guide, a local friend of a friend discussed its history and architecture with us from the square beside the town hall.
The building itself dates back to the 13th century and includes three actual parts – the tower, the Imperial Assembly Hall, and the Town Hall. There is also an area in the cellar where prisoners were questioned, some more roughly than our modern day standards allow and so there is a torture chamber as well.
Several well known phrases originated in the Imperial Assembly Hall, such as “putting something on the long bench,” which means to delay work on something – the long benches on the sides of the assembly hall were where people of less importance sat.
With the Imperial Diet meeting in Regensburg, it would make sense that the Holy Roman Emperor would visit the city on a regular basis. HRE Charles V stayed in Regensburg on several occasions and fell in love with local girl Barbara Blomberg. The (illegimate) fruit of their relationship was a son, Don Juan of Austria, brother to Spain’s King Philip II.
Don Juan (John) was born in Regensburg on February 24, 1547, and was a military leader. He is best known for his victory at the Battle of Lapanto (near Greece) in 1571.
The building (one of the tall towers of Regensburg) where Charles V met Barbara Blomberg stands in the marketplace. There is a bust of Don Juan as well as some details about his parentage on the side of the building.
Just down the street and around the corner is a statue of Don Juan of Austria. On the sides of the statue are maps of the naval Battle of Lapanto.
We went inside St. Oswald’s Church near the river at first simply because it was such a hot day and we knew the inside of the church would be a pleasant respite from the heat. However, once inside we were impressed with the Baroque interior (the exterior is not that pleasing), especially the stucco work on the ceiling.
St. Oswald’s Church was founded in the late 1200s along with the hospital next door. During the Reformation the church switched to a Protestant worship which still continues today, although for a time in the 1600s the church doubled as a Dominican church.
A renovation in the early 1600s enlarged the church and the interior was updated to a Baroque look in the 18th century. The organ dates back to 1750 and goes with the interior. There are two upper galleries on either side of the nave along with the private ‘boxes’ for wealthy families and patrons of the church. The large high altar is from the early 1700s and was created by local artists Johann Wolfgang Linke and Balthasar Hueber.
One of the nice things about this church was that there was a staff member on hand specifically to talk to visitors about the church, its architecture, history, and artworks. She spoke English and German (not sure about other languages) and was more than willing to answer all our questions.
One thing I was not expecting to find in Regensburg is the Italian architecture dating back to the 1200s. Similar to the towers I saw in Tuscany, Regensburg was at one time the home to many Italian merchants who built up high for defensive purposes (merchants were wealthy).
There are several towers still maintained and utilized today. Some have Italian looking sculptures on them, but many are just towers jutting up to the sky with wonderful windows and balconies. I found several on the road Watmarkt – an especially beautiful one, the orange Baumburger Turm from 1260, can be seen on the corner of Watmarkt near Goliathstrasse.
Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who helped 1,200 Jewish people during the Holocaust by providing them with employment in his factories, lived in Regensburg after World War II prior to his emigration to Argentina. He was the subject of a Steven Spielberg film entitled “Schindler’s List” which was based on the Thomas Keneally novel entitled “Schindler’s Ark.”
The house were Schindler lived is located on Watmarkt 5 not far from the cathedral and is marked with a sign. It is not open for visiting, although there is a shop nearby that is open to the public.
Standing near the old stone bridge by the Danube River where it has stood since the 12th century is the Historische Wurstküche (Historic Sausage Kitchen). It is said that this is the oldest sausage kitchen in the world. It has been serving up sausages in rolls for centuries, beginning with the workers who built that magnificent stone bridge nearby.
The little building serving up the snacks is interesting for not only its history, but for its high water markers on the side, a visual representation of how this kitchen has had to rebuild through the years. We were there in July 2013 and the building had already updated its markers to reflect the serious flooding just a month prior to our visit – while the marker wasn’t over my head, had I been in the water, I would be struggling for sure. The water would have created significant damage to the kitchen, but given that they have been in existence since the 1100s, my guess is they are used to cleaning up and rebuilding when needed.
Should you decide to try one of these popular sausages on a roll, there is open seating along the river for a beautiful view on a nice day. We did not eat here since we had just had lunch and were planning a large dinner with a group later on (plus, living in Germany, we’ve had the sausage roll combination many times – one of our favorites!).
Regensburg dates back to the Bronze Age where settlers lived near the river. Later the Romans would build a fort here around 90 AD which was named Castra Regina, which means ‘ the fortress by the Regen river’ (and thus the name of the town grew to be Regensburg). This important Roman fort was built during Marcus Aurelius’ reign.
