Holsten Gate

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Overlooking the city side of the Holsten from the St. Peter's Church down
View from Holstentorplatz to the field side of the Holstentor

The Holstentor ("Holstein Gate") is a city ​​gate that borders the old town of the Hanseatic city of Lübeck to the west. It is the symbol of the city. The City History Museum of Lübeck has been located in the Holsten Gate since 1950.

The late Gothic building is one of the remains of the Lübeck city fortifications . The Holsten Gate is the only surviving city gate in Lübeck , along with the Burgtor . For more than 300 years it stood as the "Middle Holsten Gate" in a row with three other Holsten Gates that were demolished in the 19th century. The Middle Holsten Gate, which is known today as the "Holsten Gate", has been restored several times, most recently in 2005/2006.

Location and surroundings

The Holsten Gate (view of the city side), next to it the salt storage facility on the banks of the Trave (left of the center of the picture)

The Holsten Gate is on a (visual) axis with the main train station in the suburb of St. Lorenz , the Puppenbrücke (at the Lübeck Wallanlagen), the Holstenbrücke and the Holstenstraße , which leads directly to the center of the city center.

The Holstentorplatz is seen from the old town behind the Holstentor. It is surrounded by the branch of the Deutsche Bundesbank , whose Reichsbank building has been supplemented by a new building at the rear. On the other side, between the historic salt storage facilities and the trade union building of the DGB, there is the brick-expressionist Holstentorhalle , which was converted into a practice and teaching building for the Lübeck University of Music between 2005 and 2007 with funds from the Possehl Foundation . A further pedestrian bridge over the Obertrave was completed in spring 2007 to connect with the main building complex of the university in the old town.



City side of the Holsten Gate 2015

The Holsten Gate consists of a south tower, north tower and central building. It has four floors , whereby the ground floor in the central building is omitted, as the passage (the gate ) is located here . The side facing west (out of town) is called the field side ; the side facing inwards is the city ​​side .

Seen from the city side, the two towers and the central building form a unit with a continuous, straight front. On the field side, the building parts are clearly separated from each other. The two towers protrude here in a semicircle and at the widest point of their radius are 3.5 meters in front of the central building. A conical roof sits on each of the towers; the central building is occupied by a gable .

The passage and the inscriptions

The passage used to be provided with two gate leaves on the field side, which have not been preserved. A " porthole " was only installed in 1934 and does not correspond to the original security systems. At this point there was once a so-called organ work , in which the iron bars were lowered individually and not as a whole. So it was possible to lower all poles except for one or two and then wait to allow your own men to get through or to prevent enemy cavalry or vehicles from invading with minimal effort by narrowing the passage. There is an inscription above the passage on both the city and field sides.

Inscription field side: CONCORDIA DOMI FORIS PAX

On the town side the inscription reads SPQL , framed by the dates 1477 and 1871; The former was the supposed date of construction (the correct date is, as we now know, 1478), the latter the date of the restoration and the founding of the German Empire . This inscription was modeled on the Roman SPQR ( Latin Senatus populusque Romanus - Senate and people of Rome) and should accordingly stand for Senatus populusque Lubecensis . However, it was not attached until 1871. Before there was no inscription at this point. It would not have made much sense either, since the view of the lower areas of the Holsten Gate from the city side was blocked by high walls.

Another inscription is on the field side. It says Concordia domi foris pax ( " Eintracht inside, outside Peace"). This writing, too, dates from 1871 and is a shortened form of the inscription that had previously stood on the (not preserved) entrance gate: Concordia domi et foris pax sane res est omnium pulcherrima (“Unity inside and peace outside are indeed for all am best ”, see Outer Holsten Gate ).

Field side fastenings

View of the Holsten Gate from the west (field side) towards the old town. Left the twin towers of the Marienkirche . On the right the tower of the Petrikirche , in front of it the historical salt storage .

In terms of function, the field and city sides are designed very differently. While the city side is richly decorated with windows, such equipment on the field side would have been unsuitable in view of the anticipated combat situations. There are therefore only a few small windows on the field side. In addition, the masonry of loopholes interspersed. The walls on the field side are also 3.5 meters thicker than on the city side (less than 1 meter there). It may also have been planned to quickly destroy the gate from the city side in an emergency so that it would not fall into the hands of an enemy.

