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Saalhof from the Eiserner Steg with Rententurm, Bernusbau and Burnitzbau (from left), March 2009
Unobstructed view of the Saalhof during the new building of the Historical Museum (2012)
Saalhof and the new historical museum from the Maintower (2018)

The Saalhof - with the Rententurm , the former customs office, on its west side - is the oldest surviving structure in the old town of Frankfurt am Main . The beginnings go back to the end of the 12th century, when a residential tower was built in connection with the neighboring older Königspfalz Frankfurt with a two-story residential building in the north. From 1200 onwards, the residential tower was extended to the east by adding a chapel .

The function and relationship of the Saalhof to the older Königspfalz Frankfurt are very controversial in research. The interpretations range from a replacement (or an addition) of the early medieval palace by a small Hohenstaufen imperial castle to the seat of a dependent imperial ministerial as the local representative of the king. From 1333 the Saalhof was in the hands of the Frankfurt patrician Jakob Knoblauch , but was still considered an imperial fief until the end of the 17th century . During the Frankfurt trade fairs it served as an exhibition hall for Dutch cloth makers. Numerous later renovations followed, including the customs and guard house located at the Fahrtor , the Rententurm (1454–1456), the baroque Bernusbau (1715–1717) and the Burnitzbau, built in the Italian Romanesque style in 1840–1842 . After the destruction by the air raids on Frankfurt am Main in 1944, the buildings facing the Main were rebuilt. The new historical museum was built on the site behind it in the early 1970s .

Location and surroundings

The drive gate was demolished in 1840
Bernusbau and rent tower around 1760, before the bank of the Main was filled

The Saalhof extends between the Fahrtor in the west, the banks of the Main in the south and the Geistpförtchen in the east. Its northern border is the Saalgasse , which has been named after the 17th century. Before it was called Heilig-Geist-Gasse after the old hospital of the Holy Spirit, which was demolished in 1840 . Nothing has remained of the original narrow buildings on Saalgasse and at the Geistpförtchen as a result of the war damage.

The bank in front of the Saalhof was Frankfurt's most important port from the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century. On the upstream bank section mainly wood was handled, which was brought in with rafts from the upper reaches of the Main. Below the Saalhof was the storage area for wine, which mainly came from Franconia or the Rheingau . The Mainz market ship , which traveled daily to Mainz and back, also had its landing stage here.

After the bank was filled up and widened, the Mainkai became an important inner-city traffic axis. In 1859, the municipal connecting line began operating, which played an important role in passenger traffic until 1913 . The Frankfurt (Main) Fahrtor stop was right in front of the Saalhof . Since 1913, the line has been used as a port railway , primarily for freight traffic between the Frankfurt ports . Only in 1945 did the line again play a role in passenger traffic for a few months due to the destruction of the Main bridges. Since 1978, the museum trains of the Frankfurt Historical Railway have occasionally been running on weekends .

The Saalhof in the Middle Ages

The Saalhof in Faber's siege plan from 1552. Behind the palisade on the harbor quay the rent tower.
The Saalhof on the Merian map from 1628
Map of the Saalhof area from 1861
Floor plans and sectional views of the Saalhof Chapel
(the information on the dating is out of date)

End of the Carolingian Palatinate

The Königspfalz Frankfurt, which was built at the beginning of the 9th century on the Cathedral Hill, west of the Salvatorkirche , had served the Carolingian and Ottonian rulers as one of the most important residences for about 200 years until its eastern wing with the Königshalle was destroyed by fire. The catastrophe is not mentioned in any contemporary chronicle, so that nothing is known about the circumstances and the exact time. Archaeological findings allow at least the statement that the fire must have taken place after the 10th century and that a reconstruction that was not secured in its scope took place afterwards.

During his reign, King Heinrich II stayed thirteen times in the Frankfurt royal palace between Christmas 1002 and Christmas 1017. For the next 120 years, which fall into the era of the Salian dynasty, there are very few records of stays in Frankfurt: In September 1027, his successor, Emperor Conrad II , called a synod of 23 bishops and 9 abbots to Frankfurt However, they did not meet in the Palatinate, but in the Salvatorkirche.

