The Fortress of Mainz was a fortressed garrison town between 1620 and 1918. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, under the term of the 1815 Peace of Paris, the control of Mainz passed to the German Confederation and became part of a chain of strategic fortresses which protected the Confederation. With the dissolution of the Confederation and the Austro-Prussian War, control of the fortress first passed to Prussia, and, after the 1871 Unification of Germany, to the German Empire.
In 1839 an article on Mainz in The Penny Cyclopædia stated that Mainz was one of the strongest fortresses in Europe, and a chief bulwark of Germany against France. At the Congress of Vienna, Mainz was assigned to the Louis, Grand-Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, but it was decided that, as a fortress, it should belong to the German Confederation, with a garrison of Austrian, Prussian, and Hessian troops. This garrison in time of peace consisted of 6,000 men. The military governor, who retained his post five years, was alternately an Austrian and a Prussian general. A criticism of the fortress was that it was too large, as it required for its defence a garrison of 30,000 men.
The fortress of Mainz was connected, by a bridge over the Rhine, with the strongly fortified village of Kastel. The extent of the works, which were much enlarged by the French while the city was in their possession, including the work called the Weisenauer Schanze or Fort Weisenau, but exclusive of Kastel and of the small redoubt, was two and a half leagues. Among the principal works were the citadel, with the Eichelstein, and that called the Hauptstein, an extremely strong work projecting beyond all the rest, on an eminence called the Linsenberg. Kastel, which at that time was united with Mainz as an outwork, had very extensive fortifications, which consisted of four strong forts besides the strongly fortified island of Petersau, including which latter the works were of greater extent than even those of Mainz itself. The inner works consisted of 14 principal and 13 smaller bastions. On the land side there were four great gates with double drawbridges, and toward the river several more gates. The Rhine runs from south to north, and the Main from east to west. About a mile above the junction of the two rivers was the village of Kostheim on the Main, and a little farther up a bridge of boats, defended by a strong tête-de-pont.
The Reduit of the Fortress of Mainz.
Provisions Magazine of Mainz; on the ground floor with restaurant.
Karl Baedeker writing in 1864 stated that Mainz was amongst the strongest fortresses of the German Confederation. It was surrounded by a threefold line of fortifications: first ring, the chief rampart consisting of 14 bastions comprising the citadel; second ring, a line of advanced forts, connected by glacis; third ring, by still more advanced entrenchments, erected partly by the Prussian, partly by the Austrian engineers, of which the principal were the Weisenauer Lager, the Hartenberg, and the Binger Thurm. On the north side of the town stood a vast Military Hospital, facing the Schlossplatz. In time of peace the garrison consisted of 3,000 Prussian, and a similar number of Austrian troops; in time of war the number of soldiers could be trebled.
The Mainzer Zitadelle (Citadel of Mainz) is situated at the fringe of Mainz Old Town, near Mainz Römisches Theater station. The fortress was constructed in 1660 and was an important part of the Fortress Mainz.
The Jakobsberg hill, where the citadel was constructed, had been occupied by a Benedictine abbey during the Middle Ages (since 1050). Halfway up the hill, the amphitheater of the Roman settlement of Mogontiacum, must also have been visible at that time. The Jakobsberg hill, however, had not been integrated in the ring of the defensive city walls of the town and this flank of the city was therefore only slightly protected. This position immediately at the gates of the town opened a strategic gap, as an aggressor could use the hill for a raid into Mainz or for a cannonade. The construction of the “Schweickhardtsburg” fortress under the supervision of cathedral vicar Adolph von Waldenburg during the years 1620-29 provisionally filled this gap and integrated the hill into the system of city walls. The name of the irregularly pentagonal fortification honors the reigning monarch of that time, the prince-elector Johann Schweikhard von Kronberg.
Around 1655 prince-elector Johann Philipp von Schönborn initiated an improvement of the fortification of the entire town comprising bastions according to French type. Within this modification of the fortress, the Schweickhardtsburg was converted into the regular, quadrangular citadel, as it is today. St. Jacobs abbey and the Roman cenotaph, the Drususstein, remained untouched within the fortress.
Above the gate in direction to the town, a building for the commander of the citadel was erected in 1696 by the order of Lothar Franz von Schönborn. The gateway, existing since 1660 was skillfully integrated in the new building.
