Distance stone

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Distance stone is the generic term often used in monument registers for setting stones along paths and streets that indicate the distance to places. These are traffic structures that have become worth preserving due to their age and are often listed .

Whole milestone at Kleinow (Brandenburg) that has been converted to the milestone
Prussian half milestone and royal Saxon border crossing stone near Beersdorf (Saxony-Anhalt)


Distance stones can be proven since ancient times. They existed in China and the Middle East as well as in ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Its construction largely depended on the availability of suitable stones, with wooded areas naturally resorting to wood, and stones were only used where a long service life was desired, as the costs were significantly higher and a stonemason had to be commissioned with the production. This usually required a government client. In addition, every time the road was widened or the routing of individual sections changed, it was necessary to implement them, so that the stones, which often weighed tons, often only remained in use for a few decades. Today, distance stones are only set up for tourist purposes, as stone has been replaced by other materials. Most of these more recent stone settings are not listed.

Regional types

Distance stones were often set up in connection with the construction of the road. However, this is by no means true for all subgroups, but is sometimes even a distinguishing feature between them. They can be found primarily in the road area, but also occur along rivers and railways. The most important types are milestones, post mile pillars, kilometer stones, hour stones and signpost stones. There are also regional features, for example in India or Japan.


Roman milestones

The oldest types of distance stones in Germany are Roman milestones . They originated in Roman times and are therefore located in southern and western Germany. They are usually well over 1,500 years old. Roman milestones are only preserved where they have been rediscovered during excavations. They show the distance in Roman miles (just under 1.5 kilometers). There are also the so-called Leugensteine , which were erected across the board from the second century onwards and are also only preserved in individual cases. Due to their old age and the respective rediscovery, they are mostly in museums today. So far, a little more than 50 such stones have been rediscovered in Germany, half of them in Bavaria, the others in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse. But some of them have already been lost.

Saxon post mile pillars

Types of the Saxon post mile pillars (1747)

It was not until 1,500 years later that spacer stones were set up again in regular systems in Germany. This is due to the fact that building markings and later wooden signposts were used for centuries, which naturally did not have a long shelf life, so that better solutions were sought. They are also legal monuments, since they were erected by the state and carried the coats of arms of the territories, which also marked them. This also explains why they were threatened after the end of their respective reigns and why today only a fraction of what they used to be.

The first major project was initiated by August the Strong in 1722 in the Electorate of Saxony. He had Adam Friedrich Zürner measure the post roads and then set up two types of post mile pillars along them. On the one hand, there are the actual distance stones, which are set up every quarter of a mile and have three sub-categories, namely full-mile column ( obelisk ), half-mile column (shaft that tapers towards the bottom), quarter-mile stone (bell-like square, tapering towards the top), and the other Distance columns. These distance pillars were originally intended to be set up in front of every city gate and indicate the distance to other places along the street that began there. They are also called market pillars and city pillars because they were mainly set up in smaller towns in the center of the village so as not to burden the places with the financial burden of several pillars. Another special feature of the distance columns are the Saxon-Polish double coats of arms.

These distance columns differ fundamentally from the milestones in that they indicate the distance in hours and sometimes in complicated fractions such as "2 3/8 St." This is explained by the fact that this is not a direct time specification, but rather a measure of length that equates two miles to a post mile. Since the Saxon post mile was 9.062 kilometers, an hour's walk is 4.531 kilometers long. The eighth hour is equivalent to 566 meters. As early as 1815, the stock was dramatically reduced for the first time after the Kingdom of Prussia ordered the complete dismantling of the post mile pillars in the areas preserved by Saxony. Post mile pillars can be found today not only in Saxony, but also in Brandenburg, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt. Since they have been in Saxony for decades by the research group Kursächsische Postmeilensäulen e. V. are particularly researched, maintained and partially rebuilt, their inventory has now grown again to over 200. Eighty percent of all preserved / rebuilt stones are in today's Saxony. Half of all of the Saxon post-mile pillars that have been preserved are distance pillars.

Prussian milestones

The background to the dismantling of the Saxon post mile pillars by Prussia was on the one hand the coat of arms including the initials of the Saxon regent, on the other hand the fact that Prussia had been setting its own milestones since 1788 , which were at different distances. While in Saxony the milestones were mainly used to mark the existing post roads, in Prussia it was mostly the case that the milestones, like the Chausseehaus , were part of the basic equipment of the newly built Prussian Staatschausseen . They were also set up every quarter of a mile, but one Prussian mile was equivalent to 7.532 kilometers. So along the roads there were distance stones every 1.883 kilometers, which were divided into three categories (full milestone, half milestone, quarter milestone). There were also so-called signposts that had to be set up wherever paths branched off. The early Prussian milestones here are quarter mile cubes, half mile obelisks and full mile obelisks; from the 1820s onwards, small bell-shaped stones were chosen for the quarter mile and large bell-shaped stones for the half mile, so that obelisks only indicated whole miles. There are also numerous other forms, but they are more regional. Later, more and more round base stones were used.