His successor Heinrich III. came to Frankfurt only once during his reign, and only by chance: on the trip to Trebur in October 1045 he fell so seriously ill that he had to stay in Frankfurt for several weeks. Up to the Staufer period, only three other visits to the rulers in Frankfurt are documented, namely by Heinrich IV (1069) and Heinrich V (1109 and 1112).

The Salians , however, also rarely visited other ancient royal places and increasingly relocated their stays to bishoprics. It is therefore possible that it was the lack of visits that led to the facility being neglected and decaying. The archaeological evidence suggests that the royal palace was by no means completely destroyed by the fire and that there are indications of a reconstruction against an early abandonment. After all, the rare presence of rulers is not a direct argument in favor of the destruction of the building; rather, appropriate rooms must have been available for a ruler to stay at all.

More recent publications are therefore increasingly moving away from an early abandonment date of the Palatinate in the 11th century, which was still predominantly quantitative in the literature. This is supported above all by the ceramic research of the last decades, according to which the ceramics from the demolition layer of the Palatinate were not produced before the second half of the 12th century.

Staufer new building

At an important landing and customs post in the immediate vicinity of a Main ford, a castle-like property was built in the last quarter of the 12th century, which was grouped around a residential tower in the southeast corner. The small size and the lack of a hall structure rather indicate a subordinate use, perhaps as the seat of a Reichsministerial. See also the history of research on the Königspfalz Frankfurt .

In the last third of the 12th century, a number of castles were grouped around the Frankfurt Royal Palatinate. The Reichsdienstmannenburg Munzenberg (built around 1153 to 1165) blocked the northern entrance to the Wetterau, the Reichsburg Gelnhausen (built around 1170) blocked the north- eastern entrance through the Kinzig valley . From Frankfurt to the northern outpost, the Boyneburg , ran a line of Staufer power against the Guelph Duchy of Saxony . The Staufer rule in this area was based on imperial servant castles such as Büdingen , Babenhausen , Dreieichenhain , imperial castles such as Königstein , Kronberg and Glauberg . An outpost against the mostly anti-Hohenstaufen Archbishop of Mainz had also been won with the castle in Frankfurt.

The Saalhof consisted of a castle courtyard of around 25 by 30 meters, surrounded by circular walls, on the east side of which was the two-story residential wing with a hall-like room on the upper floor. This upper floor hall measured about 7.70 by 8 meters and was 5 meters high. There was also an 18.50 meter high three-storey residential tower in the eastern building section . Under King Philip of Swabia , a chapel was added to the east side of the tower from 1200, and heightened it around 1210 to 1215. Dendrochronological studies of preserved wooden beams, as well as the style of the Romanesque capitals , indicate that construction of the chapel began in 1200. When the urban area was expanded at the end of the 12th century and enclosed with a new wall, the Staufen wall, the Saalhof was also included in this defensive system. On the land side, it was built as a 2.50 to 3 meter thick wall made of rubble stones, with a continuous arch inside, with battlements and a deep dry moat. On the banks of the Main, the castle wall also served as the city wall. There were brick wells in the courtyard. The total area was no more than 1560 square meters and was thus significantly smaller than comparable castles in Büdingen or Gelnhausen.

Window on the upper floor of the chapel

The residential tower with the chapel building and the residential building in the north are the only parts of the Saalhof that have survived to this day, and - apart from the Justinuskirche in Höchst , which was incorporated into Frankfurt in 1928 - the oldest building in Frankfurt. The chapel , which measures around 6.80 by 6.5 meters and is 6.00 meters high, is spanned by a ribbed vault supported by eight columns. The wall structure with its pillars was subsequently adapted to the current space.

The entrance to the city, which led from the Main to the Römerberg , was protected by the Fahrtor, which was renewed several times and only demolished in 1840 as an obstacle to traffic. Its bay window was transferred to the west facade of the customs house facing the Saalhof .

The residential tower and Saalhof chapel from the banks of the Main

In addition to the Saalhof, other neighboring facilities belonged to the Hohenstaufen castle. Since the Salvatorkirche had become more and more dilapidated in the course of the 12th century, the old Nikolaikirche probably served as a chapel for the castle crew and the court. The foundations of its Romanesque predecessor building, unearthed during the renovation in 1989, date from the time of Conrad III . The remains of a monumental round defense tower, discovered in 1942 during civil engineering work on the Römerberg, also belonged to the Hohenstaufen castle. It had a wall thickness of 6.20 meters and a diameter of 21.75 meters. Although it should never have reached its planned height of 45 meters, it should have been the highest tower in Germany around 1240.

