History of Erfurt Fortress

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picture: 2001-06-27, W. Scharf, Erfurt, Oberstleutnant a. D.

Laying the foundation stone
The foundation stone of the Petersberg Citadel was laid on June 01 1665. Today it is one of the few 17th century citadels whose important structures have been preserved.

The citadel was commissioned by Philipp von Schönborn, Prince-Bishop of Mainz and Arch-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.

The Petersberg juts far into the medieval core of the Erfurt city. In early times it was used as a place of worship and refuge and served as a site for a Franconian castle and the St. Peter and Paul Benedictine monastery after which the Petersberg was named.

Italian period of construction
Under the supervision of the Italian master builder, Antonio Petrini stonemasons and labourers built four mighty bastions and the gatehouse with a baroque portal in only three years, from 1665-68.

French period of construction
A further four bastions had been erected in accordance with the neo-Italian art of fortification design. The area situated in front of the citadel was reinforced according to the art of the French fortress master builder, Vauban, under the supervision of Maximilian von Welsch, another master builder at the court of the Elector of Mainz.

Napoleon's influence
The Frech emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, had the citadel strengthened in 1812-13. From November 1813 to May 1814, it had to fulfil its defensive task only one single time by withstanding the Prussian besiegers, who were far superior in numbers to the French garrisoned in the citadel.

Prussian period of construction
From 1816 to 1868 the citadel was reinforced according to the neo-Prussian art of fortification design, from which the "New Guard-House", the defensive barracks, gunpowder stores, caponiers, wells and a war-time bakehouse with its bombproof covering survive today.

The Petersberg citadel thus reflects European fortification and siege craft design from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

In 1991 the Thuringian Regional Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments and the City of Erfurt decided to secure and renovate the important secular monument for public use. This decision has been regarded as a base warrant for upgrading the status of a so far hitherto highly neglected area of the city.

As a once famous monument that crowned the city as the site of historic events, the Petersberg has once more again become a place of interest you should not miss when visiting Erfurt's old city.

text: Karsten Grobe, Erfurt


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