Around 1170, what was actually going on in Lübeck?

by | Mar 2, 2021 | A look at the Kolk construction site

Admittedly, the Slavic settlement with fortifications in the north already existed. Some Slavs still settled there, but the castle was dilapidated and abandoned. Count Adolf II of Schauenburg had seen this coming: A stone hill and a navigable river leading to the Baltic Sea were perfect for the expanding Christian trading interests.

Adolf II of Schauenburg, Holstein and Storman (1128-1164) Miniature from the Rehbein Chronicle (16th century) Lübeck Public Library.

In 1143 he fortified the castle with a moat and successfully built a deep well for water, to protect the city hill with its trading centre. He sent messengers to Westphalia, Flanders, Holland, Utrecht and Friesland: anyone who had too little land could settle here. The position on which the settlement is built is also part of the long-distance trade route by land: through the castle gate past the Koberg, down Breite Straße into Mühlenstraße and out again through the Mühlentor.

Map of Lübeck around 1200 © Archäologische Gesellschaft Lübeck, 

Yearbook: Volume 2-3: With Gugel, Pritschholz and Trippe – Everyday Life in Medieval Lübeck (1999)

The foundations laid in Lübeck marked the beginning of German  settlements in the entire north-eastern part of the country.  A huge wave of immigration was triggered: farmers, craftsmen, merchants, knights and clergymen made their way to the north-east. Brickmakers were also drawn northward, fortunately as Lübeck became a concentrated area of construction for the next few decades. The merchants built their houses and warehouse towers on the trading square and in the founding quarter with the wood that was abundantly available everywhere. The banks of the river around the hill on which the town was built had a marsh like character, these were also strengthened with ingenious and back filled layers of wood. But in recent years, wooden cellars with brick staircases in the founding quarter have been uncovered. For the cathedral – 1173, St Peter’s Church and the city wall around 1180, bricklayers used the most modern building material of the time: brick. Whereas brick had previously only been used for sacred buildings and city walls, a (first?) secular house seems to have been built in the Kolk using the new building material.

After several city fires, the council decreed that only stone houses could be built in Lübeck from 1283.

The triumph of brick was unstoppable.

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