About 100 places belonged to their castle district . The villagers were allowed to take shelter behind the city wall in times of war, and the city toll was waived. For this they were obliged to maintain the walls and ditches. The extreme points in the north were Köppern and Dillingen , in the south Messel and Urberach , in the west Breckenheim and in the east Kilianstädten .

Because of its meeting room, the castle was called des riches sal , from which the later name Saalhof is derived. The Saalhof was the center of at least sixteen Staufer Reichstag. On the most magnificent of his diets, Konrad III. in May 1142 the Duchy of Saxony to the young Guelph Heinrich the Lion . In 1147 Konrad III broke. after a sermon by Bernhard von Clairvaux from here on to the Second Crusade to the Holy Land . Here Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa ordered a peace between Heinrich the Lion and Archbishop Hartwig of Bremen in 1156 . At the Diet of 1220, the clergy princes received the securitization of their sovereign privileges in the Confoederatio cum principibus ecclesiasticis .

After the collapse of Hohenstaufen power, the Saalhof lost its legal status as a royal castle. Many cities obtained the promise from emperors and sovereigns that no castle should be built within the city walls, some even the right to destroy the sovereign castle in the city and prevent the rebuilding of a new castle. Until the 13th and 14th centuries, the sovereign right to build and maintain fortifications came more and more into the hands of the cities.

During the interregnum gave Richard of Cornwall 1257 Frankfurt a privilege, which grants the citizens, he would have not build their own castle in the city. The defense tower on the Römerberg was not built any further. Reichsgut now had to be sold and pledged.

In August 1276 the royal servants left the Saalhof and moved to the Rödelheim moated castle , which the king, Rudolf von Habsburg , had taken as a fief. The Saalhof became the pledge of the royal service nobility and their descendants, until the strengthening Frankfurt bourgeoisie finally came into their possession. Since then, emperors and kings in Frankfurt have had to lodge with the clergy or patricians.

Seat of the royal mayor

The Saalhof (left) and Haus Wertheim during construction (2012)

The hall was first mentioned in a document in 1277. It served as the curia regis and the official seat of the Reichsschultheissen . Whether the phrase "zu Frankfurt in curte regia", which appears in a document from 1165, already means the Saalhof, or just the royal court in general, could not be clarified by the archaeological excavations and remains open.

The mayor was installed by the king as his deputy, was chairman of the royal court, tax collector and commander of the team of the Saalhof. Like every other imperial city, Frankfurt was subject to imperial military service and had to provide troops. This made the mayor the most powerful man in town. Around 1300 the king pledged the mayor's office, which practically transferred the city government to a foreign ruler. If the mayor's office came to a powerful gentleman, it could be dangerous for the city. Frankfurt was surrounded by the property of powerful lords. The Saalhof was also pledged around 1300, which was also dangerous for the city. The Saalhof was not only a Hohenstaufen castle on the banks of the Main, but also an imperial property. It included fields, fishing rights and other royal rights. It is recorded that Gerlach von Breuberg , who was bailiff of the Wetterau from 1282 to 1305 , owned the Saalhof with accessories to property and rights as an imperial fief and bequeathed this pledge to his son Eberhard von Breuberg. The Frankfurt councilors elected two mayors from their ranks since 1311, who were now at their head instead of the mayor. They endeavored to transfer the duties of the royal mayor to them. Gradually they succeeded, but it was not until 1372 that they were able to obtain the most important privileges, and only the presidency of the Imperial Court remained with the mayor. The right of escort was particularly important to protect trade, especially trade fair trade, which was originally in the hands of the mayor. The Reichsgut Saalhof also came into the hands of a Frankfurt citizen. This averted the danger that a foreign ruler in the mayor's office could establish himself permanently in the Saalhof. It was the beginning of urban autonomy.

