The city walk, taking in the main buildings of the town, starts at the former Freiburg Tourist Information Office on Rotteckring.
The former Tourist office building, designed by Joseph Schlippe and built between 1935 and 1936, was the first modern arcaded building in Freiburg and, as such, was an important forerunner of Schlippe's plan for reconstruction following the almost total destruction of the city centre on November 27th 1944.
Opposite, in the Colombipark, a former bastion of the fortifactions planned by Vauban after the French had taken the city in 1677, is the Colombi Palace.
The Villa, built for Countess de Zea Bermudez y Colombi in 1859-1861, was designed by G. J. Schneider in the English neo-Gothic style.
Since 1983 it has housed the Museum of Early and Pre-History.
A fine cast-iron staircase leads to an extensive, archaeological collection with exhibits from prehistoric times through the Roman era to the Middle Ages.
A small vineyard to the South of the villa is all that remains within the city of the "Glacis-Reben" (Glacis grapevines) which were planted on the ruins after the fortress was blown up in 1745.
Via Turmstrasse, past the "Carnival Fools’ Guildhall" (Zunfthaus der Narren) with its Carnival Museum and past Freiburg’s oldest Town Hall, known since 1547 as the Gerichtslaube, we come to the Rathausplatz. The on the right-hand side was made by combining several older buildings in 1557-59. The facade was originally covered with paintings. The New Town Hall was only made in 1896-1901 by converting a pair of Renaissance buildings. For a long time these served as the staff and administration buildings of the university which was founded in 1457. Subsequently they housed the Anatomical Institute and Clinic.
A carillon plays daily at noon from the small tower on the new centre wing. The north and east sides of the square are occupied by the former Franciscan Monastery and its church built about 1300. The interior, destroyed in 1944, has been restored to its original form. The fountain on the square dating from 1853 commemorates Berthold Schwarz who invented gunpowder. Among the fine historical buildings in Franziskanergasse is the Haus zum Walfisch (House of the Whale) with its splendid late Gothic doorway. Built in 1514-15 for Jakob Villinger, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Emperor Maximilian I, for two years it was the home of the scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam who had to leave Basle following the Reformation in 1529.
The Basler Hof in Kaiser-Joseph-Strasse, built in 1496 for Maximilian’s Chancellor Konrad Stürtzel, also has links with the Reformation in Basle. From 1587-1677 it was the residence in exile of the Chapter of Basle Cathedral. They redecorated it to include the patron saints of Basle on its facade. Freiburg’s main street, lined by arcades built since the war, was the central marketplace in the Middle Ages with wooden buildings known as "Lauben" down its centre. The "Große Gaß" (big lane) is bounded to the South by the Martinstor to which further storeys were added in 1901/03. The Christoffeltor to the North was torn down in 1704.
Münsterstrasse leads to the Münsterplatz with its colourful morning market. Up until 1785 the square was surrounded by a wall and in the Middle Ages it was also used as a cemetery. In 1498, a municipal granary was built on the north side of the square. This Kornhaus, also used as an abattoir, was reconstructed in 1970. A new synagogue was opened behind the City Library in 1987 to replace the one on Werthmannplatz burned down by the Nazis in 1938.
The Historisches Kaufhaus (Historic Merchants’ Hall) south of the cathedral is a symbol of the importance of trade in medieval Freiburg. The seat of the municipal market, customs and financial administration is identified as a centre of trade by its arcade hall. Built in 1520/30 its facade and oriels decorated with coats of arms and statues indicates the city’s links with the House of Habsburg. Maximilian I, his son Philipp of Burgundy and his sons, Emperor Charles V and Archduke Ferdinand I, represent the family that reigned over Freiburg for more than 400 years.
The large Baroque palace west of the Merchant’s Hall, built in 1756 as the assembly house for the Breisgau knights served as the Archbishop’s Palace from 1832 onwards and now accommodates the cathedral choir school. East of the Merchant’s Hall is the house, "zum schönen Eck", and studio of the painter, sculptor and architect, J. C. Wentzinger, which was built according to his own design in 1761. Inside is an interesting stairwell with a ceiling painted by Wentzinger himself. Since 1994, the Wentzinger house is also the location of the "Museum für Stadtgeschichte" (town history museum).
The "Alte Hauptwache" (old main police station), stands out on the east side of the square, alongside some fine houses for the cathedral canons. Today, it is the House of Baden Wine. An appreciation of the 300-year architectural history of the Cathedral can be obtained from the Kaufhaus arcades. Begun as a ducal burial place by Bertold V of Zähringen, the building became the concern of the citizens after the last of the Zähringens died in 1218. To the late-Romanesque east end were added the Gothic nave and the incomparable west tower. The desire of rich families for their own burial chapels determined the form of the late Gothic choir started in 1354. Its consecration in 1513 marked the completion of the cathedral.
The rich interior bears witness to the generosity and civic pride of local families: stained glass windows with coats of arms of patricians and guilds, the high altar by Hans Baldung Grien and, above all, the splendid furnishings of the choir chapels with their 16th century windows and fine altars and monuments. Do not miss the cycle of figures in the tower entrance based on a stylised theological programme. A climb up the tower is rewarded by the old bell cage with one of Germany’s oldest bells, the Hosanna, cast in 1258. From the platform below the fine tracery spire you can admire the artistic and technical skill of the Gothic builders and enjoy fine views of the town and its surroundings.