Milestones of the small states

Distance stones were also set in the other small German states in northern, central and western Germany. Milestones were set on a larger scale in Anhalt (round base stones), Mecklenburg-Schwerin (obelisks), Mecklenburg-Strelitz (round columns), Western Pomerania (obelisks), Hesse (obelisks, steles), Hanover (obelisks), Oldenburg (stones), Lippe (steles). Since this could not always be done by the small states, stock corporations partly took over the construction of the roads and stone setting, but they also chose other stone shapes. These milestones are all carried out by the Milestones Research Group. V. with recorded and partly also looked after in the restoration. In Saxony , which had been significantly decimated by the Congress of Vienna, there was a second milestone system in the middle of the 19th century with the royal Saxon milestones, which now measured the mile at 7.5 kilometers. It consisted of whole and half milestones, station stones and branch stones as well as border crossing stones. The free Hanseatic cities also set their own milestones. From Hamburg , the number 693 milestones is documented for the year 1843, because they were set at a much closer distance (hundredths of a mile), Lübeck was involved in the road construction and also had milestones set. There were similar subdivisions with the Prussian and Anhalt milestones, but there the stone setting at hundredths of a mile was called number stones, rut stones, section stones or station stones.

Hour stones

In southern and western Germany there are also hour stones, which are also called hour columns, especially in Bavaria and Hesse, but also in North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg. Similar to the distance columns in Saxony, the hour was chosen as the length measure. It was equivalent to 3.7 kilometers in Bavaria. These stones were also set by the authorities, for example on the Poststrasse Koblenz-Frankfurt by the last electoral Trier bishop in 1789.


Signposts have only been well researched regionally, which is due to the fact that they elude the systematization of the other systems. While the milestones were immediately set in stone, the signposts are the successors of the signpost pillars that were made of wood. They differ massively not only in terms of client and shape, but also in terms of material. A real system has not yet been achieved here. Roughly, one can say that until the 19th century wooden signposts were more common, with so-called arm pillars being particularly popular, then signpost stones came increasingly into use and are still being erected today, but today mostly as signposts and sometimes without distance information, like that that not all signposts are also distance stones. State control is no longer common because other materials have replaced stone in the street space. In addition to miles and hours, there are also kilometer information on the stones as well as pure directional information, sometimes made clear by hands or arrows pointing the way.


Another group of distance stones are the kilometer stones . With the establishment of the German Empire in 1871, it was decided to replace the mile with kilometers everywhere in Germany, which was implemented gradually by 1875. In the following decades, roads were often equipped with kilometer stones, some of which were even 100 meters apart (also called hectometer stones). In other cases, milestones have been moved to the new intervals and given kilometers. The so-called myriameter stones in Anhalt and Prussia, which were erected every ten kilometers, also belong in this context.

On the other hand, the myriameter stones along the Rhine were created directly as kilometer stones and are also survey stones, a multiple use that can also be observed with milestones, some of which have survey marks. Other waterways are similarly marked with milestones, such as the Danube. The Treidelsteine ​​of the Ludwig-Danube-Main Canal also belong in this category . They are also common in rail transport and are called route kilometers . In the Alps there are also milestones on mountain passes for cyclists , but only partially made of stone.

Berlin milestones

The so far youngest larger group of distance stones in Germany are the Berlin milestones. Starting in 1954, they were to be set up every 100 kilometers along the autobahn, but this was only partially implemented, and each indicated the distance to Berlin, which at that time was isolated in the territory of the GDR. With these stones the divided city should remain in consciousness. In addition to the distance information, they wore the Berlin bear as graffito. On the other hand, specimens on which the Berlin bear was placed as a full sculpture (e.g. in Munich or Düsseldorf) are rare. These stones were also set up in numerous cities.


Everywhere in Europe there is systematic setting of spacers. Their research has progressed very differently, so it is not very easy to get an overview. This is mainly explained by the development history of the European states. In Denmark, for example, the Dansk Vejhistorisk Selskab researches Danish milestones, some of which are also located in Schleswig-Holstein, while the German research group Milestones also records milestones in Poland. Such examples of today's cross-border systems of spacer blocks can be found in many places in Europe, which makes it difficult to record.

Roman milestones

Naturally, there are Roman milestones in numerous European countries, including Albania, Romania, the Yugoslav successor states ( called miljokaz there), Portugal, Italy, France and the British Isles. Miliaria have also been preserved in Turkey and Greece as well as in numerous Central European countries. A total of around 7,500 stones are known to date.