Patrician garment house

Northern courtyard around 1900
South courtyard around 1900
Zwerchhaus to Saalgasse

After the death of Eberhard von Breuberg, the Saalhof passed into the hands of his two daughters, who divided it between them in 1332. A barrier wall running in north-south direction, the remains of which are still visible in the cellar of the Burnitz building, divided the Saalhof in two halves. A daughter received the lower part as well as all the houses and goods that belonged to the Saalhof inside and outside the city. These were the corpses on the Main, the fishery above the Main Bridge , the village and court of Bergen . The other received the upper part as well as the village and court of Oberrad . However, they were financially overwhelmed with the maintenance of the Saalhof, which was in poor condition. They asked the Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian to redeem the pledge. He ordered the wealthy Frankfurt lay judge Jakob Knoblauch , who at that time played the first role in the city's business and public life, to acquire the Saalhof. Knoblauch and his wife Drude paid 1,800 pounds of Heller for the entire Saalhof estate. They resold Oberrad.

From 1333 to 1334 Jakob von Knoblauch had the Saalhof renovated and spent a further 2,400 pounds of Heller on it. Except for repairs, the old structure of the Palas with tower and chapel remained intact. He had a new hall built on the north side of the Saalhof. More new buildings followed. In 1344 another building was erected on the south side of the hall facing the Main. By 1346, garlic used a total of 3,380 pounds of Heller, whereupon the emperor increased his deposit to 5,000 pounds of Heller. He was now a frequent guest at “his dear landlord” in the Saalhof and in 1349 appointed him his court servant.

Knoblauch converted most of the Saalhof into a profitable garment house for Dutch and Lower Rhine cloths. The lower floors in particular were used for this purpose during the fasting mass. The cloth merchants, the most distinguished trading stand, which had previously inherited the Carolingian Palatinate on the cathedral hill in Tuchgaden, relocated their center to the Staufer Saalhof. The name of the house "Brabant" on the corner of Fahrtor and Saalgasse is reminiscent of the Dutch cloth merchants. In addition to the exhibition halls, Knoblauch also rented the other houses that belong to the Saalhof. Knoblauch's construction investments were profitable. During the fair in 1362, the Saalhof had the highest turnover of all Frankfurt houses. Nevertheless, other Frankfurt merchant families in the course of the 14th century finally exceeded his fortune by far.

After Jakob Knoblauch's death in 1357, the marriage of the hall passed to his widow Drude. Heinrich Beyer von Boppard soon vigorously disputed this. While her husband was still alive, he had obtained permission from Emperor Charles IV to redeem the fief, but this was now revoked and in 1361 confirmed the widow as the fief owner. In addition, he challenged the city of Frankfurt and his bailiff in the Wetterau, Ulrich III. von Hanau , to protect Drude's property at the Saalhof. Beyer persevered and even got into a feud with the city, which his son only ended in 1387 after the death of his father. Probably mainly Drude's son-in-law, Siegfried zum Paradies , worked as a powerful advocate at the imperial court in those years, so that nothing changed in the property. It was also possible to ward off the desires of a Henlin in the hall, whose family had a relationship with the building that is no longer verifiable today before Jakob Knoblauch acquired the Saalhof.

After the widow's death, the Saalhof remained in undivided ownership as an inheritance from six parties. In the decades that followed, these had to face numerous further attempts by various people who tried to take possession of the Saalhof. In the end, this was even the emperor's treasurer, Konrad von Weinsberg , who wanted to redeem the fief in favor of the empire, which only failed because of the excessive sum. In 1439 the last garlic still involved in the inheritance died.

In the following centuries the Saalhof no longer played a special role in the city's history. The medieval building fabric was rarely interfered with. Around 1501 the courtyard was separated into a larger north courtyard and a smaller south courtyard by a central building. With the laying of the foundation stone on April 23, 1604 a large, two-storey new stone building was built along the Saalgasse. The roof was three richly decorated, in framework construction built lucarnes in the style of Renaissance . The east and west dwelling were divided into three, the middle and slightly smaller dwelling into two floors. The Ganerbe had to raise a total of almost 14,000 guilders for the construction.