Leaving the Münsterplatz by its east side we pass the old workshops of the Cathedral Masons’ Guild and come into Herrenstrasse. Beside the Classical Konviktskirche (Seminary Church) stands the neo-Romanesque Administrative Office of the Archbishopric built in 1903. Past fine canon’s houses and monastery courts runs the main channel for the "Bächle", the rivulets that for centuries have flown through the streets of the Old Town. In the past they served for watering cattle and, above all, as a fire precaution. Via Münzgasse on the site of the old mint we come to Konviktstrasse, a prize-winning example of Old Town restoration. The new houses, some modern in style, some using old facades, combine to form a whole of great urban charm.
The area around Oberlinden was one of the first settled areas of the town. The deep cellars of the houses go back to Freiburg’s earliest days. Of even older origin is the street fork at the Baroque "Marienbrunnen" fountain. Here the old high road to Herdern left the trade route still called Salzstrasse after the salt from the Swabian salt towns that was transported on it. The Dukes of Zähringen incorporated this important road into their new town. Around 1200 the Schwabentor was built over it. In the 16th century this gate was decorated with a painting of a Swabian salt trader. Since 1903 the outer side has borne a painting of St. George, the town’s patron saint. Right into this century the area in front of the Schwabentor was full of smithies and inns. The "Rote Bären", Germany’s oldest inn, has a list of innkeepers going back unbroken to 1387.
Via Salzstrasse passing St. Augustine’s Church we come to the Augustinerplatz. Before turning off cast a glance at two rich Baroque facades dominating lower Salzstrasse. The Commandery of the Teutonic Knights by F. A. Bagnato on the left was built in 1768. The white facade of the Sickingen Palace built by P. M. d’Ixnard from France is slightly younger. Both buildings suffered heavy damage in 1944 and were rebuilt behind the original facades of the Sickingen Palace in 1965 and the Commandery in 1986.
The Augustinerplatz owes its name to the Monastery of the Augustinian Hermits. Built about 1300, it was given a Baroque exterior in the early 18th century and was used as the town theatre following the dissolution of the community. Since 1923 the church and monastery buildings have housed the notable collections of the Augustinermuseum which specialises in Upper Rhenish art from the Middle Ages to the Baroque.
Crossing the Augustinerplatz we come to the Schneckenvorstadt, a medieval commercial area which was the only 13th century addition to the town enclosed within the fortifications of the Baroque era. Remnants of the medieval town walls can still be seen south of the Augustinermuseum. To the left is the Insel with its sensitively restored old buildings. A small bridge by the Oil Mill crosses the commercial canal, an arm of the Dreisam channelled off for the mills, gem cutting workshops and tanneries which constituted the bulk of the trades in the medieval suburb.
Our route continues past the old Adelhauser School, since 1985 the Museum für Neue Kunst (Modern Art Museum), and along Adelhauser Strasse to the chestnut-lined square by the New Adelhauser Convent, commenced in 1687 to replace several Dominican convents in the village of Adelshausen south of Freiburg which were destroyed as a result of the 30 Years’ War and the building of the fortifications. The little church has a plain interior with fine Baroque altars and medieval statues. A few steps further on is Fischerau where the river fisherfolk used to live. It leads along the canal to the area in front of the Martinstor which is surrounded by large buildings from around 1900.
Through the Martinstor and lower Kaiser-Joseph-Strasse we come to the Bertoldsbrunnen. Since the early 19th century this has marked the main crossroads of the town. The present monument to the town founders, erected in 1965, was created by Nikolaus Röslmeir to replace the 1807 fountain which was destroyed in 1944. To the left, Bertoldstrasse leads past the Old University and the University Church, formerly the 16th/17th century Jesuit church and college, to the University Quarter. Modern buildings are grouped around Lecture Hall I, an Art Nouveau building designed by the Baden architect Hermann Billing 1909-11, and the old University Library. Within the university campus are two old cloisters. The Peterhof belonged to the Abbey of St. Peter in the Black Forest, and the Rococo building Zur lieben Hand belonged to St. Gallen.
On the "Platz der Alten Synagoge" (Old Synagogue Square) on the west side of the ring road, is the Municipal Theatre built in 1905-10 on the site of the bastion of Vauban’s fortifications. The main theatre has a seating capacity of 1,000.
Before arriving back at the Tourist Office on the Rotteckring we pass the Schwarze Kloster, a large convent complex built in 1708-10 for the black-clad Ursuline nuns. The church (Old Catholic since 1894) has a lovely interior with delicate stucco work and old furnishings. Among other things, the convent houses the "Freiburger Volkshochschule".
To the west of the historic town centre significant steps in the city’s development have been taken during recent years, creating the "railway station axis" in the Bismarckalle. It integrates the new railway station, which replaces the improvised post-war station, and, above all, the concert hall which was planned by Dietrich Bangert and formally opened in 1996. It is also worth taking a side-trip across the railway lines to Stühlinger, a part of the city lined with houses from the days of the city’s founding fathers and the Neo-Gothic Herz-Jesu-Kirche, consecrated in 1897.
Other quarters of the city close to the historic town centre are also worth seeing, for example, the Wiehre to the South, with its numerous Art Nouveau sections, the Neo-Romantic Johanneskirche and the Baroque Annakirchle located in the former centre of the village. Neuburg to the North, where the old cemetery is situated in the midst of turn of the century villas, also invites a visit. Surrounding the Baroque Michaelskapelle, between Baroque and historicism, the gravestones convey a piece of the city’s history.
The Schlossberg, which can be reached by foot in a matter of minutes from the old city, should not be neglected. In recent years parts of the mighty fortification which has lain in ruins since 1745 have been made accessible and can now be explored with the assistance of signposts and explanatory plaques. In the fall of 2002, a new lookout tower was completed at the top of the "Salzbüchsle", offering a beautiful 360° view of Freiburg and the Black Forrest.
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