During the siege of Mainz (1793) St. Jacobs abbey was destroyed largely by Prussian shelling. The remainings of the abbots and guest house had been used only for military purposes since then. In the south of the courtyard a baroque garden existed, which can be seen on a map dated 1804.
After the Napoleonic Wars Mainz became in 1816 a fortress of the German Confederation. Prussians and Austrians settled in the citadel and used it as barracks. For this purpose, the Austrians erected 1861 the shellproof Citadel Barracks; the small side building was used as casino and kitchen.
Even in 1914 a double company barracks was erected. Due to this, the last remainings of the abbey declined. However numerous architectural elements of the abbot and guest houses had been integrated in the new buildings. During World War I and World War II the citadel was used as prisoner-of-war camp (Oflag XII-B).
According to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 – and the slighting of the fortifications in and around Mainz as effect of it- the military history of the citadel of Mainz ended. Nevertheless, during the last days of World War II, the population of Mainz took shelter in the casemates of bastion Drusus, which had been turned into air raid shelters.
After World War II
After the Second World War the French army seized the premises until 1955. The Paul Tirard School, named after the chair of the Inter-Allied Rhineland High Commission (1919–1930), was opened by the French administration in 1950 for education of the children of French military and civilian personnel civil during the occupation.
The citadel today
Today the citadel is owned by the city of Mainz and accommodates numerous municipal offices. Mainz Citadel has been administered as part of the city’s cultural heritage since 1907. The trench in the southern part of the citadel had been considered part of the city’s natural heritage since the 1980s. One of the buildings near the Drususstein today houses the Mainz historical museum.
The citadel and its surroundings bear witness to the entire history of Mainz concentrated in one spot, going from the Roman cenotaph, the Drususstein (Drusus monument) via the fortress barracks and up to the World War II air raid shelters.
Since 1975, an annual youth festival, the Open-Ohr festival, has taken place at the citadel during Pentecost weekend.
The Drusus Monument on Bastion Drusus
The Iron Tower (German: Eisenturm) is a mediaeval tower dating to the early 13th century, and modified in the 15th century, which with the Wood Tower and the Alexander Tower is one of three remaining towers from the city walls of Mainz, Germany. Its name derives from the Iron Market (Eisenmarkt), which was held in the immediate vicinity until the 19th century.
The Iron Tower served as a watchtower and gate to the city, and later as a gaol. It was badly damaged in World War II and reconstructed in the 1960s. Today it houses various organizations and art projects and is used for art exhibitions.
Since late Roman times, the city of Mainz (then Mogontiacum) was defended by a wall with watchtowers and city gates. The first wall was built shortly before the destruction of the limes in 259/260 CE. Not long after 350, in the course of the abandonment of the Roman camp, this wall was lowered and rubble (spolia) from earlier construction used to enlarge and strengthen it. After the Romans withdrew, it was improved at various times, particularly in the Merovingian and Carolingian periods, becoming what archaeologists studying the city have called the “Roman-Carolingian” wall.
However, in 1160 the continuity of the city’s defenses was drastically interrupted. There was a longstanding dispute between the citizens of Mainz and their archbishop, Arnold of Selenhofen (and also with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa); after the archbishop was murdered, the emperor imposed an imperial ban on the city. The city walls and towers were razed (although it is possible that on the inland side the destruction was only partial).
However, Mainz was an important political and strategic ally in the Hohenstaufens‘ struggle for supremacy in the German Empire against the Welfs, and so in circa 1190–1200 the city was granted permission to rebuild the defences. The Iron Tower was built in this phase of construction, as one of a total of 34 gate towers and watchtowers.
The round-arched late Romanesque gateway at the base of the tower dates to the first half of the 13th century, probably around 1240. On the Rhine side, the arch is embellished with two Romanesque carvings of lions in sandstone, atop ornamental capitals over fluted cornerstones. One lion grasps a ram in its paws, sometimes interpreted as a symbol of the power of the Church, while the second grasp a dragon or other fabulous animal, symbolizing secular power. The lions, an embodiment of defensive vigilance in Romanesque art, are executed in a characteristically stylised manner.