The loopholes and the openings of the gun chambers point to the field side. In each tower there were three gun chambers on the ground floor, on the first and second floors. These are not preserved on the ground floor. Since the building has sunk into the ground over the centuries, they are now 50 centimeters below the ground and still below the new floor. On the first floor, in addition to the chambers mentioned, there are two loopholes for smaller guns, which were above and between the three chambers mentioned. There are also smaller openings on the third floor, where there are notches pointing downwards and forwards for handguns.

The central building has no loopholes. The windows above the passage were also designed to douse an invading enemy with pitch or boiling water.


The most conspicuous decorations, which are not attached from a practical point of view, are the two so-called terracotta ribbons that run around the building. These consist of individual panels, which are usually square and 55 centimeters long. One of three different ornaments can be seen on the individual plates : an arrangement of four heraldic lilies , a symmetrical grid and a representation of four thistle leaves. There is no recognizable sequence of these recurring symbols, but a differently designed plate always follows after eight plates. This has the shape of a coat of arms and bears either the Lübsche coat of arms eagle or a stylized tree. These shields are framed by two male figures as coats of arms.

The terracotta ribbons were restored during the restoration between 1865 and 1870. Only three of the original plates have survived as museum copies. The new plates roughly reproduce the former motifs, even if you allowed yourself a lot of freedom during the restoration. For example, in the design of the coat of arms eagle, the original motif is by no means exactly reproduced.

The gable was also not designed true to the original during the restoration; The restorers are not to blame here, because in the 19th century the gable had long been lost and its original appearance was unknown. An old depiction on an altarpiece in the Lübschen Castle Monastery shows a Holsten Gate with five gabled towers; Since the Holsten Gate in this picture is in the middle of a fantasy landscape of mountains and forests, the credibility of the depiction is controversial. Today the gable has three towers, but they can only be seen from the city side.

Replicated cannon in the Holsten Gate

The inner

The interiors of the towers are designed in the same way. The ground floor and first floor have the highest ceilings , while the floors above are significantly lower. Two narrow spiral staircases wind up, between the central building and the adjacent tower. Corridors on each floor connect the room in the central building with the rooms in the towers, which are at the same height. Today the ceiling of the second floor in the north tower has been broken out, so that the second and third floors form a common space. This redesign was made in 1934 and does not correspond to the original layout.

The gun chambers are in front of the loopholes. On the second floor you can still find cannons in the chambers, but they were exhibited here later and are not originals. There are hooks above the gun chambers with chains attached to the cannons to cushion their recoil. The upper gun chambers on the first floor could only be reached via ladders .

Green area with Lübeck lions

The interior of the Holstentorplatz is an elongated green area that was created by Harry Maasz . On the narrow side of the green area opposite the Holsten Gate, two monumental cast iron lions from Lübeck are set up. The reclining lions from 1823 are unsigned, they are attributed to Christian Daniel Rauch and may have been created with the help of Rauch's workshop employee Theodor Kalide . One of the two lions is asleep, the other directs his gaze attentively to the sleeping lion. Originally, the Lübeck Lions had been in front of the home of the merchant and art collector Johann Daniel Jacobj (1798–1847) in the Great Petersgrube 19 since 1840. The two lions had stood in front of the Hotel Stadt Hamburg in Lübeck am Klingenberg from 1873 until it was in World War II Was destroyed in 1942. Only later were the lions placed in front of the Holsten Gate. Appropriately opposite, on a green strip in Willy-Brandt-Allee, stands the bronze statue of the Striding Antelope by the sculptor Fritz Behn . Further casts of the same lions can be found in front of Philippsruhe Castle in Hanau .

Holstentor Museum

Themed rooms

Ship models in the Holstentor Museum

The left wooden gate on the city side of the Holsten Gate leads into the museum. A narrow spiral staircase connects the floors. Nine themed rooms are set up on the first to third floors of the Holsten Gate. Long-distance trade, the original fortifications and the development of today's national monument are presented on the first floor. On the second floor, the shipping and shipping routes, the turtle-like model of downtown Lübeck and the market are shown. On the third floor, Luebian law and the Luebian city law family from 80 to 100 cities and the execution of punishments including torture and executioners are explained.

Creation of the museum

The Holsten Gate was already used as a museum by the National Socialists ( see below ). Since 1950 the Holsten Gate has served as a museum again, now for the history of the city. Finds from old Lübeck were presented, the development of medieval Lübeck presented in models and pictures, and models of Hanseatic ships such as the flagship Adler von Lübeck were exhibited. This museum was also not historically accurate. It also contained a torture chamber with a dungeon, a rack and other torture devices. In truth, however, there was never one in the Holsten Gate.

