November 29


“Villa Munichen becomes a Civitas”

By Frank

November 29, 2023

The first people of Munich wore skins, hunted animals and lived in caves. Where the old town is now, around Marienplatz, there were huge forests with lots of animals in the Neolithic period . And there was also a wild river, the raging Isar . It meandered through the valley from the Karwendel Mountains near Mittenwald to the Danube near Deggendorf.

On the way she left behind a lot of stones and gravel, small water arms and even two islands were created, the Museum Island and the Prater Island in Munich. It regularly flooded the land, so over time a deep furrow formed and the high bank of the Isar was created. The fertile land attracted the first settlers. After the Celts , who reached the Isar before the birth of Christ, came the Bavarians . They settled on the safe banks of the Isar in the early Middle Ages. They felled trees, built huts and began to work the land. Small settlements emerged, the oldest of which were the villages of Sendling , Schwabing and Giesing .

In Upper Bavaria, monks founded monasteries at Lake Tegernsee and in Schäftlarn . Soon the first people came to the banks of the Isar to preach the Christian faith to the farmers. The monks settled at Petersbergl . They built a small church and a monastery. Today the “ Old Peter ” stands at this location.

More and more people moved around Petersbergl and settled there as hard-working farmers. The village was called “apud munichen”, i.e. “with the monks”. This is how Munich got its name .

AHA, cool...

From the foundation to the first city wall

In the year 1156 (not in the year 1158, as can be read in some publications) - the settlement " apud Munichen " developed into one of the most important salt trading towns on the Salt Road and there was soon a lot of traffic on the bridge. The Bishop of Freising, who owned Unterföhring, was very enterprising and collected a silver piece as a duty from every cart that passed the bridge.

This angered the Bavarian ' Duke Heinrich the Lion' , who was responsible for the area near the village of Apud Munich. He built a bridge himself near today's Gasteig. After completion, he moved with his warriors to Unterföhring in 1157 , burned down the warehouses and set fire to the Isar bridge there. The wagons and customs duties were then redirected.

The bridge in question is the Ludwigsbrücke , which crosses the Isar near the German Museum.

From then on, the salt trade route, which was economically important at the time, no longer ran via Föhrung, but via Munichen. The obvious conflict that arose regarding customs revenue was ended by Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa in favor of Henry the Lion with the requirement that a third of the revenue be given to the Bishop of Freising . The city's seal and coat of arms allude to this origin. The ruling relationships in Munich were determined by a constant interplay between the duke, the church and the citizens. After the town was founded , Henry the Lion received the right to use the market and mint .

Extensive court and church buildings were built within three generations of rulers. Duke Wilhelm V had the Jesuit College with St. Michael's Church and the Wilhelmine Fortress, later Maxburg, built. His son, Elector Maximilian I, expanded the residence to an impressive size. A generation later, Elector Ferdinand Maria and his wife brought the Theatine Order to Munich.

For centuries, life in the city centered on the market square. In addition to the salt, wine and cloth trade, the grain barn was particularly important.

The “white gold” – who or what pays the bills?

Down the Isar was the small village of Unterföhring. A first bridge was built because the salt extracted in the Bavarian mountains had to cross the Isar on the way to Augsburg , Lake Constance and Switzerland . A bridge was built because salt was as valuable as gold back then .

Today, salt is usually at the bottom of the shelf in supermarkets. The pound is already available for 15 cents . For thousands of years, salt was the only means of preserving fish, meat, fruit and vegetables for a long time . This type of preservation is known as curing almost everywhere in the world. Already 250 BC. For example, the Chinese introduced a salt tax to increase government revenue. The construction of the Great Wall was financed with salt at the time.

Salt and sage on stone plate

Salt and sage

  • The Romans paid their soldiers with salt. Hence the name Salär (from the Latin “Sal” for salt).
  • Salad is the salted greens, and salami is salted meat. Salt is the most precious of gemstones (quote: “Justus von Liebig” – inventor of “Maggi”). It is the only mineral that humans can – and must – eat .
  • The Celts had already mined salt near the Austrian city of Hallein (from the Greek “hal” for salt). One of the salt roads led from Reichenhall to Munich.
  • Where water saturated with salt, so-called brine , was extracted, it had to be cooked in large pans over an open fire. The water evaporates and salt crystals form. Hence the expression table salt .
  • Salt can also be obtained directly from the sea. The Sicilians boiled sea water . The Venetians, on the other hand, created a system of pools and used solar energy to evaporate seawater. No country has based its economy on salt as much as Venice.