In the first half of the 15th century, the tower was raised to 6 stories. Towards the end of the 16th century (or possibly as early as the start of the 14th), the gateway lost its function and the entrance to the city was moved to the so-called “Little Iron Door” (Eisentürlein) in a smaller building attached to the tower.
In the 18th century, the Iron Tower was enclosed on the Rhine side by a wall. This remained until the early years of the 20th century. On the other, Löhrstraße, side, there were small Fachwerk houses until 1945.
The Iron Tower around 1900, enclosed by a wall.
Until the 16th century, the Iron Tower was one of the towers and gateways in the city walls. In the Middle Ages, shipping on the Rhine was of major importance, so the riverside was heavily used and was the trading center of the city. Thus the Iron Tower and the other Rhine-side towers of the city (the Wood Tower, Fish Tower, etc.) formed a secular counterbalance to the many church towers on the city skyline. In the Middle Ages, the Mainz iron traders held their market around the tower, giving it the name by which it is still known.
Beginning in the 17th century, the upper stories of the Iron Tower were used as the main goal of what was then the French city of Mayence. Prominent prisoners held there included some officers of the Lützow Free Corps in 1813, and the Mainz revolutionaries from the March Revolution of 1848/49 until they were pardoned in 1850.
In 1900, the Iron Tower was to be torn down but was saved by the Mainz Association of Antiquities (Mainzer Altertumsverein) and in 1905 became the property of the city.
After this, it housed a painter’s studio and small flats. The courtyard behind the wall on the Rhine side was used for temporary storage of old stone monuments.
In World War II, the entire center of the city, including the Iron Tower, was severely damaged. After an air raid in February 1945, the roof and interior of the tower were completely destroyed by fire, as were the houses built around the tower. In 1958 it was rebuilt and given a new slate-covered hipped roof. The wall around it was removed in the early 1970s in the course of renovation of the neighboring Zum Brand housing development. On both sides of the tower, the adjacent buildings and a portion of the city wall were reconstructed to reproduce the medieval structures as accurately as possible. The ashlar corners and painted joints were also restored based on remnants of the original.
The Iron Tower currently houses the Kunstverein Eisenturm Mainz (Mainz Iron Tower Art Association), which has a nationwide reputation in Germany. The artists use the tower as a gallery and exhibition space and award a prize named for it. Other public services and organizations, for example, the Mainz photography club and Mainz Rotaract, are also based in the tower.
The tower may be visited as part of the national European Heritage Days, Tag des offenen Denkmals.
The Wood Tower (German: Holzturm) is a mediaeval tower in Mainz, Germany, with the Iron Tower and the Alexander Tower one of three remaining towers from the city walls. Its current Gothic appearance dates to the early 15th century. It is so named because wood used to be piled next to it on the bank of the Rhine.
Like the Iron Tower, the Wood Tower was used as a watchtower and gate-tower and later as a gaol. It was badly damaged in World War II and accurately reconstructed in 1961 for the two-thousandth anniversary of the city. It currently houses various organisations and clubs.
Historical background: the defences of Mainz
Beginning in late Roman times, the city of Mainz (then Mogontiacum) was defended by a wall with watchtowers and city gates. The first wall was built shortly before the destruction of the limes in 259/260 CE. Not long after 350, in the course of the abandonment of the Roman camp, this wall was lowered and rubble (spolia) from earlier construction used to enlarge and strengthen it. After the Romans withdrew, it was improved at various times, particularly in the Merovingian and Carolingian periods, becoming what archaeologists studying the city have called the “Roman-Carolingian” wall.
However, in 1160 the continuity of the city’s defences was drastically interrupted. There was a longstanding dispute between the citizens of Mainz and their archbishop, Arnold of Selenhofen (and also with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa); after the archbishop was murdered, the emperor imposed an imperial ban on the city. The city walls and towers were razed (although it is possible that on the inland side the destruction was only partial).
However, Mainz was an important political and strategic ally in the Hohenstaufens‘ struggle for supremacy in the German Empire against the Welfs, and so in circa 1190–1200 the city was granted permission to rebuild the defences. The predecessor of the Wood Tower, the so-called Neuturm (New Tower) was built in the second half of the 13th century when the previously independent settlement of Selenhofen was incorporated into the defences of the city. It replaced the Romanesque Wingert Gate; the first recorded mention of it is in 1366.