In 2002 the Holsten Gate Museum was modernized. Not only was the torture chamber removed, but all rooms were equipped according to a new concept that also includes audio and video documents. Since 2006 the management of the museum has been with the Kulturstiftung Hansestadt Lübeck .


The city gates of Lübeck

Over the centuries, the rich and prosperous Hanseatic city of Lübeck felt compelled to protect itself against external threats with ever stronger walls and fortifications. Three city gates allowed access to the city: the Burgtor in the north, the Mühlentor in the south and the Holsten Gate in the west. To the east the city was protected by the dammed Wakenitz . Here the less martial Hüxtertor led out of the city.

These city gates were initially simple gates and were reinforced more and more, so that in the end there were three to four gates one behind the other in all directions. Today only little of it has survived: the Inner Burgtor and the Middle Holsten Gate, which is now simply called the “Holsten Gate”.

The four Holsten gates

The Holsten Gate around 1700 (sketch). Right at the front is the Second Outer Holsten Gate, followed by the Outer and Middle Holsten Gate. Behind the Holsten Bridge is the Inner Holsten Gate - in this drawing the half-timbered building that replaced the original gate in the 17th century.
The entire Holsten Gate in 1728, detail from a view of the city by Friedrich Bernhard Werner

The Inner Holsten Gate, the oldest of the Holsten Gates, used to lie between the Middle Holsten Gate and the city. The outer Holsten Gate and a fourth gate, which was called the "Second Outer Holsten Gate", followed on the outside. The names of the individual gates changed with the appearance and disappearance of the components. The Middle Holsten Gate was called the “Outer Holsten Gate” before the two gates in front of it were erected. Even today one finds quite a confusion of names when looking at historical reviews.

Inner Holsten Gate

The oldest Holsten Gate was watching right on the banks of the Trave . From the city you had to go through this gate to get to the Holsten Bridge over the river . It is not known when a gate was first built here. The Holsten Bridge was first mentioned in 1216 in a deed of donation from the Danish king. It is likely that there was already a gate and a wall along the Trave at that time. The naming as Holstenbrücke (and Holstentor) has the simple background that the western exit of the city pointed to Holstein .

The chronicles show that in 1376 the Holsten Bridge and the gate were renewed. The appearance of the gate erected here is well passed down through the woodcut of the Lübeck cityscape by Elias Diebel . Although it is a view of the city from the eastern Wakenitz side of the old town hill, the artist folds up essential parts of the western side so that they are also visible. It was a rectangular tower with a wooden gallery in the upper part.

At an unknown point in time in the 17th century , the inner Holsten Gate was replaced by a smaller, simple lattice gate - possibly because of the strong external fortifications, there was no longer any sense in a strong inner gate. The Inner Holsten Gate was connected to the house of the customs officer, who guarded the entrance to the city at this point.

The truss gate was replaced by a simple lattice gate in 1794; this was again demolished in 1828, together with the customs office and the city wall along the Trave.

Model construction of the inner Holsten Gate (city and field side)

It is likely that there was an early gate on the opposite bank of the Trave. But its appearance has not been passed down. If it existed, it was demolished before or after the Middle Holsten Gate was built.

Middle Holsten Gate

In the 15th century , the gate systems were no longer considered sufficient. Firearms and cannons made stronger fortifications necessary. It was decided to build another gate - the Outer Holsten Gate, later known as the Middle Holsten Gate and now only known as the Holsten Gate. The financing was secured by a legacy of the councilor Johann Broling over 4,000 Marks from Luebisch. In 1464 the council builder Hinrich Helmstede began construction, which was completed in 1478. It was erected on a seven meter high, specially heaped hill. Even during the construction phase, this base proved to be unstable. The south tower sagged in the boggy ground, so that an attempt was made to compensate for the inclination when the construction was continued.

For the further history of the Middle Holsten Gate see below: Restorations of the Middle Holsten Gate .

Outer Holsten Gate

Model construction of the outer Holsten Gate (city and field side)

The Outer Holsten Gate was also known under the name Renaissance Gate, Voror or Krummes Tor. It was built in the 16th century when a wall was raised west of the Middle Holsten Gate and another gate was built into it. The Outer Holsten Gate was completed in 1585. Its eastern exit was only 20 meters away from the Middle Holsten Gate, so this new gate blocked the view. A walled area called the Zwinger was created between the gates .

