The Bridges of Erfurt, Germany Part II: The Bridges in the Inner City

Kraempfertorbruecke over the Flutgraben in Erfurt. Photo taken in July 2010


The next part of the bridge tour of Erfurt brings us to the bridges in the Inner City. What is meant by the Inner City? When we look at the historical map of the city of Erfurt, one will see that Erfurt was surrounded by two walls that were used to protect the city and its many churches from attacks from the outside. The first wall was constructed between 1141 and 1255,  and it featured the Wild Gera River flowing around it. It was known as the inner wall and today, parts of it can be seen as drivers can bypass the inner city via Yuri-Gagarin Ring, which used to be the river before it was filled completely by 1898. It was fortified with another wall constructed between 1373 and 1500, which extended along what is now the Flutgraben on the eastern end , terminating at the northern edge at what is now called Little Venice, consisting of all the streams of the Gera converging into one and featuring at least five bridges. Five boroughs occupied the areas between the walls called Vorstadt and extended along the south and east end. The northwestern edge of the Inner City features the Petersburg Citadel, located on the hill overlooking the entire city. A bridge on the east side leads to the main gate of the former fort complex.
After looking at the bridges on the far ends of the greater Erfurt area, this segment focuses on the remaining bridges in the inner part of Erfurt. Apart from the Petersburg Citadel Bridge, the main focus will be on the remaining bridges along the east end of the Flutgraben, the Bergstrom and Walkstrom that flows through the city and three bridges just to the north of the inner city. The Kraemerbruecke will be featured in the next part of the series as it has a story of its own.
Bridge 1:  Kraempfertor Bruecke
Location: Flutgraben on Leipziger Strasse at Kraempfertor Gate
Type: One-span closed spandrel arch bridge made of brick.
Built: 1895 replacing an older stone arch bridge. Widened and renovated in 1999
The construction and reconstruction of the Kraempfertor Bruecke are rather unique separate stories that deserve recognition. The first structure dated as far back as the 1100s as it crossed the Wild Gera River at the entrance to the inner city. Unfortunately, the two-span arch bridge was demolished at the time when the Wild Gera was being rechanneled, which also coincided with the construction of the new bridge over the new channel (today called Flutgraben). Workers spent an average of 15 hours building a temporary bridge and tearing down the old structure. Constructing the new abutments and adding the single span arch bridge made of limestone blocks brought a lot of difficulties. But nevertheless, the new bridge was completed in five months, opening to traffic in December 1895. The reconstruction of the bridge occurred 103 years later as part of the plan to widen the street and extend the streetcar network to include the University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule) and Ringelberg in the far east end of town. There, the original bridge was stripped down to the bare arch, rebuilt using the original materials, while at the same time, workers constructed a new bridge that would resemble the 1895 structure on the east end, fitting the two together. The process took over a year to complete. On the outside, the bridge looks like the original 1895 structure, but looking at it more closely, the difference in the materials used for rebuilding the bridge can be seen, especially underneath the arch. The bridge also features cast iron lamps, making it almost similar to the Pfoertchenbruecke in the south of the city, and the seal of the city can be found on the railing at the center of the span, each side marking the date of construction (north railing) and rehabilitation (south railing).  The structure definitely belongs to one of the most beautiful bridges in the city, ranking it up there with its southern counterpart, the Kraemerbruecke and the Hollernzollernbruecke.


Ornamental Lanterns (photo in May 2012)

Comparing the underside of the bridge: original on the left and extended version on the right (photo in July 2010)

Photo of the bridge at night (photo in May 2012)


Bridge 2: Radowitzbruecke

Location: Flutgraben at Meyfarthstrasse
Type: One-span closed spandrel arch bridge made of sandstone and brick
Built: 1907, rehabilitated in 1997.
This bridge is probably one of the most unrecognized of the arch bridges that serve the city of Erfurt. It was built using sandstone, which has a quick hardening process and was placed on top of the brick arch skeleton that had been constructed in 1906, thus creating a closed spandrel feature consisting of concrete made of sand stone supported by the brick arch. The bridge was renovated in 1996/7 due to cracks in the spandrels and railings. The bridge originally was part of Meyfarthstrasse before it was closed to traffic in 1996 and converted to a parking lot for cars. The reason was due to the thoroughfare of the Outer Ring, the city wanted to smooth the traffic between the Schmiedstedt and Kraempfertor Bridges by eliminating one intersection deemed obsolete and a hindrance to traffic. While one cannot see the bridge today from the Outer Ring, one can access the structure by foot by parking at the Kraempfertorbruecke and walking along the Flutgraben, which takes only three minutes.