In Denmark, King Christian V (1646–1699) introduced milestones. They bore the royal initials. Later rulers also had milestones set, so that today there are seven different shapes: stele, stele with base, obelisk, three types of truncated cones (Keglestub) and truncated pyramids (Pyramidestub). In Sweden, the wooden mileage indicators were replaced by milestones from around 1750. In the middle of the 19th century, iron mileage indicators were made because they were cheaper to manufacture. A total of 8,000 mileage indicators are assumed. In Norway, milestones were made out of granite, and there are also cast iron milestones.

Central Europe

Distance columns were erected on the important roads, especially the Alpine crossings. The column in Martigny indicates the distance in kilometers and the altitude of the respective location. In the area around Bern, more than 100 hour stones were set along the main paths in the 19th century . Most of them are still preserved today. They indicate the distance to the Bern clock tower , measured in hours, at a walking speed of 4.8 km / h. There were 16 hour stones between Bern and Grimsel.

See also : hour stones in the canton of Bern

In the European Middle Ages, distance columns were not used to indicate distances. Only at the end of the 17th century are corresponding columns from various countries attested again. For example, there were hour columns on the canals in the Netherlands . In the Czech Republic there are signposts and kilometer stones (kilometrovník). In Luxembourg, the kilometer stones (Kilometersteen) are uniformly designed, in Flanders (Belgium) they are called Kilometer Poale, in the Netherlands Kilometer Paal, where the term Hectometerpaal is also used because they are at a distance of 100 meters. In addition, the so-called Paddenstoel, based on the toadstool , is used in the Netherlands as a guide for cyclists. In Hungary the kilometer stones are called Kilométerkő and their zero point is in Budapest. In Austria there are milestones, kilometer stones and myriameter stones. Milestones in the Czech Republic are called Milník and some of them are under monument protection.

Southern Europe

The ancient tradition of setting distance stones led to imitations in later centuries, for example in the attempt to revive the Via Appia in Italy in the 17th century. Some of them only have a number of miles (e.g. on the road from Napoli to Sora). There are many different types of milestones in Spain, which differ mainly from region to region. Milestones from the time when they belonged to Austria-Hungary can be found in Croatia and Slovenia. In Slovenia, milestones are also known on roads and along the railway.

Eastern Europe

The kilometer stone system of Romania is considered exemplary, as the stones here have all been renovated and are located every kilometer. In addition, the kilometroŝtono carry street numbers and are designed in different colors. In European Russia, there are both 18th century and kilometer stones. The Russian length measure of werst was used to measure the post roads and to set up columns ( Верстовой столб ) along them. Under Tsar Peter I , so-called werst pillars were erected on the newly built streets, probably based on the Saxon model, between Moscow and Saint Petersburg . At the heads of these pillars, the distance covered was attached on one side and the distance to be covered on the other. During her reign, Tsarina Catherine II had the Russian road network - and in this context also the wooden and stone werer pillars - expanded.


Milestones, milestones and signposts are known in Japan. The Ichirizuka, hills with trees that line the road and thus indicate the distance, are also partly covered with stone.

There is a long tradition of stone setting in China, stone setting which marked the way along the streets has been handed down as early as the Tang Dynasty (618–907). In modern times, stones were set up at intervals of kilometers.

In the north of India, in addition to milestones and milestones, there are also the special shape of the Kos-Minar , six to eight meter round towers that stretched over the Mughal Empire, and therefore also in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. About 150 have been preserved.

In most Southeast Asian countries, such as Cambodia, Indonesia or Vietnam, there are distance stones with kilometers. There are also milestones in Myanmar. On the Karakoram Highway , which was jointly built by China and Pakistan, there are various types of distance indicators, including a zero point stone for the Pakistani section with distances in kilometers to all major Pakistani cities at the southern end. There are also milestones along other roads.

In the Middle East, some Roman milestones (miliaria) have survived, for example in Israel or Jordan. There were once more than 1,000 such stones here, and a further 1,100 in Asia Minor.


A few Roman milestones have been preserved in North Africa, for example in Algeria or Libya. Of the approximately 7,500 known milestones, there were around 1,600 stones here alone. Due to the various colonial influences, there are also systematic rows of distance stones on the African continent, such as milestones in South Africa, milestones in Madagascar or milestones from the relatively late Italian period in Eritrea.

The roads in Tunisia are marked with milestones, the tops of which are designed in different colors. There is more information on the sides, such as the street number. There are similar milestones in Western Sahara too, here the tops are red.

North America

In Canada, the zero points of the road are marked as mile zero . However, these are not always classic stone settings, but they were designed individually. Zero milestones are also found in the USA, for example in Memphis (Tennessee), Richmond (Virginia) or Charleston (West Virginia). Numerous milestones, so-called mile posts , can also be identified here along the roads . The history of the USA explains why these were not designed uniformly from the start. In addition to the roads, the railway lines have also received spacer stones. Since there was never a change to kilometers here, there are no kilometer stones here either.

