The Minden Fortress was a fortress in the East Westphalian city of Minden on the Weser in today's North Rhine-Westphalia . It served a strategic purpose, was provided with a garrison and, thanks to its fortifications, could be permanently defended against all attacks. It enclosed the strategically important city on the Weser ford and the breakthrough valley of the Porta Westfalica , as well as the former diocese of Minden .
The fortress was closed in a ring around the city, which could only be entered through five city gates . There were different degrees of expansion from the medieval city wall to the Prussian fortress with ramparts and fortifications . The Minden fortress was supposed to protect the city from being shot by artillery with the military bulwarks and to control the entrance and exit with the help of the fortress gates.
The Minden fortress had a clear field of fire around the fortress buildings ; there were many military buildings in the city center. Due to the lack of expansion opportunities for the city and the accommodation of soldiers, the population density in the city increased to an average of 12.1 people per residential building in the 19th century . In comparable cities in Westphalia this number was around 7.6 over the same period.
As a result of the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15, Prussia was able to considerably enlarge its national territory with the Rhine Province and the Province of Westphalia . King Friedrich Wilhelm III. issued the order to re-fortify the large cities and thus also Minden. The Rayon legislation had an impact on the livability of the city.
Minden is located on the Weserfurt north of the low mountain range threshold at the entrance to the North German Plain . The Mindener ford made it possible to easily cross the river Weser, the next options were only a long way up the river. Important trading routes of the Middle Ages crossed in Minden . It has therefore always been of strategic interest to militarily protect this crossing in Minden. In terms of military history, a fortress was offered for a long time, which should make it difficult for opponents to take the city. It was not until the development of artillery and the annexation of the neighboring Kingdom of Hanover by Prussia in 1866 that the fortress was made superfluous from a military point of view, and the Minden fortress was dissolved.
The expansion of the Minden fortress
The older fortress of the city of Minden 1501–1618
The first complete city wall around the city of Minden can be traced back to 1270. Before that, however, there always seems to have been parts of the city that had a city wall: In 1232, for example, the Marientor is mentioned and a small Wesertor that must have led to the fishing town .
From 1306, the city of Minden was able to administer itself with its own council and a mayor, and to abandon the episcopal supervision. The Minden Bishop Gottfried von Waldeck moved his bishopric from Minden from Minden Cathedral and the Cathedral Freedom to Petershagen in the Petershagen Castle . Defense and military sovereignty also belonged to the new tasks of the citizenry .
Until then, the city of Minden was surrounded by a city wall that was fortified with a city moat in front of it . In front of this city wall, new ramparts were poured in from 1501 at a distance of 10 to 12 meters . The course of the ramparts adapted to the medieval walls. Only on the banks of the Weser were the ramparts moved further outwards so that the lower reaches of the Bastau river now ran inside the fortress and could deliver water into the trenches .
Another fortified gate was built in front of the old gates at the same distance of 10 to 12 meters to the outside of the city. Defense towers, so-called kennels , were built in the area between the inner and outer gates . The kennels at Marien- and Simeonstor were completed in 1521.
The rampart belt was accompanied by trenches that were not to be crossed and that were flooded with the water mentioned above. Only between the Hahler Tor and the Marientor did the defensive ditch dry out due to the hillside location.
The Weser Bridge was secured with the Weser Gate and on the opposite bank to the east, a bridgehead with a square tower protected the access to the Weser Bridge. A new Weser rondel near the Weser bridge was built on the wall front on the Weser side.
A few bulwarks were built into the wall belt, mostly at the corner points of the fortifications. In the wall itself there were simple, tower-like gates. These were reinforced on the outside by new gates, bridges were built to connect the old and new gates.
Dispute in the 16th century
In the feud between Minden Bishop Franz II von Waldeck and Duke Heinrich von Wolfenbüttel , Minden was unsuccessfully besieged by an army led by Philipp von Wolfenbüttel between May 1st and 4th, 1553 . Only the suburbs Marien- and Simeonsvorstadt were taken in the meantime.
