Quedlinburg: Charming medieval town where the history of Germany began centuries ago

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Katerina Bulovska
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Quedlinburg is the most charming medieval town that lies on the Bode River, facing the Harz Mountains in the west of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It is exactly in Quedlinburg where the history of Germany began centuries ago. The town was founded in 1922 as a fortress by King Heinrich I (876 to 936), known as Henry the Fowler, who was crowned the first German King of the Saxonian dynasty here in 919 A.D. It was the first time for Germany to be ruled as a single entity. From 919 until 1024, Quedlinburg was the capital of East Franconian German Empire, ruled by the German monarchs of the Ottonian dynasty.

After the death of King Heinrich I, on the hill where he was buried, his widow Queen Mathilde founded a convent for aristocratic women that existed for almost 900 years. Their granddaughter became the ruler of the town as the Abbess in 966. By 994, the town had the right of market, tax, and coining.

During the Middle Ages, the splendor of the metropolis of Quedlinburg was quite noticeable, as it became a prosperous trading town, even rivaling Cologne in importance. An interesting fact is that in Quedlinburg was born Dorothea Erxleben, the first German woman to win the right to attend a university and the first woman to receive the academic title of Medical Doctor in Germany in 1754.

Half-timbered houses in Quedlinburg. Author: Sergei Gussev. CC BY 2.0

But the small town is most famous for its fairy tale look. More than 1,300 half-timbered houses from 6 different centuries are located in Quedlinburg. The picturesque town looks like an exhibition of the historical development of its architecture.

Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt (Germany). Author: Fk. CC BY-SA 3.0

Quedlinburg with its half-timber architecture is a remarkable example of a medieval European town. Among the high-quality timber framed buildings there is a two-storey white and brown house built around 1300 in the so-called vertical beam construction style, whose characteristic is the continuity of the individual vertical beam from the threshold to the roof. It is the oldest half-timbered house in Germany; today converted into a museum explaining the history and technique of this style of building.

Half-timbered house called “Börse” (stock exchange) in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt (Germany). Author: Thomas Wozniak. CC BY-SA 3.0

Another historical house turned into a museum is where one of the greatest German poets, Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, spent his childhood. The house celebrates his life and work.

Timber-framed houses, Quedlinburg. Author: Sergei Gussev. CC BY 2.0

Over the years, the timber-framed houses have experienced little or no modifications. After World War II, some of the buildings were restored to their original condition and beauty. The colorfully painted houses are each beautiful in their own way, with their richly decorated facades and their tiny rooms and windows, adorned with vivid flower boxes.

Half-timbered house dating from 1562. Author: Thomas Wozniak. CC BY-SA 3.0

In the 19th and 20th century, 255 new houses were built, but the oldest buildings, about 11, are constructed before 1530. More than 552 structures were built between 1700 – 1800, approximately 439 between 1621- 1700,  and another 70 between 1531 – 1620. The owners of the houses which are listed as historic monuments are not allowed to modify the exterior of the building, in order to preserve its authentic look.

View from Castlehill

The medieval look of the town wouldn’t be complete without a castle. Originally built in the Gothic style, it was transformed into a Renaissance castle in the 16th and 17th century.

Quedlinburg castle hill. Author: APreussler. CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the best preserved 12th-century buildings in Germany is perched high on a hill – the Collegiate Church of St Servatius. The church contains The Treasure of Quedlinburg, an impressive collection of golden chests, ivory combs, religious manuscripts, and swords decorated with jewels that date back between the 10th and 12th century. Heinrich I and Mathilde, later canonized as Saint Mathilde, are buried in the Church of St Servatius.

South of the castle hill. Author: Bildrausch.at. CC BY-SA 3.0

The fascination of Quedlinburg is in its long and illustrious history, the half-timbered houses, the narrow, cobblestone streets and the enormous hill which bear the castle and the Romanesque church. In 1994, this intact historic town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.