When I first visited Glauchau in 2016, I knew nothing about the town’s heritage, its best kept secrets, the histories behind the town’s historic buildings, churches and even its historic bridges. In fact, when I was in Glauchau for the first time ever, I was there for a job interview at the Saxony International School. I was there with the bicycle and on my way to the site, which was at that time in the western outskirts of the city, the first, well-known bridge I saw was this giant structure. A large arch bridge crossing a valley and a main street, which had been layered with cobblestones at that time. The bridge was tall enough that when on the structure, one could see much of the town and with that, the countryside of western Saxony, which was farmland at that time. A splendid view from the bridge, but a key functional route between the train station and the city center.
Fast forward seven years later, residing directly in Glauchau, we know a lot about the city’s bridges- many discovered during my bike tours, some discovered while hiking with my wife and daughter in the forest behind the Virchow Hospital- all totalling about 16 of them. A tour guide on Glauchau’s bridges you can find here:
But the one bridge that is the focus is the first one I saw and have photographed them multiple times ever since- the Scherberg Bridge. The structure is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. On April 29th, 1923, the bridge opened to traffic and connected the town’s districts of Scherberg and Töpferberg. The bridge is the largest of the three bridges that span multiple valleys enroute to the city center. Because of the high number of churches in the city center and points to the south, the bridge is known as one the The Three Bridges to the Holy Land. But what do we know about the bridge, which is not only the largest in the city and one of the four longest? Here are some facts to know about:
- The Scherberg Bridge spans Talstrasse and Carolatal, a valley that starts at Carola Park located near the Glauchau School of Business (D: Berufsakademie Glauchau) and after going through a reservoir north of the park, runs straight down towards the Zwickau Mulde at Lindenstrasse. The bridge can be seen at best near the roundabout where August-Bebel-Strasse, Am Schaffteich and Auerstrasse meet, yet one can also get some shots from the hill at August Bebel Strasse and Talstrasse but also from the north end at Otto-Schimmel-Strasse near the abandoned Palla Factory site.
- The bridge is a three-span, closed spandrel, concrete arch bridge. The south approach span features a circle-shaped arch that is implanted in the slope. The north approach has a vertical arch approach built on flat ground. The main arch features a classical, Luten-shaped arch span that is ribbed but in a square shaped format.
- Rothbart and Co., located at Unter den Linden in Berlin, was the builder of the Scherberg Bridge. While the cost for building the bridge is unknown, sources had indicated it had cost as much as a loaf of bread during that time thanks to hyperinflation that residents had to endure during that time.
- The coat of arms can be found on the eastern side of the bridge between the main arch and the northern arch approach span. It symbolizes the city of Glauchau.
- The bridge is over 100 meters long- the main span is 35 meters. The height of the bridge is 13.4 meters high from the street it crosses, Talstrasse.
- The bridge was rehabilitated in 2011, the Talstrasse was rebuilt in 2018.
- Despite the view of the northern part of the city, the bridge was also a site of tragedy, where two people jumped from the bridge- one in 2006 and the other in 2011. In response to the two cases, a suicide hotline was estabished to help those who think about taking their own lives.
Constructing the Scherberg Bridge was not easy from start to finish. It took Glauchau’s Mayor, Otto Schimmel a lot of persuasion and proof over the sceptics and opposition from residents for the bridge to be built. Why there was such opposition had to do with the situation Germany was facing during that time, plus many of them were more sold on a longer way to the city center instead of s shortcut. When construction started in 1921, Germany was facing hyperinflation as a result of the reparations it had to pay as a result of World War I. Wages were low, there were problems finding professional bridge builders, and there was a lack of materials needed for building the bridge- namely cement, which was the main ingredient for the project. Cement was hard to find and when a contractor was found, it was even more difficult to transport the material to the construction site due to rail lines being out of use. The project was supposed to take six months to complete. When the bridge was finished, it took three times as long. When the Scherberg Bridge opened in 1923, Mayor Schimmel received much-needed recognition for getting it through despite of all the problems he had faced.
This leads to the reason why the Scherberg Bridge is considered the crossing to the Holy Land. The street it carries, crosses two other structures spanning similarily deep valleys before entering the city center- the Postbrücke and the Nikolaibrücke, where Nikolaitor (EN: Nicolas Gate) once stood. The construction of the Scherberg Bridge and the challenges that were involved can be compared with Moses climbing the steep cliffs of Mount Sinai to obtain the Ten Commandments. The rugged landscape that existed meant that careful planning was needed to build the bridge. There were many obstacles involved in building the bridge and like in the book of Exodus (in the Old Testament), there was growing opposition to the project with each setback in the form of hard winter, lack of materials and resources and the lack of manpower needed to build it. The completion of the bridge came with the people who took to the challenge, as Moses did, for they wanted a shorter route to the city, characterized by its numerous churches, its fancy city center and its architecture and lastly the Castle Complex that was sitting on the hill. The construction of the Scherberg could best be considered that trip to the promised land, where every obstacle was overcome, regardless of how. If one is creative and persuasive, one can make it happen. Henceforth, the bridge is the largest of the Three Bridges to the Holy Land and is one of the first historic places you will see when visiting Glauchau. As a pontist, definitely the first historic bridge.
The Scherberg Bridge is turning 100 this year and there will be a celebration honoring the historic structure. On April 29th, the 100th anniversary of the opening of the bridge, there will be an exhibit commemorating the construction of the bridge and looking at the gigantic structure through the years. It will take place at the former cinema on Otto-Schimmel-Strasse just south of the bridge. The exhibit is being coordinated by Peter Dittmann of the organization Scherberg, e.V. Mr. Dittmann has been collecting artefacts and old photos of the bridge, preparing it for its exhibition. The organization is part of the STEG Stadtentwicklung GmbH in Glauchau and should you have some information and/or old photos you wish to contribute to this project, click on this link here and you will find all the contact details. We hope you can join us in marking this century celebration on April 29th, honoring this unique bridge, the largest of the Three Bridges to the Holy Land, and one that makes Glauchau, the City of Bridges, Churches and the Castle on the Hill, an attractive place to visit.
Thank you! 🙂 ❤
You will find the article in German here. Courtesy of the Chemnitz Free Press.
Here’s a map of where you can find the bridge: