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A Walkabout through the Old Town of Constance

Constance is a town of great historical relevance - A walk through town is an encounter with many traces of past centuries of prosperity

Constance is a town of great historical relevance. For the most part it wasn’t affected by the wars of the last century and was to be of historical significance throughout a certain period of time. From the 6th century until the year 1827, Constance was the bishop’s see of the largest German diocese. Located at the intersection of main routes of commerce between Italy, France and Eastern Europe, the city became an important emporium for the trade with fur, linen and spices from the 10th to the 14th century. In the 15th century, a four-year long council took place in Constance that attracted 72.000 visitors, among them 3000 prostitutes. A walk through town is an encounter with many traces of past centuries of prosperity.


Our walkabout starts at the marina equipped with the Lake Constance Magazine and a city map. At the entrance of the harbour, Imperia, a nine-meter high statue created in 1993 stands self-confident and openhearted. The notorious beauty made of stone was built by sculptor Peter Lenk and has become the town’s landmark. A historic character, a prostitute who was also a literary figure in Honoré de Balzac’s short stories, inspired the voluptuous figure. Two small naked male figures are sitting on the palms of her hands, each of them holding the regalia of secular and clerical power.


The council building is nearby. Built in 1388 it was used as granary and warehouse. Throughout the church congregation of 1414–1418 it was the place where Pope Martin V was elected. Today it is mainly used for parties and conferences. At the small harbour a monument reminds of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the inventor of the zeppelin who was born in Constance in 1838. The city park stretches out from the council to the Rhine River. Many benches by the shore of this green oasis are inviting to rest and to enjoy the view onto Lake Constance.

On the opposite shore some of the most beautiful Art Nouveau architecture of southern Germany can be admired. To the left we can see the former Jesuit Church and the town theatre. The old Jesuit School built in 1610 was already used as theatre in the 17th century. Because of this ancient tradition, the theatre in Constance counts among the oldest stages in German-speaking regions. On a small idyllic island to the right stands the former Dominican Monastery that was built in 1235. It was the domain of the Dominican monk Suso. Today the building houses the Steigenberger Inselhotel. The Constance Wine Cellars are nearby. On every first and third Thursday of the month you can participate in a public wine tasting.


After crossing the railroads, Brückengasse will lead you into the oldest part of town: Niederburg. Its mediaeval lanes and beautifully renovated town houses of the 13th and 16th century are a reminiscence of the rich history of this town. The 76 meter high cathedral tower shows the way to the Münster Unserer Lieben Frau. Its mix of different architectural styles is a real challenge to one’s knowledge of history of art. The threenave pillared basilica from early romanticism, which was built between 1052 and 1089, is the core piece of the cathedral. Throughout the years the cathedral was artfully equipped. In 1435, the side naves were vaulted, followed by the middle nave in 1680. In the baroque era, the middle choir was plastered and gilded. In 1856, the Gothic tower pyramid was installed. Archaeologists have made a spectacular discovery underneath the cathedral square. They found the remains of a Roman fort from the 4th century, an evidence of the town’s significance in the late antiquity. A special building is situated at the corner of St. Johanngasse and Münsterplatz: the Haus zur Kunkel. It is decorated by early Gothic frescoes from before 1316.


From the cathedral square you can take a walk to the so-called "Laube", a circular road that separates the Old Town to the west. Here, Peter Lenk has built yet another curiosity. Triumph of Satire is the title of his fountain sculpture consisting of more than 30 comical figures and several water basins.


Wessenbergstrasse leads back into the pedastrian zone. The street is named after Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenberg, the last Bishop’s trustee of Constance. We now arrive at Stephanskirche, a church of Romanesque origin. It was amplified in late Gothic style in the years 1424-86 and later on decorated with rococo elements. The glass paintings on the round arched windows and the mural and ceiling paintings are particularly fascinating. The relief by Johannes Grützke on the outside wall of the citizen hall Bürgersaal illustrates a historically important event: In 1848, the revolutionary Friedrich Hecker from Baden proclaimed the first German Republic from Stephansplatz – unfortunately in vain. Next we come to ãObermarktÓ, one of the most important squares at the times of the imperial town of Constance. In the Middle Ages it used to be the place for executions and community affairs. The Haus zum Kremlin, Hotel Barbarossa today, reminds us of the peace treaty Frieden von Konstanz of 1183, effected thanks to the Emperor Friedrich I. (Barbarossa). The facade paintings from 1900 on the neighbouring building, the late Gothic Haus zum Hohen Hafen relate to the soccage of burggrave Friedrich von Nürnberg with Mark Brandenburg. The late renaissance house Malhaus from the 13th century has magnificent bay windows. It has been used as pharmacy since the 14th century. Kanzleistrasse takes us to the town hall, the former weavers guild house. Its facade paintings are telling stories of historic events in the city. The picturesque courtyard is a romantic setting for weddings and concerts. Hussenstrasse, which begins right around the corner, is named after Jan Hus, the Bohemian reformer. At the end of the street you will find a small timbered house from the 15th/16th century, the Jan-Hus-Museum. Next to the Pulverturm and Rheintor it is the only remaining building of the medieval town fortification.


The fountain on Marktstätte, originally called Market by the Shore, with its water spouting Seehasen and eight-legged horse is a great attraction for children and symbolizes in an ironic way the past of Constance. A peacock with several heads stands for a proud church led to the initial question of the council. Many coffee shops and ice cream parlours are inviting for a quick refreshment. The tour of Constance continues through Zollernstrasse to the mediaeval facade paintings on the Hohe Haus and onto the tower Zum Goldenen Löwen in Hohenhausgasse. A stroll through Rosgartenstrasse is strongly recommended. Since 1870, the Rosgarten Museum is located in the Haus zum Rosgarten, which used to be the butcher’s guild house. The museum shows prehistoric and early objects, precious pieces of mediaeval art, and items of everyday life until the 20th century. A main focus is put on the history of the formerimperial and diocesan town of Constance. Across the street, in Haus zum Wolf one can admire the only complete and beautiful rococo facade in Constance. Inside the building is the fascinating jewellery showroom of the Zobel Studio. A few meters from here we arrive at Trinity Church (Dreifaltigkeitskirche). Decorated by frescos it represents the last visible trace of the innercity Augustinian monastery founded in 1268. Whatever road you take, there is a lot to discover. Discovering Constance on your own doesn’t mean that you might get lost – but you might loose your he

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