The Saalhof in modern times

Pietist conventicle

The Saalhof Chapel around 1900
The Saalgasse around 1900

1666 Frankfurt Council appointed Philipp Jakob Spener for Senior of the Lutheran preacher Ministry , d. H. as head of the city's twelve evangelical clergy. Spener endeavored to enliven the city's spiritual life, which was frozen in orthodoxy . From 1670 he introduced the Collegia Pietatis (conventicle), religious communities that gathered in private apartments outside of public services. In 1675 he published a religious reform pamphlet, the Pia desideria , which soon found great resonance outside of Frankfurt and contributed to the spread of the Pietist conventicles. The conventicles soon led to separatist tendencies within the Lutheran churches, as Spen's reforms did not go far enough for some pietistic communities ( radical pietism ). While Spener wanted to reform the church from within, the separatists considered the church incapable of reform.

In Frankfurt the separatists gathered in the Saalhof around the noble Miss Johanna Eleonora von und zu Merlau and the young widow Juliane Baur von Eysseneck, née. Hynsperg, who had drawn public attention through religious visions and interpretations of the Revelation of John . The theology student Johann Wilhelm Petersen and the lawyers Franz Daniel Pastorius and Johann Jacob Schütz also belonged to the members of the Saalhof Society . Since Advent 1676, the Saalhof Pietists had hardly any relations with the Frankfurt Lutheran official church and refused the Lord's Supper in order not to enjoy it with unworthy people . Instead, they kept in touch with William Penn , one of the founders and leaders of the Quakers , who was in Frankfurt in 1677 to recruit German settlers for his planned model colony, Pennsylvania .

The Saalhof Pietists then seriously considered emigrating to America , where there were no German settlers until then, and founded a Frankfurter Land Company which acquired 15,000 acres of land in Pennsylvania . Eventually, however, only Pastorius moved to America as the Society's agent in 1682. The other participants stayed in Frankfurt, but made their land and the collected capital available to Pastorius, who ultimately founded the first German colony in America, Germantown , in 1683 with 13 families of Quakers and Mennonites from Krefeld . The Saalhof Society is thus at the beginning of German emigration .

New buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries

Rententurm, Bernusbau and Burnitzbau (from left)
Gable of the Bernus building

In 1696 the inheritance consisted of the following people: Baron Johann Erwin von Schönborn, Johann Jakob Müller, Philipp Nicolaus Fleischbein, Philipp Nicolaus Lersner, Matthaeus Karl Steffan von Cronstetten and Johann Hektor von Hynsperg. On December 30th of the same year they sold the Saalhof for 36,000 guilders to the brothers Heinrich and Johann Bernus, who had immigrated from Hanau . It was good business for the Ganerbe, as large parts of the Saalhof were so dilapidated that they had to be completely renovated or rebuilt.

As early as March 24, 1705, the brothers therefore turned to the authorities to obtain permission for a new building on the Main side. It took more than ten years before this was finally granted. The city worried that a dangerous precedent would be set in the approval of a new construction project on the old but still relevant city wall, especially since it was already city property. The brothers, on the other hand, saw the wall as their property and stated that the new building would serve as an ornament and splendid for the city . Only after a favorable verdict from the jury was granted on April 23, 1715, a positive building permit. In addition to the payment of 1000 guilders to the city treasury, this also included the requirement not to obstruct the windows of the rent tower and to keep at least six shoes away from the tower with the windows of the new building .

From 1715 to 1717 they had a new representative residential building erected by the Arnsburg Cistercian priest Bernardus Kirnde east of the rent tower built between 1454 and 1456 . The three- story Bernus Building, named after its clients, is one of the dominant buildings on the banks of the Main with its 13 window axes and a facade length of 60 meters. The mansard roof has two large dormitories with volute gables and two pilasters each . The gable and the tracery of all windows are made of red Main sandstone , the building material characteristic of Frankfurt.

The original plan of the Bernus building, which was burned in the city archive during the Second World War, resulted in more extensive but never realized plans. Accordingly, the brothers originally wanted to demolish and rebuild the buildings adjoining the new building to the east, i.e. the oldest substance of the Saalhof with the chapel. This would have allowed a more drawn shape with only one upper storey and three more compact gables. For an unknown reason, the demolition of the old buildings did not take place and, apparently in order to still achieve the planned total area, the decision was made to add another floor and a much larger roof to the building.