Compared to the Mittlerer Holsten Gate, which was around a hundred years older, its front gate was small, but much more richly decorated on the front of the field side. The city side, on the other hand, was kept simple. The Outer Holsten Gate was the first of the gates to be inscribed. It was attached to the city side and read: Pulchra res est pax foris et domi concordia - MDLXXXV ("Peace outside and harmony inside - 1585"). Later it was moved to the field side and slightly modified: Concordia domi et foris pax sane res est omnium pulcherrima ("Harmony within and peace outside are indeed best for everyone"). Connected to the gate was the house of the Wallmeister, who was responsible for maintaining the fortifications.

The builder of the renaissance gate was probably council builder Hermann von Rode, who based the design of the front on Dutch models. The Nieuwe Oosterpoort in Hoorn , for example, is directly comparable . The gate existed for around 250 years and ultimately fell victim to the railway : It was demolished in 1853 to make way for the first Lübschen train station and the tracks. Today this station no longer exists either; the current main station is about 500 meters to the west.

Model construction of the second outer Holsten Gate (city and field side)

Second outer Holsten Gate

At the beginning of the 17th century, new ramparts were built in front of the city moat under the supervision of the fortress builder Johann von Brussels . A fourth Holsten Gate was built as part of these buildings in 1621. It was completely embedded in the high ramparts and crowned by an octagonal tower. The arches bore the inscriptions Si deus pro nobis, quis contra nos (“If God is for us, who will be against us?”, City side) and Sub alis altissimi (“Under the protection of the Most High”, field side). The gate, the last of the four Holsten gates to be built, was also the first to disappear, namely in 1808. The Puppenbrücke is the oldest stone bridge in Lübeck and leads to Holstein over the city moat .

Demolition of three gates in the 19th century

In the course of industrialization , the fortifications were only seen as annoying obstacles. In 1808 the Second Outer Holsten Gate, the Inner Holsten Gate in 1828 and the Outer Holsten Gate in 1853 were demolished. At that time it was only a matter of time before the central Holsten Gate, the only remaining of the four gates, would also be torn down.

Restorations of the Middle Holsten Gate

Restoration 1863–71

In 1855 there was a petition from Lübeck citizens to the Senate to finally demolish the remaining gate, as it stood in the way of expanding the railway system. 683 signatures supported this entry.

Slope of the Holsten Gate to the west, towards the field side, view from Wallstrasse

However, at that time there was also resistance to the destruction of the old building fabric. In 1852 August Reichensperger wrote : “Even Lübeck, once the proud head of the Hanseatic League, does not seem to be able to bear the shine of its former glory. It mutilates, circumcises and whitewashes so indefatigably that the 'modern Enlightenment' will soon no longer have to be ashamed of it. "

When King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia heard about it, he sent Ferdinand von Quast , the then curator for art monuments in the Kingdom of Prussia , to “save what can be saved”.

The dispute over the demolition dragged on for a long time. It was not until 1863 that a decision was made in which the citizens of Lübeck decided with only one vote not to demolish the building and instead to fully restore it. In the meantime the gate was in a very bad condition as it sank a few centimeters into the ground every year. The deepest loopholes were already 50 centimeters below the ground, and the incline of the entire gate was becoming dangerous. This changed the statics of the building drastically, so that there was fear of collapse.

The Holsten Gate was completely restored up to 1871. After that, the relationship between Lübeck and the Holstentor changed. It was no longer perceived as an annoying ruin, but as a sign of a proud past. In the 20th century, Luebsche companies and the German Association of Cities integrated the Holsten Gate into their logos ( see below ).

Restoration 1933/34

As the inclination of the towers continued and a collapse could still not be ruled out, a second restoration was necessary. This came about in 1933/34, when the Holsten Gate was fixed in such a way that it was finally secure. During this restoration, reinforced concrete anchors were used to secure the towers, which were surrounded by iron rings. But there were also redesigns that did not correspond to the original character of the gate, including the above-mentioned merging of the floors of the north tower.

The National Socialists turned the Holsten Gate into a museum. This was called the “Hall of Fame and Honor” and was supposed to represent Lübsche and German history from the point of view of the National Socialist ideology.

In the second half of the 20th century, minor repair work was carried out on the Holsten Gate, which is no longer fully comprehensible in terms of building history.

