The Krämerbrücke is a bridge in the Thuringian city of Erfurt in Germany which is covered with inhabited, half timbered buildings on both sides. It is unique in Europe north of the Alps. The footbridge spans the Breitstrom, a branch of Gera River, connecting Benediktsplatz and Wenigemarkt.
History and construction
The bridge was built next to a ford and was part of the west-eastern trade route Via Regia. Originally constructed from wood, it was first mentioned in 1117 after its destruction by one of the many fires. Its first documentary evidence as “pons rerum venalium” dates back to 1156. Already on this wooden bridge grocers had erected stands on both sides.
Because of repeated fires in 1175, 1178, 1213, 1222, 1245, 1265, and 1293 the municipal administration acquired all bridge rights from the monasteries in 1293 in order to build a stone bridge, which was finished in 1325 with uninhabited half-timbered stands on top of it. At both bridgeheads stone churches with gate passages were erected, at the western end St. Benedicti and at the eastern end St. Aegidien, which had existed as a bridge chapel in beforehand (first mentioned in 1110).
The 79 m long arch bridge has been erected in lime- and sandstonework and since then consists of six visible barrel vaults with diameters from 4.8 m to 7.8 m.
After a city fire in 1472, which destroyed nearly half of the city and the stands on the bridge, it was reconstructed in its current form with then 62 half-timbered buildings. To make the three-storey houses of 13 m to 15 m height habitable, the deepness of the buildings was extended by the wooden “Sprengwerke” next to the arch vaults. The width of the bridge finished in 1486 since then amounts to 26 m with a space of 5.5 m between the two rows of houses. At the latest since 1510 the name Krämerbrücke (which means "grocers' bridge") was commonly used.
Till the 18th century the number of houses on the bridge had been reduced to 38, due to unification and reconstruction caused by fires. The church St. Benedicti was sold in 1807 and demolished in 1810 in order to build a new house. In 1895 its tower had to give place to the newly built “Rathausbrücke” (town hall bridge), which crosses the river parallel. For this project it was discussed to pull down the entire bridge.
Because of its special importance for the history of Erfurt and history of architecture in general, the Krämer Bridge was granted special preservation in GDR-times. All buildings were restored from 1967 to 1973 and extensive repair works were done to the vaults in 1985/1986 and 2002. Since then the bridge may be used by cars up to a weight of 11 tons.
Currently mostly artisans' and antique shops can be found in the 32 houses on Krämer Bridge. Except for the houses numbered 15, 20, 24 and 33, all houses are municipal property. The building was and is a touristic highlight and a must-see.
The municipal administration maintains a foundation for the conservation of this unique historical monument, the Krämerbrücke Foundation. In the “House of Foundations” (Krämerbrücke 31), a permanent exposition informs about the past and present of the Krämerbrücke together with a 1:100 model of it as well as about the foundations caring for it:
- Krämerbrücke Foundation
- German Foundation for Monument Protection
- Elisabeth and Fritz Thayssen Foundation Hamburg
The greatest city festival of Erfurt is named after the bridge: Krämerbrückenfest. It is held around the bridge and in the old town annually in June.
- Dietrich Baumbach, Hans-Jörg Vockrodt: Historische Bogen- und Gewölbebrücken der Stadt Erfurt. Habel, 2000, ISBN 3-00-006938-0.
- Eberhard Sander, Antje Thiemar, Gitta Müller: Krämerbrücke Erfurt. In: Steinbrücken in Deutschland. Verlag Bau + Technik, 1999, ISBN 3-7640-0389-8, S. 392–402.
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- http://www.erfurt-web.de/Krämer Bridge