Johann Bernus died childless and Heinrich Bernus left only one son, Jakob Bernus. He united the Saalhof and all associated buildings from 1726 to 1749 in one hand and estimated the total property at 60,000 guilders, which he left to his five children. From this point onwards it was owned and administered by various respected Frankfurt families in the form of a property cooperative.

In the early 19th century the entire old town center fell into a deep slumber due to the dwindling importance of the mass, the elimination of the ceremonial coronations and the emergence of new, representative residential quarters outside the late medieval city limits. The substance of the Saalhof, too, at least in its less representative parts, suffered from a lack of maintenance and misuse. Carl Theodor Reiffenstein , who has documented numerous structural changes in the old town center since the 1830s, wrote:

The old Saalhof has always captivated my attention and imagination to a high degree, and I made my first attempts at representation, carried out with artistic awareness, on its various buildings. I was always drawn irresistibly through the gate into the quiet courtyard, and although at the time (1835–1836) hardly knew that it was such a historically important building, I always returned there. At that time it was easy and convenient to study in the courtyard, since the extensive buildings were almost uninhabited, and most of the lower rooms, rented out as vaults and warehouses, were seldom visited. Tall grass grew abundantly there, and the place was lonely and secluded, in that the noise of public life did not penetrate so easily, and in general the traffic in the city was not as lively as it is now. [...] The windows with the round panes were mostly blind, some of the panes were missing and there was no shortage of cobwebs. [...] The thick tower was a strange building on which architecture had left its traces almost every century. […] The terribly thick walls were partly broken, […] But the chapel! [...] There was dead silence, and a musty smell did not a little to reinforce the impression.
Demolition work in 1842

Nevertheless, it was from 1840 to 1842 with that of Rudolf Burnitz built in neo-Romanesque forms Burnitz to another representative building project. The corner tower of the Hohenstaufen castle was laid down for him. Reiffenstein is quoted again on this:

The news that the Saalhof was being broken off hit us all like a clap of thunder and caused a strange excitement among us then, still very young people. We had grown up in part on the studies and the impressions connected with them, and should now see it all suddenly fall before our eyes. Everything went there and drew and measured. I don't know where all of the things went. […] Only the chapel remained, but its exterior was also quite modernized. In the spring of 1842 the demolition of the above-mentioned buildings began and a new house was put in their place; […] The buildings that were built on the old city wall and located towards the Maine were demolished right down to the ground.

The newly created four-storey building with eight window axes is an important milestone in Frankfurt's architectural history, because it is the first time that the strict classicism that has prevailed since the beginning of the 19th century has been abandoned. With its round windows and the crenellated crown on the roof, the Burnitz building takes up Romanesque style elements and is reminiscent of medieval palaces such as the Palazzo Vecchio . At the same time as the Burnitz building was being erected, the 14th century Fahrtor was demolished and the bank of the Main was raised by about two meters due to the risk of flooding.

Aerial photo 1944, virtual model of the old town by Jörg Ott

Until the Second World War, the east side of the Saalhof was surrounded by dense residential buildings that stretched as far as the Heiliggeistpforte. East of the Marstall on Saalgasse, a narrow alley first led to a northern inner courtyard. This was bordered in the north by the rear of the Marstall, in the west by the rear fire wall of the house Fahrtor 4, also called Roter Krebs , in the east by the Hohenstaufen building parts and in the south by a long extension to the Bernusbau. In this there was also a passage, which enabled access to a southern, very small inner courtyard.

The Saalhof Chapel, the oldest preserved sacred building in Frankfurt's old town, was rented and served as a private library and writing room. Only parts of the chapel were visible from the Main Quay, the rest was hidden behind a pergola. From Saalgasse you first had to cross house no.29, also known as the Kleiner Saalhof , as well as its rear building to get to a tiny courtyard in which the chapel stood free to the east. As there were no other archaeological findings, the Saalhof was considered a Romanesque reconstruction of the old Carolingian royal palace. It was not until 1936 to 1942 that Heinrich Bingemer's excavation results - unpublished at the time - showed that the Saalhof was a purely Hohenstaufen building.