As a consequence of this siege, the fortress was further strengthened and the two suburbs (Marien- and Simeonsvorstadt) outside the fortifications were demolished. In front of the five city gates, smaller ravelins were dug with a fore This meant that access to the city was only possible via these outer works. A so-called high battery was installed at the height of the Hahler Tor.
Minden in the Thirty Years War 1618–1648
Minden was not affected during the first part of the Thirty Years War . Not until 1625 did the acts of war also shift to Westphalia . However, this immediately made Minden strategically interesting for the warring parties, because the Westphalian Gate to the south could be closed with their property .
On August 25, 1625, the city was summoned to surrender by the imperial general Johann Tilly and then occupied by his troops. The city, which had become Protestant during the Reformation , was re-Catholicized and the church was reinstated in its old functions, and Minden again became a bishopric. The occupation by troops loyal to the emperor remained in the city until 1634. The city, which had to provide for the soldiers and pay the contribution and occupation costs, suffered badly. The fortress, previously maintained by the city, has now been expanded by the occupying soldiers.
Around 1630, the round brick-built witch's tower was built between the moat and the fortress wall on the north side of the city fortifications. There was also a weir in the moat , which regulated the water supply to the Kumpgraben, the northeastern part of the fortress moat, and to the Stadtbeeke, which flowed into the city.
The external works at the Fischertor were also completed under Tilly. In addition, the ravelins in front of the gates were converted into bastions .
In 1634 the city was besieged by Swedish troops for three weeks. To do this, the Swedes drained the moats and led trenches to the walls within cannon range. In November 1634 the city surrendered to the Swedish army under the leadership of Duke Georg von Braunschweig-Lüneburg .
The Swedish troops remained as occupiers in Minden until the Peace of Westphalia was concluded . The city fortifications were expanded according to plan during this time, so that the name "Minden Fortress" became established. This was ceded to the Elector of Brandenburg in 1650 and Minden became a Brandenburg-Prussian garrison and fortress town. At the end of the Thirty Years War, Minden was economically at an end, and the population was largely impoverished. This economic situation caused a large part of the upper class to leave the city for good.
Brandenburg-Prussian government city (1650–1806)
In the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, the Principality of Minden with its state capital Minden was awarded to the Elector of Brandenburg. Friedrich Wilhelm was the first to put five companies of Brandenburg soldiers into the city. Minden, a member of the Hanseatic League , tried to uphold his own right to occupation and defense, but failed and was integrated into the Brandenburg-Prussian state and from now on determined by the military and the officials of the regional authorities for almost three centuries. This was accompanied by a loss of economic importance, as Minden only served as a military bridgehead on the Weser. The government was moved back from Schloss Petershagen to the city in 1669 and moved into the old episcopal court. It was used until 1906. The fortress was only repaired and preserved until the Seven Years' War .
Minden in the Seven Years War 1756–1763, the Battle of Minden August 1, 1759
During the Seven Years' War the battle of Minden broke out . The actual battle took place at the gates of the city, the fortress played no role of its own. The French occupied the fortress after having invaded the fortress by treason via the bridgehead and opened the gates for their own soldiers.
The decisive battle against the Prussian army and its allies took place on the flat terrain west of the city. Duke Ferdinand von Braunschweig won this battle and was thus able to prevent the French from entering northern Germany. The victory at Minden is still celebrated in the English army as the day of roses .
The fortress hadn't been modernized in the past hundred years. Therefore, the defense value was not particularly high, during the entire Seven Years' War the fortress changed hands four times.
Minden as an open city (1764–1807)
In the period after the battle, the fortress was formally closed by the Prussian King Friedrich II after visiting the city. He drew the consequences from the military condition of the fortress, which was no longer considered modern. Most of the fortifications were demolished and the rest fell into disrepair. The walls were only patched up when they were in disrepair. The city as a settlement area did not expand any further despite the dissolution of the fortress. Until 1800 there was no further space requirement for the city, which continued to develop within the boundaries of the fortress.