The Roman fort was in the area of the current old city of Regensburg. There are a few remaining traces of the Roman era to be seen. I found the Porta Praetoria, one of the old gates of the military fort from 179 AD, to be most interesting. It is located on Unter den Schwibböggen, easily spotted by the very large stones that make up the archway to the staircase behind it. You can also get to this staircase from the inner courtyard of the Bischofshof am Dom Hotel and Restaurant. Nearby stand the remains of part of the east tower from the fort, seen on the exterior corner of the building.
In the center of the courtyard of the Bischofshof am Dom Hotel and Restaurant is a neat fountain with a statue that is a visual representation for the Biblical idiom “beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing,” a fitting statue for the home of the church bishop. Looking from the front one sees the happy cleric with his flock of geese; however, walk to the back side and you see a wolf lurking from beneath the cleric’s robes gobbling up the geese.
The statue is easy to find in the courtyard, although on a busy day with beautiful weather it may be difficult to get to since it stands in the center of the restaurant’s beer garden. I assume that in the winter months it would be much easier to access since the tables would not be all around the area.
The very Romanesque Jakobskirche (St. James’s Church) is interesting to look go inside for a look. What a contrast to the very Gothic cathedral in the center of town. The interior of this church built in the 1100s has the requisite thick walls (especially seen in the windows on the west wall).
There are some very nice mosaics in the apse as well as some carved figures in the walls; I especially like the figure beside the door (seen as you leave the church through the Scottish portal). As fitting a Romanesque church, the building appears dark, short, and heavy. But it is very nice indeed and well worth a visit to see both the interior and the Scottish portal. The capitals at the top of the pillars through the nave are very nice indeed, each one different in its carvings. There is an interesting crucifixion scene above the archway leading to the apse. To get the best views of the apse, walk along the aisle on the left of the choir where there is an opening in the wall for viewing.
The St. James’s Scottish Church (Jacobskirche) caught our attention as soon as we walked past it – and we didn’t know about it ahead of time. First of all, the side portal of the church is enclosed in a large clear box (big enough for a group of people to stand inside). I made a note to follow up on the purpose and later found me answer.
The church was built in 1180 and the portal, named the Scots Gate, or Schottenportal, dates back to that time period. The church was a former Benedictine monastery from the Scots with the abbey attached to the church on the side opposite the gate. This Romanesque building has the north facing portal that has some of the more interesting carvings on it. Given the heritage of the monks at the abbey (Scottish), many of the figures appear to have a mystical concept, although one can make out various possible stories as well.
The clear covering is to protect the portal from the elements. One can clearly see where the centuries of rain, snow and pollution have taken their toll on the decorations. The portal is lit at night and it quite beautiful. It is well worth a little walk from the city center to visit this portal.
Going inside the cathedral was doubly appreciated on the very hot day we visited Regensburg – not only could I appreciate the artwork but I definitely appreciated the coolness of the building which cooled us off from the heat.
The nave was typical of many Gothic cathedrals across Europe, although I was struck by the beauty of the stained glass windows, which date back to the original building of the cathedral (sadly all my window photos were blurry).
I had read about the statues on the two pillars closest to the high altar at the end of the nave (about where seating would stop for those attending services). Mary is on one pillar and seems to be acknowledging the other statue, the angel Gabriel who seems to be laughing in response, while also pointing to the book in her other hand. These statues also date back to the original building.
The high altar is an exquisite one in shiny silver. It was built by artisans from Augsburg in the early 1700s. There are also five Gothic altars in the cathedral, including one that was just added in 2004.
One of the favorite things about the cathedral is its boys choir, the Regensburger Domspatzen – the “cathedral sparrows” – who are the cathedral’s liturgical choir. A former choir director, Georg Ratzinger, was the brother of Pope Benedict XVI.
In the center of Regenburg’s old city and the UNESCO World Heritage area stands the magnificent Gothic cathedral, St. Peter’s. This cathedral with its two spires has a magnificent façade featuring a unique triangular central portal on the west entrance and many carvings.
The cathedral was built between 1260 and 1520 over the former church site dating back to 700s with the two spires (105 meters high) being added in the 1800s by order of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
I was especially impressed by the steps on the western façade – clearly they have been well used for they are worn and some have had to be replaced. I wonder how many have walked up those steps in the last 600-800 years?
The Jacob Gate (Jakobstor) is the western gate of Regensburg’s old town and the one through which we entered and departed. Dating back to the 1200s, the gate used to be one of four gates in the medieval wall. The only part left today of Jakobstor are the two round towers on either side of the street, making it easy for cars to drive through; the towers have pathways through the bottom of them for pedestrians. The Jakobstor is part of the western edge of the UNESCO World Heritage area for Regensburg.
We were sitting outdoors enjoying a coffee when we saw the bride arrive. Instantaly caught my wife's attention and the other ladies sitting nearby.
What I liked best was the balloons, especially when they were let go and went past the Dom, being able to capture them on my camera was my highlight of the wedding.