The Wood Gate as it stands today is a Gothic structure dating to the first half of the 15th century. Like the Iron Tower, the six-storey tower has walls of crushed stone articulated by square quoins and two dividing cornices, and is surmounted by a hipped roof, in this case very steep. In contrast to the Iron Tower, however, the Wood Tower is much more slenderly proportioned, which is typical of the ‘verticality’ of the Gothic style.
The former city gate has a pointed archway, and a ribbed vault for the ceiling. (As a result of the embankment of the Rhine in modern times, the passageway through the gate is now approximately 3 metres (9 ft 10 in) below street level.) Polygonal turrets with tall pointed roofs sprout from all four corners of the base of the roof, supported by stepped corbels connected by lancet arches. The tall windows have typically Gothic pointed-arch frames. Busts of couples appear above two windows on the first floor on the city side of the tower: a burgher and his wife and a king and queen.
Mediaeval and modern uses
The tower formed part of the fortifications of the city and also as a gate in the rebuilt city wall. In the Middle Ages, wood rafted down the Rhine from South Germany was piled on the riverbank in front of the gates and the wood market was held here, which gave the tower and gate their name.
Like other towers in the city walls, the Wood Tower also served as a gaol in the late mediaeval and early modern periods. Thus in 1793, after the reconquest of the previously French city of Mayence by Prussia, so-called ‘Clubists’, members of the Jacobin club who had organised the Republic of Mainz, were imprisoned in the Wood Tower. But its most prominent inmates were Johannes Bückler, known as ‘Schinderhannes’, and the members of his gang, who spent more than 15 months there before being guillotined under French law in November 1803 on what had been the grounds of the Electoral Palace of Favorite.
The Old Arsenal (Altes Zeughaus), also referred to as Zum Sautanz, was the central arsenal of the fortress of Mainz during the 17th and 18th century. In his function it was succeeded by the new arsenal. Currently the renaissance building is used by the Rhineland-Palatinate state chancellery and the Landtag of Rhineland-Palatinate.
The arsenal was erected during the years 1604 and 1605 under the reign of Prince-elector and Archbishop of Mainz Johann Adam von Bicken (1601–1604) and Johann Schweikhard von Kronberg (1604–1626) at the site of a former electoral piggery, thus the deduced housename Zum Sautanz (to the dancing pigs). The arsenal was constructed as a three winged building opened to the east, where the city wall alongside the rhine river was located. The main wing refrains compared to the side wings. The prominent external spiral staircase dominates the internal court. It is domed by a Welsche Haube (Welsch canopy). Archbishop Bickens coat of arms are to be found at the entrance arch of the tower. Both side wings finish with their city side with rich decorated dutch gables.
Larger pieces of cannons were stored in the ground floor, which could be accessed by ramps. Small arms and amunition was stored in the upper floor. The building was constructed in rubble work, window and door jambs are executed in cut stone of Buntsandstein.
The building had been heavily damaged during the bombing of Mainz in World War II and totally worn out. After the reconstruction in 1951–52 initiated by the administration of the French allied forces the building was used by the Südwestfunk Mainz, a predecessor of the Südwestrundfunk, which provided regional public broadcasting. Today the building is used by the state chancellery of Rhineland-Palatinate and parts of the administration of the Landtag of Rhineland-Palatinate.
The Bassenheimer Hof (Bassenheimer Palace) is an historic building in Mainz, western Germany.
Coat of arms of the Bassenheim family in Mainz.
The Bassenheimer Hof was erected in 1750 per the plans of the electoral master builder (Oberbaudirektor) Anselm Franz von Ritter zu Groenesteyn (or Grünstein) on behalf of the prince-elector as a retirement home for his sister the widow, the countess of Bassenheim. It was built near the Osteiner Hof.
The architect had been particularly impressed, during his studies in Paris, by the Place Vendôme and Hôtel de Torcy (Hôtel de Beauharnais), with their formal statements and their elegant construction, reflecting the baroque French style.