The milestones in Rhode Island are several centuries old, and they are all marked with dates. One of the oldest is the 1761 Milestone in Woonsocket (Rhode Island), a seemingly misshapen stone rediscovered during construction work, on which ".. Miles to Boston 1761" is written. Since it stands at a crossroads and marks a junction of the Great Road , one could take it for a signpost, but such stones were also found miles apart along the main route. The year seems to name the construction of the road section, because both the stone "14 Miles to Providence" and the stone "12 Miles to Providence" on the Great Road marked the year 1774. Even in Massachusetts itself there are milestones of the 18th century. Some of the oldest on Boston Post Road are dated 1729. They are known as 1767 milestones after their settlement period ended . Some of the stones on the Great Road are also grouped under the name Doctor Oliver Prescott Milestones .

Other milestones have become important because they are said to have been set by Benjamin Franklin personally, such as the Coram Milestone. Similar to Australia, there is a milestone near Germantown (Pennsylvania) with the simple inscription "13 to P", which symbolizes the distance to Philadelphia. Stones of this type, sometimes also labeled with an M for mile, can also be found in other places in Pennsylvania (such as "29 M to P" in Downingtown).


In Australia, milestones mark the miles to a certain location and are therefore also called mile markers and distance markers in addition to milestone . A second noticeable difference to the milestones in Europe is that this goal is abbreviated with a letter. For example, on the milestones in Cootamundra (New South Wales): B. "Y 30", which indicates the distance according to Young (also New South Wales) or "J 33", which means Junee. This system is also retained on stones with multiple targets. In Sydney the zero point milestone from 1818 has been preserved, on which the distances to other places are noted. In Adelaide, there is a tourist milestone in Himeji Gardens, a gift from the sister city of Himeji (Japan). It gives the distance to Himeji.


  • Post pillars and milestones . Published by the research group Kursächsische Postmeilensäulen e. V. Dresden / Grillenburg (City of Tharandt). 3rd revised edition, Schütze-Engler-Weber Verlag GbR, Dresden 2007, ISBN 978-3-936203-09-7 .
  • Eberhard Brumm: Milestones & Co. between the North and Baltic Seas, Denmark and Mecklenburg , 2nd edition, Oldenburg 2017.
  • Katrin Körner: The era of the royal Saxon milestones from 1858 to 1873 (directory of postal rates) , Chemnitz 2017.
  • Gustav Adolf Kuhfahl : The Saxon post mile columns of August the Strong… . Verlag des Landesverein Sächsischer Heimatschutz, Dresden 1930.
  • Herbert Liman: Roman roads and milestones - overview of statistical information , in: Das Meilenstein-Journal 37 (2017) 74, p. 48.

Web links

Commons : Roman Milestones by Country  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Commons : Milestones  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Post mileage column  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Kos Minar  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Historical Signposts in Germany  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Commons : Stones in the street space in the Czech Republic  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Historic Signposts in Japan  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Commons : Myriameter stones on the Rhine  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Milestone  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Post mileage column  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Leugensteine , Altstraßen in Hessen, accessed on October 28, 2018.
  2. Gustav Adolf Kuhfahl : The Saxon postal mile columns of August the Strong… . Verlag des Landesverein Sächsischer Heimatschutz, Dresden 1930.
  3. Post columns and milestones, pp. 37–40.
  4. Post columns and milestones, p. 61.
  5. The different forms can be viewed on the Milestones Research Group page in the Milestones section for individual regions and federal states .
  6. Post columns and milestones, pp. 65–73.
  7. Brumm, Meilensteine ​​& Co, pp. 15–36.
  8. Hour columns or hour stones , Altstraßen in Hessen, accessed on October 28, 2018.
  9. a b c Liman, 2017, p. 48.
  10. Milestenstyper (Danish-language website of Dansk Vejhistorisk Selskab ), accessed on October 28, 2018.
  11. Swedish Milestones (Danish-language page of Dansk Vejhistorisk Selskab ), accessed on October 28, 2018. Some stone specimens can be found on the Bygdeband and DigitaltMuseum pages , accessed on October 28, 2018.
  12. Norwegian Milestones (Danish-language page of Dansk Vejhistorisk Selskab ), accessed on October 28, 2018. The DigitaltMuseum is showing some copies , accessed on October 28, 2018.
  13. Distance measurements , Association 300 years of Kander penetration, accessed on October 28, 2018.
  14. Ichirizuka , Nakasendoway, accessed on 28 October 2018th
  15. Roland Dusik: DuMont Travel Guide Australia, Ostfildern 2018, p. 127.