Minden in the French Kingdom of Westphalia (1806–1813)
Minden was occupied by Napoleonic troops in November 1806 and, with the former Minden monastery, belonged to the Kingdom of Westphalia from 1807 to 1810 and then to the French Empire until 1813 . During this time the ramparts were provisionally rebuilt and repaired . The Simeonskirche was used as a military hospital, St. Johannis and St. Mauritius as military magazines . Napoleon Bonaparte used the Weserfurt near Minden in the Russian campaign . After the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig , the French troops left the city and blew up two arches of the stone Weser bridge when they withdrew.
Minden as a Prussian fortress (1815–1873)
Under the impression of the 100-day government of Napoleon, who had returned from exile, and the expansion of the state territory with the Rhine Province and the Province of Westphalia as a result of the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 , the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. immediately orders to re-fortify the big cities.
The Minden fortress was expanded as a Prussian fortress from 1813 to 1850. It was supposed to secure the Prussian western provinces against the Kingdom of Hanover and the Weser breakthrough at the Porta Westfalica .
This reconstruction was planned and implemented by the fortress construction department established in Minden in 1816. This worked to the fortress commander , who was appointed by the king. The first fortress commandant in Minden was Colonel Ernst Michael von Schwichow . First of all, structural inventories were made in 1814/15 and the remains of the old fortress were measured. This was made the basis of new building plans.
First expansion stage of the Prussian fortress (1817–1821)
In the first phase of the expansion into a Prussian fortress, the old parts of the medieval fortress were torn down, thus creating the freedom to build a new fortress. For this purpose, the military treasury also bought new properties and some houses were demolished, for example the row of houses on the north side of the Deichhof.
From 1817 to 1821 the ramparts, the gates and the casemates were renewed and expanded. The ramparts were much higher than the old ramparts. The height above the street level in front of the ramparts (middle surface layer top edge) was up to ten meters. This new building of the fortress was based on the outer contours of the old fortress. In addition to the ramparts, five city gates were planned on the main arterial roads. They were designed in different ways in order to take into account the military technology , and also in coordination with the local conditions:
- Hausberger Gate
- Simeon's Gate
- King's Gate
This is how the Wesertor was created at the old crossing over the Weser to the east. To the south of the city was the Hausberger Tor on the Hausberger Front on the way to Barkhausen , to the west of it the Simeonstor. In the west of the city followed the Königstor and in the northwest the Marientor.
The Hausberger Tor, the Königstor and the Marientor were designed as wall gates, to which guard casemates were attached on both sides of the gate.
The Marientor was located in the north-west of the city at the transition between the lower and upper town. The Marienkirche stood near him. Here the dry trench of the upper town met the water-bearing trench of the lower town. The gate was built exactly on this edge, the city-side gate was on the lower terrace, the gateway to the field side had to overcome the different heights of the terraces. It was therefore led here in a curved tunnel. The so-called Sweden Tower was part of the Marientor complex. It had already been part of the older Minden city fortifications. Renovation work meant that it was now covered with earth.
The Simeon Gate in the south of the city was built in 1820. The entire throat front of the general section was designed as a two-story wall. This area was designed for rifle defense only. On the city side, the gate was built with a balanced profile.
The Weser Gate closed the wall of the Weser front on the river side in the north and enabled the exit from the city to the bridge over the Weser. The Weser Gate was designed as a casemate gate and the only one free-standing. On three sides it was developed for rifle and artillery defense and covered with a layer of earth. On top of this layer of earth was a platform that was surrounded by a cinder wall.
A fortified bridgehead was set up at the eastern end of the Weser Bridge on the right bank of the Weser . It was expanded from 1813 in the form of the expanded hornwork of the bastionary scheme. The Osterbach fed its moats. There was a narrow gun bay in front of the curtain . Inside the horn factory there were two log houses. The bridgehead lost its actual function with the expansion of the station fortifications from 1848/50.
The new throat front installations were planned in the south of the city. It was planned well before the general section and the crown work of the Hausberger Front was created. A fenced-in area was built here, which could be used as a parade ground in peacetime and as a storage area in the event of war. The height of the wall was 9.25 m, the trench was partly seven meters deep.