Destruction and rebuilding

The concrete building of the Historical Museum on Saalgasse

In 1944, air raids destroyed all buildings and the buildings attached to them in the Saalhof except for Fahrtor 6. At the beginning of the fifties, the Rententurm, the Bernusbau and the Burnitzbau were rebuilt - initially as shell structures without interior fittings. The northern extension of the Bernusbau was not restored, which resulted in a large inner courtyard that can still be seen today. In November 1955, the museum administration and the graphic collection of the Historical Museum , whose pre-war buildings had all been destroyed, moved into the Burnitz building. From March 1956, the Bernus building, which was still provided with an emergency roof, served as a depot for the museum. In 1958, extensive archaeological research began on the Saalhof grounds, which lasted until 1961. The findings showed that the bank of the Main was originally more than four meters lower than it is today and that it had already been piled up again and again in the Middle Ages.

From 1966 to 1967 the historic Saalhof chapel was renovated. In 1971, the construction of the new historical museum on Saalgasse began, the first phase of which was opened in October 1972. The northern castle ring wall on Saalgasse was demolished for the new building. In addition, the completely undamaged, late Classicist house Freudenberg (formerly also Brabant ) on the corner of Saalgasse and Fahrtor was demolished. The building erected after 1833 did not have the same cultural and historical significance as the Wertheim House opposite , but the demolition is still incomprehensible from today's perspective, as it was still a completely preserved old town house.

The bunker-like, brutalist style and almost windowless concrete building of the Historical Museum drew a lot of criticism from the start. After the demolition of the historical museum or the conversion to a hotel were discussed at times, the city decided in November 2005 to convert it. The concrete building should have a natural stone facade. Parts facing the Fahror were to be torn down, and the wing facing the Old Nikolaikirche was to receive an extension. In addition, it was planned to roof the inner courtyard and enlarge the exhibition space.

Equipped hall courtyard from the Eiserner Steg, July 2009
View from above of the interior of the pension tower after the 2012 redesign

However, the renovation was delayed because of the public discussion about the redesign of Frankfurt's old town . A report published in December 2006 came to the conclusion that a complete demolition of the concrete building with subsequent new construction would cost 29 million euros compared to 22.1 million euros for the planned renovation. In February 2007, the planning department announced that the concrete building was to be demolished and a new building erected, for which an architectural competition was being advertised. The designs should fit into the historical development of the Römerberg with the neighboring Wertheim House and the Old Nikolaikirche. As part of the new building, the exhibition area of ​​the Historical Museum was to be increased to around 3000 square meters for the permanent exhibition and 800 to 1000 square meters for temporary exhibitions.

The designs evaluated by a jury were presented to the public at the end of January 2008. The winning design by the Stuttgart architects Lederer + Ragnarsdóttir + Oei envisages a four-story new building with two long gable roofs along the Saalgasse and a double gable facing the drive gate. The building takes up the style and shape of the Schirn Kunsthalle . Another, smaller new building complements the old Saalhof buildings facing the Main.

Before the construction of the new building, the historic components were first fundamentally renovated from 2009 onwards. As part of the renovation of the old buildings, the Saalhof had been completely scaffolded since the beginning of July 2009. The interior of the individual buildings from the 12th to 19th centuries were recognizable and their history was made tangible. For this purpose, almost all fixtures from the 19th and, above all, the post-war years of the 20th century were taken back in accordance with listed building regulations and the buildings were restored to their historical status around 1800. The former walls of the keep are marked within the current building complex by rows of columns. This ensemble was opened to the public on May 26, 2012. The rent tower was accessed again via its spiral staircase and serves, among other things, as a publicly accessible viewing platform on the banks of the Main. It is open to the public for the first time in its history. Inside, metal floors are built in, which on the one hand enable use as an exhibition area and on the other hand enable a vertical view through the tower. In addition, the tower was again provided with a functional tower clock , which it had already had in the past.

The building from the 1970s was demolished in 2011 and the new building started in 2012, which was completed in 2017.