Salt monopoly, compulsory travel and stacking law in Munich

With an imperial charter, called the Golden Bull , from 1332 , Munich consolidated its status as a salt trading monopoly.

The document stipulated that salt between the Alps and Landshut was only allowed to cross the Isar near Munich. This compulsory route not only ensured plenty of customs revenue through the Isar Bridge. The Munich market also became a transshipment point for the entire region's salt supply .

On the Golden Road, the salt from Reichenhall was traded via the Wasserburg-Munich-Augsburg/Landsberg route. To prevent speculation and price gouging, the market days were strictly regulated. On Tuesday, the citizens of Wasserburg brought the salt from Reichenhall from the salt pans to their city. From there, Munich traders took it to Munich, where it was transshipped on Wednesday and Thursday.

Because Munich had the right to stack the salt, the salt had to be “stacked” in Munich and offered for sale for three days before being transported further . Munich merchants purchased the salt and either sold it to Augsburg traders or brought it themselves to Augsburg, where they were allowed to resell it until Saturday.

By the way, the center of the salt trade was in the area of today's Promenade Square . There the salt was stacked and loaded before the traders took it on to Augsburg or Landsberg.

With the right to mint , the emperor transferred another valuable privilege to the Bavarian sovereign. The Duke was allowed to mint his own coin for the Munich market. This meant he was able to regulate the financial system independently and had more opportunities to intervene in economic events.

At the beginning of the 13th century, Munich received the legal status of a civitas , a city. With city charter, citizens were given more freedom and the city was able to partially govern itself .

The Old Peter - the oldest parish church in Munich

Old Peter in Munich

Alter Peter

Peter's Church , or as the people of Munich like to say, "Old Peter", was built in 1181 in the Romanesque church style on the Petersbergl.

Saint Peter was the first and oldest parish church in Munich, founded in 1158.

The tower of Old Peter is 91 meters high and was once the tallest building in the city. In addition to ringing bells, the church tower also has or had other practical functions - both those for which it was built and those for which it was conveniently used because of its height. For example, the church tower also served:

  • as a watchtower and was the workplace of the tower guard until the 19th century, who looked out for military threats and fires
  • as a defensive and escape tower
  • Since the invention of mechanical clockworks it has also been used as a clock tower
  • more recently as a lookout tower

This means that the church tower dominated the city and country not only acoustically and chronometrically , but also visually .

Not only the Old Peter building has a long history, but also the tower clocks . They are the oldest in the city. The total of 8 bells even sing the city anthem . Only the oldest and smallest of the eight bells can no longer be heard in the Munich church bells.

In the past, the bell only rang to announce executions on Marienplatz.

In addition to the viewing platform (unfortunately not barrier-free), the church's highlights include the bell chamber , the baroque high altar with a golden figure of Peter and the relics of Saint Mundita . The remains of the Roman saint lie decorated with gold in a glass coffin.

Munich in the first ring of the wall

The first city walls in Munich are documented in the late 12th century , less than twenty years after the Munich market was founded . It was only around one and a half kilometers long . Construction began in 1175 under Duke Henry the Lion and was continued by his successors. The city wall had, among others , the following gates : Talbrucktor , Sendlinger Tor on Rosenstrasse, Kaufinger Tor , front Schwabinger Tor with Wilprechtsturm on Weinstrasse , rear Schwabinger Tor on Dienerstrasse.

In the Middle Ages, the city wall served primarily to protect against enemies who wanted to attack or conquer the city. In the event of a defense, every citizen had the duty to take up his post at the wall and defend the city against attackers. The city gates were not only access to the city, but also customs collection points , especially at the main gates such as Neuhauser Tor, Sendlinger Tor, Isartor and Schwabinger Tor, as the traders came through them and the salt carts also came through the Isartor. The city gates were locked at night.

The walls were also intended to keep out robbers, beggars and wild animals . At the same time, city law distinguished the communities from the surrounding countryside. The city wall also separated two legal areas .

Even though there isn't much to see on the surface, the foundations of this first city fortification continue to come to light during construction work. Also alive under the pavement are the numerous city streams and tributaries of the Isar , whose water was used to irrigate the city moat, clean the medieval city and numerous businesses . Today there are considerations about bringing some of them back to the surface in order to cool things down in the face of climate change, especially in summer .


Isartor - In Bavaria the clocks are different...