Second expansion stage - Prussian classicism (1827-1840)
The second expansion stage of the Minden fortress is characterized by the construction of the large inner-city buildings:
- Defense barracks 1827–1829
- Hospital 1829-1832
- Garrison bakery 1832–1843
- Provisions and grain magazine 1835–1836.
Third expansion stage - New Prussian fastening systems (1848–1863)
The third expansion stage was characterized by the construction of the Minden train station on the east side of the Weser and thus at the gates of the city. This new complex outside the Minden fortress had to be protected by an extension of the fortress. The station was on a plateau, surrounded by three streams. The station fortifications were built here from 1847 to 1863.
Fourth expansion stage (1862–1873)
In the last construction stage, the provisions office in Hohestrasse was built from 1862 to 1863, as well as an officers' mess in Kampstrasse. In addition, two roughage barns were built on Marienstrasse . Prussia annexed the Kingdom of Hanover in 1866, making the Minden fortress actually superfluous.
Abolition of the Minden fortress
With the imperial law of May 30, 1873, the king decreed the abolition of the fortresses, including that of Minden. Negotiations with the city of Minden about the formal handover of the fortifications and the purchase price of the land have now started. These dragged on until March 5, 1879. Due to the rayon legislation, 600 meters in front of the ramparts were not built on. In 1884 the walls were also removed. The development of the open spaces could begin. In addition, the city took advantage of the opportunity and created a green belt , the so-called Mindener Glacis , on the old fortress ring.
Preserved buildings of the former fortress
- Minden old town
- Minden-Neustadt and the station fortress
The good state of preservation of the station fortress is to be regarded as extraordinary in Germany, especially since there are also operational structures from the opening year of the Cologne-Minden Railway. This railway company established a connection to Cologne as early as 1847 .
Of the three forts around the station, Fort C has been completely preserved and can be considered a prime example of the New Prussian style of fortress construction. It guarded the exit of the railway in the direction of Cologne. Today there is a branch of the Prussian Museum in Fort C. In addition, Fort C is used by the 1st Citizens Company of the Minden Citizens Battalion as part of the Minden Free Shooting as company headquarters. Of the other two forts, only the reduits remain. They secured the exits of roads and railways in the direction of Bremen , Hanover and Berlin . Today they are used as office and storage rooms.
The station Minden is one of the few stations in Germany, which presents itself despite some modifications still in its original form from the 1847th In its original conception, it served as a transfer station between the Cologne-Mindener Railway and the Hanover State Railway. Because this function was no longer necessary from 1866, the station was able to cope with the further growth in traffic and never needed to be replaced by a larger structure.
After the Prussian annexation of the Kingdom of Hanover in 1866, the fortress lost its right to exist and was given up in 1873. Most of the fortifications were demolished in the following years.
Fortress commanders and governors
The governor's posts were often supply posts. The daily work was done by the respective commanders.
- 1650 Caspar von Potthausen , general sergeant
- 1656 Christoph von Kannenberg , lieutenant general
- 1673 Wolfgang Ernst von Eller , major general
- 1681 Johann Anton von Zieten , major general
- 1690 Freiherr Friedrich von Heyden , lieutenant general
- 1692 Baron Philipp Karl von Wylich and Lottum , lieutenant general, later governor of Wesel
- 1698 Duke Friedrich Ludwig von Holstein-Beck , general of the cavalry later governor of Koenigsberg
- 1673 by Volkersen
- 1676 Moritz von Kanne, lieutenant colonel
- 1679 Johann Anton von Zieten , colonel, later governor
- 1682 Bernhard de Huet , lieutenant colonel, later commandant of Magdeburg
- 1688 Magnus Friedrich von Horn , brigadier , later governor of Geldern
- 1705 Stephan Matthaeus du Vulson, Brigadier
- 1718 Peter de Sibleyras du Clos, Colonel
- 1744 Ernst Schönburg von Bornstedt, Colonel
- 1749 Ernst Ludwig von Borcke , Colonel
After the fortress was reoccupied by the Prussians, Kaspar Friedrich von Rentzel took over the post of commandant on September 18, 1813. On March 17, 1815, Colonel Johann August Friedrich Hiller von Gärtringen was his successor. Ernst Michael von Schwichow was fortress commander from March 31, 1815 to September 20, 1818. After his transfer to Graudenz, he was reappointed fortress commander at the request of the city of Minden and was in this position from July 8, 1819 until his death on May 28 May 1823 worked in Minden, then from 1823 to 1827 Colonel Carl Philipp Wilhelm von Rango . Robert Ilgner was in command from January 20, 1850 to January 8, 1864. In 1870 Major General Robert von Boswell became the commandant of Minden.