In 1792 Mainz was invaded and occupied by Adam Philippe, Comte de Custine, at which time the clergy and nobility portion of the town’s populace fled for safety. By 1835 the Bassenheimer Hof had been sold to the military government, and was converted into a barracks. It continued as a barracks until 1889. As a result of this and other conversions, the original interior layout, as well as that of the surrounding gardens, is no longer in evidence.
After 1889 the interior space of the building was utilized as a coffee shop, then for the manufacturing of embroidered flags. During World War II the building was burned to the ground (1942). The French military government ordered its reconstruction in 1947–1948.
The reconstructed building served as the temporary site of the minister president of the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, before its present use by Rhineland-Palatinate (beginning in 1960).
The Osteiner Hof (“Court of Ostein”) is one of several Baroque-era palatial mansions along Schillerplatz square in the German city of Mainz. The mansion, along the southern edge of the square, was built in 1747-1752 by architect-soldier Johann Valentin Thomann for Franz Wolfgang Damian von Ostein, brother of Johann Friedrich Karl von Ostein, who was prince-bishop of Mainz at that time.
Characteristic features for this building are the three round protrusions (risalits) at the front entrance and on the two corners. The building is lavishly decorated; for instance, the windows are framed by rococo-style cartouches symbolising the elements of air, earth and water. The classical gods Diana and Mars are shown on the cartouches framing the balcony doors.
The von Osteins, a dynasty of counts, were not able to make use of the mansion for very long. After the left bank of the Rhine was occupied by French Revolutionary armies, the mansion was appropriated by the state, and in 1798 it became the seat of a newly created département of France, Mont-Tonnerre.
The building continued to be used as a seat of government after the Napoleonic era, even gaining the nickname Gouvernement during the years 1854-1859, while emperor-to-be Wilhelm I was serving as military governor of Mainz. During the early days of the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), the Osteiner Hof served as military headquarters of a Prussian field marshal, Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia.
In 1914, then-military governor General Hugo von Kathen announced the start of World War I to the Mainz populace from the balcony of the Osteiner Hof. The mansion was destroyed by fire during World War II, but was restored in 1947-1948. From 1958 until 2014, the Osteiner Hof was in use by the Bundeswehr as military headquarters and officers’ mess.
The Osteiner Hof plays an important part in the local carnival traditions. Every year, on 11 November at 11 past 11, the start of the carnival season is proclaimed from the balcony of the mansion.
The Osteiner Hof with a view of the St. Stephan’s Church
Coat of arms of the Ostein dynasty, framing the central risalit on the facade.
The central risalit on the facade.
The Electoral Palace in Mainz (German: Kurfürstliches Schloss zu Mainz) is the former city Residenz of the Archbishop of Mainz, who was also Prince-Elector of his electoral state within the Holy Roman Empire. It is one of the important Renaissance buildings in Germany.
Originally the Archbishop of Mainz resided at the cathedral, where there is an old private chapel dating from 1137.
But in 1475, when the Chapter re-elected Diether von Isenburg, conditions were imposed: he had to surrender the town of Mainz to the Chapter, and erect a castle in the city. The construction of this Martinsburg began in 1478 and was completed two years later. For several decades, the archbishops lived either there or in the electoral palace at Aschaffenburg, Schloss Johannisburg. After receiving damage during the second war with the margraves in 1552 the castle was restored in a Renaissance style. Archbishop Daniel Brendel von Homburg built office buildings and St Gangolph’s Church around the year 1580. (In order to make way for new avenues, these buildings as well as the Martinsburg were demolished by Napoleon during the French occupation of the town between 1798 and 1814.)
The building of a new palace commenced in 1627 on the behest of Archbishop Georg Friedrich von Greiffenklau. The Rhine wing of the new palace could not be finished until 1678, construction being delayed by the Thirty Years War and the War of the Grand Alliance. The original plan is not known, but it was probably a four-wing construction, comparable to the 1604 repairs to Schloss Johannisberg. It can be assumed that Martinsburg remained standing only because of the delays.
The north wing was begun in 1687, ready by 1752, and furnished in succeeding years. Work on the wing extending away from the river was begun during the reigns of Johann Friedrich Karl von Ostein (1743—1763) and Friedrich Karl Josef von Erthal (1774–1802). Erthal was the last Prince-Elector of the old electorate. His successor Karl Theodor von Dalberg was both Archbishop-Elector of Mainz and Arch-Chancellor of the remaining Empire on the right bank of the Rhine. Due to the resolutions of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss his seat was moved to Regensburg, which became the new seat of the archbishopric.
