part of the imperial fortification of the 12 th century
Perched high above the River Neckar, the impressive skyline of the Staufian town of Bad Wimpfen welcomes visitors from afar. This historic town lies just 60 kilometres upriver of Heidelberg on the Castle Road. The fortifications of the largest Staufian imperial stronghold north of the Alps with the majestic Blue Tower are an integral part of the old town to this day.
The Blue Tower, standing proud at a height of 58.75 metres, is certainly an eye catcher and is the town's most impressive landmark. It was built around the year 1200 by Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa as the western keep of his imperial stronghold and served as a watchtower until the 19th century. Stunning views of the medieval old town and the castles dotted along the Neckar valley certainly make it worth climbing the 167 steps to the viewing platform at a height of 32 metres. The beautiful Staufian town is steeped in tradition.
The longest tower warden tradition
One particular example of this is that Bad Wimpfen boasts the longest tower warden tradition in German. As early as the 13th century, the first wardens served in the tower. From the 16th century onwards, the names of the watchkeepers are documented.
For over twenty years now, Blanca Knodel, the first female warden in the Tower's history, has carried on this long tradition. She enjoys meeting curious visitors who are always fascinated to see a 400 lb piano and even a whirlpool at the top of the 134 steps leading up to her cosy little flat. Incidentally, the record for the fastest ascent of the tower is 34.86 seconds and was set in 2001. So anyone who fancies coming to appreciate the great bird's-eye view for themselves, or even attempting to break the record, is more than welcome.
For a while now, though, increasingly large cracks have been appearing in the ancient stonework of the tower. Following in-depth studies carried out in 2015 and 2016 by Munich engineers Barthel & Maus GmbH, Dr Maus presented a concept for the restoration of the tower in June 2016. The injection of specialized mortar into the filler walls and the use of needling and steel ties are to stabilize the weakened structure. Bad Wimpfen town council hopes to commence works in May 2017 under the supervision of Stuttgart architects strebewerk. Architekten GmbH.
The walls of the Blue Tower consist of an inner and outer shell with a space between them which was filled with rubble. In the modern era, a stone top was added to the tower and the considerable weight of this, combined with previous faulty restoration works and exposure to the elements, has particularly taken its toll on the outer shell and led to an increased appearance of cracks. In order to stabilize the tower, the filler layer between the inner and outer shells is to be reinforced with mortar. This is intended to transfer load from the outer shell to the interior. The structure is to be further stabilized using needles and ties. In damaged parts of the stonework, individual stones are to be replaced and mortared. A breathable coating, in keeping with the period in which the tower was originally built, is to preserve the stonework and allow a natural moisture transfer. In this way, the character of the tower will not be impaired from a preservation
point of view, but maintained and preserved. In order to monitor the success of these measures over the coming decade, electronic sensors are to be installed to detect possible deformations and movement of the stonework as early as possible.
Construction managers estimate that restoration work will be completed in three years at the latest and will cost around 6.2 million euros, of which Bad Wimpfen is to pay 1.1 million euros. The remaining 5.1 million euros will be provided by national and regional funding and organisations for the protection of listed buildings in order to preserve this architecturally unique monument and symbol of the town of Bad Wimpfen.
For a small town like Bad Wimpfen, with a population of under 7000, the costs which remain to be covered are still a vast sum.
The sight of the Blue Tower warms the hearts of visitors and homecomers alike and is a symbol of welcome and hospitality. It is internationally popular with those who know it from television, print media or a personal visit. And now the Blue Tower needs our help and we are convinced that we must all rally round to help our dear old tower in its hour of need.
Various projects show how attached people at home and abroad are to the Blue Tower: This year concerts, sporting events, guided tower tours and many more fundraising events are being organised. All of these projects will contribute to the preservation of the Blue Tower. Private donations of over 1500 euros and business donations of over 10,000 euros will be immortalised on a bronze plaque fixed to the tower. Donors of over 3000 euros will receive an original painting of the Blue Tower. An artistically designed certificate will go out to other donors as a sign of gratitude.
Tower-shaped collection boxes can be found in shops in Bad Wimpfen and the tower warden has a unique carved wooden box for donations. Those making a "direct" donation at the tower will be allowed to look around the tower warden's flat.
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Tourist-Information Bad Wimpfen
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