Restoration 2005/06

Renewed terracotta plate with a Lübsch double-headed eagle

From March 2005 to December 2006 the Holsten Gate was restored again. The restoration costs were estimated at around one million euros, with a sum of 498,000 euros (originally planned costs) being raised by the German Foundation for Monument Protection and the Possehl Foundation . The rest of the costs were mainly covered by donations from private individuals, companies and academic institutions.

A few days after the scaffolding was erected, a swastika that had been attached in 1934 was cut out by strangers and taken away. It was the last thing to be done on a public building in Germany and should be covered with a sheet of metal in the course of the work. Instead of the stolen swastika, a plate with the year 2006 was attached to commemorate the completion of the restoration work.

During the work, the gate was covered with a scaffolding tarpaulin for safety reasons. The appearance of the gate before the start of the work was shown in high resolution on the printed tarpaulin. On December 2, 2006, the Holsten Gate was made accessible to the population again as part of a light show by the artist Michael Batz .

Holsten Gate as a motif and symbol

As early as 1901, the marzipan manufacturer Niederegger incorporated the Holsten Gate into its company coat of arms. Other lovely companies followed suit. In 1925, the German Association of Cities integrated the Holsten Gate into its logo .

In 1948 it appeared on the four highest values ​​(1 DM, 2 DM, 3 DM and 5 DM) of the building series, the first series of permanent postage stamps in D-Mark currency. Another postage stamp for 5.10 DM in the series “ Sights ” followed in 2000 .

There is an engraving of the west elevation (field side) of the Holsten Gate on the reverse of the 50 DM notes produced from 1960 to 1991 .

The Holsten Gate can be seen on the German 2-euro coin from 2006, as Schleswig-Holstein was then the regular chairman of the Federal Council.

The pink painting Holstentor by the pop art artist Andy Warhol from 1980 is owned by the Museums für Kunst und Kulturgeschgeschichte .


In 2008, a scaled-down and simplified replica of the Holsten Gate was built in the Hansa-Park in Sierksdorf as an entrance for visitors.

In the summer of 2010, the city of Lübeck placed a yellow banner on the field side of the Holsten Gate with the inscription “Lübeck fights for its university” to draw attention to the current situation of the University of Lübeck in a prominent place .


  • Jonas Geist : Try to raise the Holsten Gate to Lübeck a little in your mind. Wagenbach, Berlin 1976, ISBN 3-8031-2012-8
  • Wulf Schadendorf: The Holsten Gate . Weiland, Lübeck 1977, 1985, ISBN 3-87890-023-6
  • Heinz-Joachim Draeger: Lübeck vividly - experience history in an old city . Convent, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-934613-48-9
  • Hans Pieper : The structural protection of the Holsten Gate in Lübeck and the redesign of its surroundings. in: German Art and Monument Preservation , Volume 9, Deutscher Kunstverlag and Anton Schroll, Berlin and Vienna 1934
  • Manfred Eickhölter: When they built a new Holstentor in Lübeck , in: Lübeckische Blätter , July 2, 2016, pp. 229–231

Web links

Commons : Holstentor  - collection of images, videos and audio files

3D and animation


Individual evidence

  1. a b NDR : The Holstentor - Lübeck's proud landmark , June 19, 2017
  2. ^ Hansestadt Lübeck, Museum Holstentor: themed rooms in the Museum Holstentor. Leaflet from around 2013.
  3. ^ Emil Ferdinand Fehling : Lübeck Council Line. No. 525
  4. August Reichensperger: The Christian-Germanic architecture and its relationship to the present . Ms. Lintz, Trier 1845, p. 85, note 2 .
  5. ^ Otto Dziobek : History of the Lübeck Infantry Regiment (3rd Hanseatic) No. 162 ; first edition 1922, in connection with General v. Quast and the meaning of the v. Quasts for Lübeck
  6. RP-Online: Swastika stolen from Lübeck Holstentor , May 21, 2005, accessed on April 24, 2010
  7. A Holsten Gate in the Holsten Gate. Andy Warhol's work of art can be seen in the museum. In "LNONLINE", July 17, 2015, author abbreviation ar.
  8. bastianwehler.de and luebeck-kaempft.de accessed on July 3, 2010
This version was added to the list of excellent articles on November 17th, 2004 .

Coordinates: 53 ° 51 ′ 58.7 "  N , 10 ° 40 ′ 46.6"  E