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  • Georg Hartmann , Fried Lübbecke (Ed.): Alt-Frankfurt. A legacy. Sauer and Auvermann, Glashütten 1971.
  • Ernst Mack: From the Stone Age to the Staufer City. The early history of Frankfurt am Main. Knecht, Frankfurt 1994, ISBN 3-7820-0685-2 .
  • Wolf-Christian Setzepfandt : Architecture Guide Frankfurt am Main / Architectural Guide . 3. Edition. Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-496-01236-6 , p. 1 (German, English).
  • Otto Stamm: The royal Saalhof in Frankfurt am Main. In: Writings of the Historisches Museum Frankfurt am Main XII. Frankfurt 1966.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Fritz Arens: The Saalhof in Frankfurt and the castle in Babenhausen, two Staufer defense and residential buildings on the Middle Rhine . In: Mainzer Zeitschrift 71/72 (1976/77), pp. 1–56.
  2. ^ Fritz Arens: The Saalhof in Frankfurt and the castle in Babenhausen, two Staufer defense and residential buildings on the Middle Rhine . In: Mainzer Zeitschrift 71/72 (1976/77), pp. 1–56.
  3. The dating is very controversial in research and goes back to the last decade of the 12th century (see above: Gerd Strickhausen: Castles of the Ludowingers in Thuringia, Hesse and the Rhineland. Studies on architecture and sovereignty in the High Middle Ages. Darmstadt and Marburg 1998).
  4. Here, too, the dating is controversial in research.
  5. E. Mack: From the Stone Age to the Staufer Age. Frankfurt 1994, p. 242.
  6. According to E. Mack: From the Stone Age to the Staufer Age. Frankfurt 1994, p. 243f., The Saalhof Chapel and the room below it, accessible only from above, were intended as a storage location for the imperial regalia. The murder of the client, Philipps von Schwaben , on June 21, 1208 in Bamberg, however, thwarted these plans.
  7. ^ JF Böhmer, F. Lau (ed.): Document book of the imperial city of Frankfurt am Main. Volume 1 (794-1313), No. 216
  8. ^ JF Böhmer, F. Lau (ed.): Document book of the imperial city of Frankfurt am Main. Volume 1 (794-1313), No. 391
  9. The council, formed by citizens, is first mentioned in a document in 1266
  10. References to this section: Martin Romeiss: The military constitution of the imperial city of Frankfurt am Main in the Middle Ages. In: Archive for Frankfurt's History and Art, No. 41, Frankfurt 1953
    Friedrich Schunder: The Reichsschultheißenamt in Frankfurt am Main until 1372. In: Archive for Frankfurt's History and Art, No. 42, Frankfurt 1954
    Michel Matthäus: Das Frankfurter Patriziat and the reception of the Roman law. Legal disputes about the Saalhof in the late Middle Ages. In: Archive for Frankfurt's History and Art, No. 66, Frankfurt 2000
  11. For every pound there were 240 hellers , a silver coin common at the time. Since 1356, one pound was worth one imperial guilder . According to Matthäi purchasing power as a measure of the value of money ( memento from January 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), the purchasing power of a guilder corresponds to around 910 euros. See also [1]
  12. ^ Carl Wolff, Julius Hülsen, Rudolf Jung: The architectural monuments of Frankfurt am Main - Volume 3, private buildings. Self-published / Völcker, Frankfurt am Main 1914, pp. 8 & 9; According to the authors, the quotations come from the seven volumes of notes that Reiffenstein left the city after his death, which have been preserved to this day (in the Historical Museum) and are largely unpublished.
  13. ^ Carl Wolff, Julius Hülsen, Rudolf Jung: The architectural monuments of Frankfurt am Main - Volume 3, private buildings. Self-published / Völcker, Frankfurt am Main 1914, pp. 10 & 11
  14. ^ The new building of the Historical Museum ( Memento from July 15, 2003 in the Internet Archive ) at
  15. A drawing by the painter Friedrich Philipp Usener, dated 1833 and located in the Institute for City History, shows the previous building, probably from the 17th century.
  16. Competition for the Historical Museum in Frankfurt decided
  17. "Signs of Brutalism" disappears from the city
  18. ^ House with double roof for the Historical Museum ( Memento from March 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  19. ^ Historical Museum in Frankfurt am Main - The New Museum - Architecture / The new building on the Römerberg. In: Retrieved June 3, 2012 .

Coordinates: 50 ° 6 ′ 33 ″  N , 8 ° 40 ′ 57 ″  E

This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on February 27, 2008 .