Delays were due not only to the War of the Grand Alliance, but also to the extensive building activity of the nobility: for example, the Lustschloss Favorite begun in 1700 by Lothar Franz von Schönborn absorbed large amounts of resources. That summer residence was destroyed during the Siege of Mainz by coalition shelling in 1793.
On 23 October 1792, the Jacobin Club, a political group during the French Revolution, was established on what nowadays is German soil. This was the earliest democratic movement in Germany. The last Elector of Mainz was expelled in the same year, and the palace was neglected until 1827, when it was restored by the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt and the City of Mainz.
During World War II, the building was heavily damaged, especially in the air raid of 27 February 1945, which destroyed most of the city. Of the palace, only the exterior walls remained. It was rebuilt during 1948 and 1949, reopened on 31 December 1949, and was the main venue in Mainz for Karneval activities until the Rheingoldhalle opened in 1968.
Stylistically the Electoral Palace is one of the last examples of German Renaissance architecture. The northern wing, built later, conforms to this style. The exterior, with turrets at every corner, is richly decorated, particularly around the windows. The roofs have been restored with exactness. The most spectacular interiors included the Grand Staircase by the leading Baroque architect Balthasar Neumann, which was removed during the French occupation.
Today the east wing houses the Museum of Roman and Germanic History. An assortment of replicas and valuable original items presents a comprehensive picture of the cultural life of prehistoric times, of the Roman Empire, and of the early Middle Ages.
The Electoral Palace is now one of eight venues managed by Congress Centrum Mainz. There are seven halls and many smaller rooms, enabling events to be staged for up to 1,700 persons.
Structures and buildings
According to Lehnhardts map of Mainz ~ 1844 many bastions are to be found:
- Bastion Alexander
- Bastion Martin
- Kasematte Bastion Franziskus
- Zitadelle Mainz
- Bastion Alexander
- Gonsenheimer Tor
- Fort Josef
- Fort Weisenau
- Fort Biehler
- Fort Malakoff
- Fort Stahlberg
- Fort Hauptstein [Fort Meunier]
- Fort Hartenberg [Fort Gibraltar]
- Bassenheimer Hof
- Old Armory [Nouvel arsenal]
- New Armory [Nouvel arsenal]
- Cavalier Prinz Holstein
- Caponniere at Feldbergplatz
- Fort Großherzog [Fort Montebello]
- Inundationsschanze [Pont-écluse]
Fortress of Mainz (in German)
Deutschhaus Mainz (below)
The museum has its roots in a painting collection donated by Napoleon and Chaptal to the city of Mainz in 1803. It moved into its current location, in the former electoral stables, in 1937, by which time it had grown significantly. It received its present name in 1986, and was renovated and modernised from 2004 to 2010.
Eltzer Hof was a music venue located in Mainz, Germany. The building was constructed in 1742 in a Baroque style architecture on behalf of the Eltz dynasty. During the Bombing of Mainz in World War II the building burnt down starting 11 August 1942.
The Gutenberg Museum is one of the oldest museums of printing in the world, located opposite the cathedral in the old part of Mainz, Germany. It is named after Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of printing from movable metal type in Western Europe. The collections include printing equipment and examples of printed materials from many cultures.
The Late Renaissance building was heavily bombed in 1945; the museum’s contents had been stored in a safe place and thus remained intact. In 1962, the restoration of the Römischer Kaiser was complete. A new, modern exhibition building was also opened in the place where once the guest house König von England stood.
Read more here
Castles in Rhineland-Palatinate
Alte Kaserne (Mainz-Gonsenheim)
Gonsenheim is a borough in the northwest corner of Mainz, Germany. With about 25,000 inhabitants, it is one of the most populated borough of Mainz and comes before Oberstadt and after Neustadt as the second biggest part of the capital town.
After its incorporation into Mainz, Gonsenheim’s history as an independent village ended. Daily life did not change significantly; Gonsenheim remained a rural location.
Denkmalzone Bastion Martin (Mainz-Oberstadt)