- Volkmar Ulrich Meinhardt: The Minden fortress. Shape, structure and history of a city fortress. Bruns, Minden 1958, ( Mindener contributions to the history, regional and folklore of the former Principality of Minden 7, ).
- Ulf-Dietrich Korn (with the assistance of Thomas Tippach): fortress and monuments (= architectural and art monuments of Westphalia. Volume 50: City of Minden. Part I: Introduction and representation of formative structures), Essen 2005.
- Christiane Hoffmann, Martin Beutelspacher: When Minden was a fortress (1500–1873). (= The historical place - fortresses 82). Kai Homilius Verlag , Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-931121-81-X .
- Leopold von Zedlitz-Neukirch : The state forces of the Prussian monarchy under Friedrich Wilhelm III. Volume 3, p.207 List of Governors and Commanders
- Fort B / Minden station fortifications
- http://www.ktg-minden.de/prepro/mag.htm ( Memento from November 4, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
- Fort A, B, C at CRIFA
- Christinane Hoffmann, Martin Beutelsbacher: When Minden was a fortress (1500–1873) . Kai Homilius Verlag, 2000, ISSN 1430-2144 , p. 24 .
- City of Minden (ed.): Minden. Witnesses and testimonies to its urban development . Minden 1979, p. 27 .
- Christinane Hoffmann, Martin Beutelsbacher: When Minden was a fortress (1500–1873) . Kai Homilius Verlag, 2000, ISSN 1430-2144 , p. 7 .
- City of Minden (ed.): Minden. Witnesses and testimonies to its urban development . Minden 1979, p. 50 .
- Ulrich Meinhardt: The Minden Fortress. Shape, structure and history of a city fortress . Minden 1958, p. 23 .
- Christinane Hoffmann, Martin Beutelsbacher: When Minden was a fortress (1500–1873) . Kai Homilius, 2000, ISSN 1430-2144 , p. 8 .
- City of Minden (ed.): Minden. Witnesses and testimonies to its urban development . Minden 1979, p. 52 .
- City of Minden (ed.): Minden. Witnesses and testimonies to its urban development . Minden 1979, p. 52 .
- City of Minden (ed.): Minden. Witnesses and testimonies to its urban development . Minden 1979, p. 53 .
- City of Minden (ed.): Minden. Witnesses and testimonies to its urban development . Minden 1979, p. 54 .
- Christinane Hoffmann, Martin Beutelsbacher: When Minden was a fortress (1500–1873) . Kai Homilius, 2000, ISSN 1430-2144 , p. 9 .
- City of Minden (ed.): Minden. Witnesses and testimonies to its urban development . Minden 1979, p. 61 .
- City of Minden (Ed.): Minden. Witnesses and testimonies to its urban development . Minden 1979, p. 63 .
- City of Minden (ed.): Minden. Witnesses and testimonies to its urban development . Minden 1979, p. 64 .
- City of Minden (Ed.): Minden. Witnesses and testimonies to its urban development . Minden 1979, p. 74 .
- Christinane Hoffmann, Martin Beutelsbacher: When Minden was a fortress (1500–1873) . Kai Homilius Verlag, 2000, ISSN 1430-2144 , p. 13 .
- Ulrich Meinhardt: The Minden Fortress. Shape, structure and history of a city fortress . Minden 1958, p. 55 .
- Johann Friedrich Seyfart , Life and Government History of Frederick the Other King , p.341
- The battle at Wavre an der Dyle on June 18 and 19, 1815, p.69
- Ernst Ludwig von Borcke at geneagraphie.com