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Creation time : around 800
Castle type : Niederungsburg
Conservation status: Earthwork
Place: Hamburg
Geographical location 53 ° 32 '59.5 "  N , 9 ° 59' 51.8"  E Coordinates: 53 ° 32 '59.5 "  N , 9 ° 59' 51.8"  E
Hammaburg (Hamburg)
Cathedral Square with archaeological excavations (2006)

The Hammaburg is a Niederungsburg built in the early Carolingian period , from which the name of Hamburg is derived. Traditionally, the establishment is placed in the context of Carolingian politics in the north-eastern border area and is dated to the early 9th century. After archaeological excavations, it was announced in January 2014 that today's cathedral square at Speersort could be proven as the location of the castle . It was also found that the castle was built earlier than previously assumed, namely in the 8th century.

Name origin

The name has its origin in the word hamme (= wooded elevation protruding into the march , wood, forest ; see district Hamm ). On the other hand - and this is the more probable approach, because it corresponds to the terrain - Germanic * ham- "angles, angular terrain on rivers, bay" (also in Hameln), old high German hamm "bend, dead river arm, piece of land between ditches, hollow of the knee , Back bend "; Old Saxon hamm (a), Old Frisian hamme, Middle Low German ham, North Frisian Hamm, Haam “Land in a river bend; Headland; put something crooked ”here. Hamburg is therefore "the fortification located at a bend in the river, on a headland".

Location and structure

The castle probably rose on a flat ridge of the Geest in the middle of the wide flat marshes between Alster and Bille , south of today's Petrikirche . The wall had the shape of a square with rounded corners and consisted of planks that had been filled with earth, and was probably built on even older systems. The size was about 130 by 130 meters, the walls were five to six meters high and 15 meters wide, consisted of around 10,000 trees and 20,000 m³ of soil. Within the wall fence , which was raised by palisades, the simple wooden baptismal church (Marienkirche) of the Diocese of Hammaburg with the associated monastery buildings of the Benedictines resident in the city as well as a number of houses, the most stately one of which was the royal court , stood on an area of ​​about one hectare , the Burgvogt (count) lived in. In the front area of ​​the earth wall was the suburb with the accommodation of the merchants and craftsmen . It bordered a port that was on one of the tributaries of the Alster, the Reichenstraßenfleet , which was filled in in 1877 , a former arm of the Bille to the Alster.


According to the latest findings, the Hammaburg was originally a trading center, as the local Saxon pottery from the time between 700 and 800 found during excavations suggests. The Hammaburg became known early on as a station for the activities of Bishop Ansgar , a missionary commissioned by the Franconian Church to convert Germanic tribes . The Vita Sancti Ansgarii, written by his successor, the Archbishop of Bremen Rimbert , determined the conception of the early history of Hamburg for a long time, but its truthfulness is controversial.

The "founding document" of Hamburg, dated May 15, 834 and allegedly issued by Emperor Ludwig the Pious , is a later forgery. In the year 845 Vikings advanced upstream over the Elbe estuary and were repulsed by the Saxons. On their way back, according to the contemporary Annales Bertiniani , they destroyed a Slavic castle, while according to Rimbert's report they circled, besieged and completely destroyed the Hammaburg. Bishop Ansgar only narrowly escaped. Refugees temporarily settled in the village of Schmeessen in Solling , as was determined using ceramic shards. The besiegers withdrew after the devastation. But the Hammaburg could not recover from this catastrophe and for a long time only led a shadowy existence. Hammaburg was united with the Archdiocese of Bremen .

Only with the shift of trade from the Baltic to the North Sea in the 12th century did it flourish again as the namesake of the city of Hamburg .

A report about the attack by the Norman Vikings on the Hammaburg has come down to us from the pen of Archbishop Rimbert of Bremen . In his work Vita Sancti Ansgarii , he describes the life and work of his predecessor, the later canonized missionary and bishop Ansgar. The vita is the only source of information about the old Hammaburg, but from a scientific point of view it is entirely credible. Rimbert lived shortly after Ansgar. It is also likely that the old wooden dome was in the same place as the later Mariendom .

According to current knowledge, the wall of the wooden castle extended under the later built Heidenwall . Instead, the Domburg was located around Domplatz and Domstraße. Today's cathedral square is at least four meters above the castle due to the multiple fillings and buildings. Among other things, both the Mariendom and the Johanneum stood in the same place .


Cathedral Square with a view of St. Petri. The park set up in 2009 with replicated walls of the cathedral castle and pillars of the cathedral .

In order to find the Hammaburg several long-term excavations were undertaken. The bombing of the Second World War had destroyed large parts of the buildings on the site. Other buildings fell victim to the construction of the subway and the road widening, including the west wing and arcade of the Johanneum, which had been preserved until 1955, and were never rebuilt.

The first excavations took place from 1947 to 1957. In 1948, an excavation team led by Reinhard Schindler found a wall below Domstrasse with discoloration of the earth, which indicated palisades. Schindler believed he had found the Hammaburg. However, later scientific findings showed that the pottery found during the excavations from the defense system did not come from the early, but from the Middle Slavic period. From this it can be concluded that the facility was built at the end of the 9th century at the earliest - at least 50 years after the sinking of the Hammaburg.

During excavations under the direction of Gwendolin Gregor from 1980 to 1987, a second rampart was found below the first. However, this dates from the 8th century and is therefore too old to be the Hammaburg, which according to the Vita Sancti Ansgarii was built around 817.

The area was re-examined by archaeologists from the Archaeological Museum Hamburg under the direction of Karsten Kablitz. Work on Hamburg's Domplatz began on July 4, 2005 and was scheduled to last 18 months. Here, Kablitz's team also wanted to prove that the Hammaburg square had already been settled well in advance. The first clue came from a stone blade that a student found on a trip to the excavation site. At the excavation site traces were found before and after the time of the Hammaburg, including a fragment of the cenotaph of Pope Benedict V.

After the end of the excavations on Domplatz, researchers now agree that the remains of Hammaburg were found there. On 13./14. In December 2013 a scientific, interdisciplinary colloquium took place in this regard. The finds were presented in an exhibition from October 31, 2014 to April 26, 2015.


Web links


  1. Hamburg was the city of merchants from day one. In: Hamburger Abendblatt . January 25, 2014. Report and interview with Rainer-Maria Weiss, Director of the Archaeological Museum Hamburg.
  2. Sensation: Scientists find Hamburg's nucleus. In: The world . January 25, 2014, accessed January 26, 2014.
  3. Karsten Kablitz: The results of the excavations 2005-2006. In: Rainer-Maria Weiss, Anne Klammt (ed.): Myth Hammaburg. Archaeological discoveries from the beginnings of Hamburg. Hamburg 2014, p. 74.
  4. ^ Anne Klammt, Rainer Maria Weiss: The old dispute about Angars diocese - rekindled. A preliminary remark. In: Rainer-Maria Weiss, Anne Klammt (ed.): Myth Hammaburg. Archaeological discoveries from the beginnings of Hamburg. Hamburg 2014, p. 255 f.
  5. ^ Theo Kölzer : The forged "founding document" of Emperor Ludwig the Pious for Hamburg. In: Rainer-Maria Weiss, Anne Klammt (ed.): Myth Hammaburg. Archaeological discoveries from the beginnings of Hamburg. Hamburg 2014, pp. 257–261.
  6. Excavations in Schmeessen solve the riddle of the first Hamburgers. ( Memento from September 24th, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) In: Daily Anzeiger. December 10, 2011.
  7. ^ Report from the Archaeological Museum Hamburg.