Tuesday, December 8, 2015

2014 Germany Trip - Speyer Old Gate (Altpörtel)

Location: Speyer, Germany

Itinerary and full experience of my visit to Germany can be accessed through the link below:

There is little doubt that the Old Gate would be the one of the first significant structure a traveler would feast his eyes upon when he arrives from the direction of the train station. Its pencil straight pointing to the sky was my first impression of the old town of Speyer when I arrived at noon, the medieval clock on its face confirming the sun's position in the sky.

The view after entering the city from the direction of the train station.

At an astounding height of 55 meters, Speyer's Altpörtel is one of the largest and architecturally significant city gates in Germany. Although it was built between 1511 and 1514, the foundation of the tower was the remnant of a previous tower ruin dated back to 1230 to 1250, the top floor with its late Gothic tracery balustrade added later.

The Old Gate is one of the 68 towers originally protecting Speyer, fulfilling its purpose as the west city entrance in the medieval period. However this Old Gate's construction was not only for protection but also to mark the end of "Via Triumphalis" that led from the cathedral to the city walls. The emperor and his court would enter Speyer through the gate and proceeded down the walkway to the cathedral. When I looked through the tower's entrance down the road, I could imagined myself as one of the courtesans, or even the emperor himself, walking unobstructed towards the cathedral.

Brown, red and ancient

I like the way these 3 buildings line with each other - a brown baroque block, then a red Renaissance and finally the medieval tower with a late Gothic top.

People pass through the tunnel, vehicles pass on its right.

The foundation at the bottom is ancient, with the tower built upon it much later.

Looking through to the cathedral unobstructed

Translation: Former western main city gate starting from 13th century. Gallery level from 1514, clock from 1761.

One of the interesting thing about Speyer's Old Gate is the tower clock on the east and west face. Instead of 1 clock, each face accommodates 2 dials - 1 for the hour and the other showing the quarter of the hour. I read that the hour of the day was more important in medieval period hence a larger dial for hour reading so that one could tell the time even from a distance away.

The side of the tower facing the cathedral

It was mentioned in Speyer's city website that there was a permanent exhibition running within the Old Gate's interior but I was not aware of that during my visit so I guess I missed that. However impressive the Old Gate looked up front, it took no more than the amount I required to get the best shot from different angles. Any traveler in my shoes would understand why, as going through the gate's entrance will reveal the main focus of my visit the Speyer, the impressive Speyer Cathedral, my line of sight uninterrupted by the long Maximilianstraße.

Environment:         A city gate looking towards the cathedral
Suitable for:            History buffs
Visit worthiness:       8/10 (make sure you plan as much time within as possible as no photos are allowed)
Historical value:        5.0/5.0 
Architectural value:  3.0/5.0
Photographic value:  3.0/5.0
Landmark value:       5.0/5.0

Entrance Fee:                 free; exhibition €1.00 - 1.50
Opening Hours:            (Mon - Fri) 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.; 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.
                                              (Sat - Sun)  10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
                                               Opens from 1 Apr - 31 Oct
Best Moment to Visit: Anytime
Length of Visit:              <1 hour

Website:                   Speyer city website
Contact:                    +49 6232 142392
E-mail:                      -
Address:                   Residenzplatz 2, 97070 Würzburg, Germany

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