Tower clock backwards at the Isartor

Tower clock backwards

The almost completely preserved city gate was built between 1285 and 1347 by Ludwig the Bavarian as part of the major city expansion. Restored in 1833 by Friedrich von Gärtner, the gate shows a fresco with Emperor Ludwig's triumphal procession after the Battle of Ampfing. After the gate was badly damaged in the Second World War, it was renovated true to the original in the early 1970s.

The tower complex at the Isartor is decorated with two glass dials. If you take a closer look at it, you'll quickly notice that something isn't right. While the hands of the tower clock, which points to Isartorplatz, rotate normally clockwise, the hands on the west side , towards the valley, run in a mirror image .

The dial is also recorded in reverse. This is entirely intentional, because the watch is reminiscent of Karl Valentin and Bavaria. Because Willy Brandt already knew:

The clocks run differently in Bavaria ”.

Quote: Willy Brandt, former Federal Chancellor

Married couple's celebration in the Liebfrauendom - '33201' years of love gathered

Married couple's celebration - 33,201 years of love gathered in the Cathedral of Our Lady - on October 27th, 2019, Cardinal Reinhard Marx blessed more than 750 married couples.

  1. The longest-married couple celebrated their crown jewel wedding with 75 years of marriage .
  2. Seven couples were able to look back on 65 years of marriage .
  3. 100 couples on 60 years together and...
  4. 300 couples celebrated their golden wedding anniversary after 50 years.

Two wedding rings

Wedding rings

What's exciting to see?

Carillon in the town hall - from the inventor of the four-stroke engine

The New Town Hall on Marienplatz in Munich is the seat of the mayor, the city council and the headquarters of the city administration. Due to the lack of space in the old town hall, it was decided to build a new building. To commemorate the civil heyday of the Gothic period, the town hall was built in the neo-Gothic style. It was slightly damaged by bombing in 1944 and was rebuilt after the war.

In 2008, the state capital of Munich celebrated 850 years of city history and at the same time 100 years of carillon in the listed New Town Hall. The 85m high town hall tower is crowned by the Munich Child, which was created by Anton Schmid.

Under the top of the tower is the fifth largest and also the first electromechanically operated carillon in Europe, the largest in Germany. All the bells together have a total weight of around 6.8 tons and are 65 meters high. It's no wonder that Munich's town hall with its carillon is one of the most popular photo motifs in the city.

By chance, two historians found the cost estimate for the installation of the glockenspiel in Munich's town hall. The listed costs amounted to 6,913 marks.

What remains for us to look at and admire today: from the town hall architect Georg von Hauberrisser, who had the idea for the carillon with scenes from the city's history, and the watchmaker and four-stroke engine inventor Christian Reithmann, who choreographed the mechanics of the figure dance.

Christian Reithmann was a watchmaker! He is considered an inventor of the four-stroke engine and developed it three years before Nicolaus Otto . Reithmann won the patent dispute against Mr. Otto, but gave him the invention in return for a generous compensation.

Glockenspiel in the Munich town hall

Glockenspiel in the town hall at a height of 65 meters

Asam Church - the most beautiful church in the Bavarian late baroque period

Asamkrche Altar

Asam Church

The Church of St. Johann Nepomuk was built between 1733 and 1746, named after St. Nepomuk, patron saint of the Electorate of Bavaria. The Asam Church is nestled between the houses on Sendlinger Straße in a very small space. It is only 8 meters wide and 27 meters long, which also makes the construction work an art.

What is astonishing is the achievement of the two builders, who managed to harmoniously combine architecture, painting and sculpture in the two-story interior.

The church was built without a commission and as a private church

built for the greater glory of God and the salvation of the souls of the builders. This also enabled the brothers to build independently of the ideas of clerical clients. Due to its status as a private church, it has some peculiarities:

  • The church is “western” and not “eastern” as usual, which means the high altar is in the west.
  • In addition, the crucifix opposite the pulpit is hung too low. In baroque churches this should hang higher than the pulpit so that the preacher also has to look up to Jesus.

This independent, solitary nature leads to the core of the Bavarian essence. The Asam brothers were probably less concerned with devotion and quiet contemplation, but rather with representation, size, muscle play and lavish decoration, all in a small space.

“Stand in awe and shake your head…”

About the author

It is more valuable to experience a place in detail than many small impressions of an incomprehensible whole.

Genius Loci - discovering, capturing and experiencing the spirit of a place. Perceive - understand - enjoy!

As a graduate industrial engineer with an additional MBA degree from a renowned university in England (EMBA, EQUIS and AACSB accredited), I have been showing other, often surprising, paths to success for more than 30 years at C-Level (Head of Marketing and Sales worldwide).

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