Bridge 3: Franckebruecke  (a.k.a. Schlachthofbruecke)

Location: Flutgraben at the intersection Yuri-Gagarin-Ring and Franckestrasse
Type: One-span closed spandrel arch bridge made of brick
Built: 1898 replacing a bridge at the Wild Gera crossing
The origins of the Franckebruecke go as far back as the 1700s, when a wooden bridge crossed the Wild Gera River. The appearance of the bridge resembled a simple beam bridge and had very little meaning for the inner city. That changed with the rechanneling of the river and as a consequence, the construction of the Flutgraben crossing in 1898. Between 1898 and the removal of the Wild Gera crossing in 1900 (as it was being filled in), two bridges served Franckestrasse, providing access  the northeastern part of the town and St. Augustine’s Church. Today, the 1898 span still serves this purpose.
Note: Pope Benedict XVI held a church service at St. Augustine’s Church as part of his tour through Erfurt. An article from sister column Flensburg Files can be found here.



Bridge 4: Boyneburg Ufer Bridge

Location: Flutgraben at Schlueterstrasse
Type: One-span closed spandrel stone arch bridge
Built: 1700s
Although the bridge did not appear in the records, it seemed to have two purposes: one is a roadway bridge that originally served as Schlueterstrasse before it was bypassed by a beam bridge, the other used to be a dam that regulated the flow of water from the Wild Gera when the river was navigable. It lost both purposes but today still serves as a pedestrian bridge and a point of interest. The present beam bridge serves one-way traffic going towards the Yuri-Gagarin-Ring. The Institute of Architecture and City Planning of the University of Applied Sciences is located across the street adjacent to the stone arch bridge.

Bridge 5: Karlsbruecke
Location: Gera River on Karlstrasse
Type: One-span molded spandrel concrete arch bridge made of shell limestone
Built: 1911, cast iron nostalgic gas lanterns installed in 1912
Of the bridges that were built between the Inner City and Gispersleben, this structure is perhaps the most attractive, especially with regards to its design and its ornamental features. The deck arch design features a rather unique spandrel form where it is molded inwards, making it a cross between an open and a closed spandrel arch bridge. It is the only bridge in Erfurt that has this feature, but it is a common type one can find in Thuringia and parts of Germany. In fact, the next bridge with this feature is a railroad viaduct over the Ilm River in the town of Ilmtal, located 30 km southwest of Erfurt on the Erfurt-Saalfeld Railline. The other feature are the ornamental lanterns made of cast iron that were installed after the completion of the bridge. It was one of the first bridges that featured gas powered lanterns, which were in service until they were replaced with mercury-vapor lamps in the 1950s, presenting a rather greenish-white color. To the distaste of many Erfurters living in the city, these lamps were replaced with sodium lamps in the 1990s, which presented a more yellowish-orange color. The bridge is one of a few remaining pre-1945 arch bridges that has not been rehabilitated yet, even though it still retains its structural and aesthetic integrity, but according to Baumbach and Vockrodt, that status will not remain that way any longer. Plans are in the making to renovate the entire structure as soon as funding is available. This will include reintroducing the gas-powered lanterns that were the darlings of this unique bridge. If all goes well, rehabilitating the structure can begin as early as next year and will take 2-3 years to complete.

Bridge 6: Lange Bruecke
Location: Walkstrom Creek at Lange Bruecke in the inner city
Type: Two-span closed spandrel arch bridge made of sandstone
Built: 1830 replacing structures dating back to the 1300s
The Lange Bruecke is located at the confluence of the Bergstrom and Walkstrom in the southwest part of the city center. The first known structure dates back to 1293 where there was one bridge crossing the confluence, and whose length is double that of today’s Lange Bruecke (17.9 meters). Today, there are two crossings, one over the Walkstrom near Karthaeuser Mill and one over the Bergstrom north of the former crossing. Both bridges consisted of two-span arch bridges: the Walkstrom Bridge was a stone arch structure built in 1880 but was replaced with a steel beam bridge in 1908. The Bergstrom Bridge was built using sandstone and was rehabilitated in 1991 to make it appear exactly as it was when it was built in 1830. The bridge can be seen from the Nonnensteg, a pedestrian bridge located only 20 meters east of the bridge and one which provides access to the mill today.  The appearance of the sandstone arch bridge and its surroundings, as seen in the pic, make it appear like one is in Venice or Florence- a picturesque view worth seeing.

Bridge 7: Rossbruecke
Location: Walkstrom Creek at Hermannsplatz
Type: Two-span closed spandrel arch bridge made of sandstone brick
Built: 1750 replacing a bridge from the 1600s, renovated in 1994
The Ross Bridge is located about two minutes’ walk from the famous Erfurt Cathedral on the main street going north to Rieth and the University. Judging by the records and sketches, the Ross Bridge is the third oldest structure that exists in the city behind the Schutzturmschleuse Bridge and the Kraemerbruecke. Before it was constructed in 1750, there was a previous structure consisting of a two-span arch bridge but presents an arch in the roadway and railings. Records show that the bridge existed as far back as 1675, but it may have existed even before that.  As there was a demand for a bridge to accommodate horse and buggy, it was probably the main reason why the current bridge was built in its place. It served traffic until 1993 when the structure became so unstable that it was restricted to one lane and strict weight restrictions. It was remodeled to widen the structure by 1.65 meters and strengthen the arches. The sandstone brick was redone and reconstructed to make it appear like the bridge that existed when it was first opened in 1750. The bridge today serves traffic with a 20 ton weight limit but it is a site to see for many passers-by.

Bridge 8: Schlosserbruecke
Location: Breitstrom/ Gera River at Schlosserstrasse between Fischmarkt and Anger
Type: Stone arch bridge made of limestone
Built: 1736; rebuilt in 1949 after sustaining considerable damage in World War II
The history of this bridge runs parallel to the Neue Muehle mill, located just to the south of the bridge.  Records showed that both existed in the 1300s but there was no concrete date as to when the first structure was built, let alone the mill itself. Prior to World War II, the bridge had a total of seven arches, which allowed the water to flow freely from the mill downstream towards the Kraemerbruecke. However, the bridge was nearly destroyed during the bombing of Erfurt on 26 November, 1944, which completely destroyed the mill itself as well as many churches and buildings, including the Reibstein retail store building, located at the bridge’s entrance. The bridge was rebuilt in 1947 and 49 respectively, in which it was widened and graded, while at the same time, half the arches were eliminated to a point where today, three arches on the south side and four on the north side exist, making it resemble a dam. The bridge is still used by many kayakers boating through the city center between this bridge and the Kraemerbruecke, while all but two streetcar lines cross this bridge, including all north-south routes and the route connecting the train station and the Airport at Bindersleben in the west end of the city.


Bridge 9: Meister-Eckehart-Bruecke
Location: Breitstrom /Gera River at Meister-Eckehart-Strasse
Type: Three-span stone arch bridge made of limestone
Built: 1937 replacing a wooden bridge built in 1870
The Eckehart Bridge is the youngest of the arch bridges that existed in Erfurt. Named after a German mystic that lived in the Middle Ages (1260- 1328) and whose church was named after him, the origin of the bridge featured a three-span beam bridge with Y-shaped piers that was first mentioned in 1870. At that time, the street was known as Casinostrasse. When the bridge was deemed unsafe, plans were in the making for a steel bridge, but the demand for the material resulted in the construction of the bridge made of limestone, built in 1937 by a company in Erfurt known as Kernchen and Company. The bridge and the street were renamed in honor of the aforementioned person and one can see the name on the bridge’s stone railings. The structure still exists today, but it is very difficult to photograph the bridge from the side, as one can see in the pics. The bridge is located next to two important points of interest: The Barfuss-Kirche (Church of Bare Feet) and the catholic school, the former of which was destroyed in World War II and can be seen as a ruin today.


Bridge 10: Petersberg Citadel Bridge
Location: Petersberg Citadel 100 meters north of Domplatz Square and the Erfurt Cathedral
Type: eight-span stone arch bridge made of red brick and limestone
Built: 1838 as a beam bridge; converted into arch form in 1864; renovated in 1990
The history of the last bridge in this part of the series goes as far back as the 1670 even though the citadel itself goes as far back as the city itself. It was first mentioned in the eighth century, where Dagobert III, king of Franconia, established a church on the hill overlooking the town in 706. Between 706 and when the Prussians took over in 1803, many churches and monasteries occupied this hill, one of which- the St. Peter and Paul monastery was the starting point of today’s university that was founded in 1392.  The University of Erfurt would later be relocated to the northern part of the city and was refounded first as a teaching institution in 1950 and as a liberal arts institution in 1991. The fort was first developed in 1665 through an agreement with the archbishops with the purpose of protecting the city and maintaining it as one of the most important trading posts in Europe.

This is when the bridge was first mentioned with the construction of a wooden viaduct in 1670, which led to the east gate of the citadel. It was reinforced with concrete piers in 1831, but the real work came in 1864, when the whole structure was converted into a brick and limestone arch bridge, featuring eight arches. With the exception of renovations done in 1992, the Petersberg Citadel Bridge still retains its structural integrity and is an integral part of the citadel. Although the citadel is still used by the military to this day, it is a tourist attraction as tens of thousands visit the place to view the entire city and the cathedral. Many festivals take place at the citadel and even the state archives and the historical society are found here today.


Side view of the Petersburg Citadel Bridge (photo in February 2011)

Oblique view from the ground level (photo in February 2011)

Entrance to the Citadel from the Bridge (photo in October 2011)

View of the Erfurt Cathedral from the Citadel (photo in February 2011)

Silhouette view of the Erfurt Cathedral from the Citadel (photo in October 2011)

While each of the bridges profiled here are unique in themselves and contribute a great deal to the city’s history, the granddaddy of the bridges in Erfurt can be found in the next article of the Erfurt Bridges series, which is the Kraemerbruecke. There is a reason why this bridge deserves to be a standalone profile….

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