Visiting the Bismarck Tower in Weißenfels was something we definitely didn’t want to miss, so we set off for the tower.
How did the Bismarck Towers come into being?
In 1898, the German Student Unions called for Otto von Bismarck to be honoured for his achievements for national unity and social policy in Germany. They called for permanent landmarks to be erected in the form of towers. On certain days, such as Bismarck’s birthday, lighting should be possible on the towers. Originally, it was even planned that the towers should always be positioned so that one could see the firelight of the neighbouring tower.
By 1934, around 238 Bismarck towers and Bismarck columns had been built worldwide.
According to the students’ ideas, all towers should look more or less the same:
square ground plan, multi-level substructure, corners consisting of 4 columns and a capital-like cornice as a superstructure for the fire bowl.
Most of the towers were erected in Germany. However, there are also Bismarck towers in Denmark, Austria, France, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Chile, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and Cameroon.
Worldwide, 172 towers have been preserved to the extent that they can still be visited. In Saxony-Anhalt there are still 15 Bismarck towers today and one of them is in Weißenfels on the Klemmberg.
About the Bismarck Tower in Weißenfels
In autumn 1902, people in Weißenfels suggested building a Bismarck tower. Initially, only a column was to be erected, but the population donated a lot of money that made the construction of the tower possible. The foundation stone was laid in 1906 on the Klemmberg in Weißenfels.
The Bismarck Tower has a square ground plan of 11m x 11m and is 21m high. Sandstone, quarry stone and concrete were used for the construction. What fascinates me most is the construction of the walls. They consist of 3 layers, the inner layer was built from old gravestones. These came from a cemetery in Weißenfels.
The building was inaugurated on 25.8.1907. It was a popular destination for many Weißenfels residents and a wonderful vantage point over the city.
Tower history after the Second World War
After the Second World War, the tower stood rather unnoticed in Weißenfels. The staircase inside had disappeared and the only way to reach the upper floor was by climbing from the outside.
The tower, which actually had no function, was a point of contention in the town’s politics. Many ideas were discussed, from reactivating it as an observation tower to demolishing it. At first, no idea prevailed, and since Bismarck was not necessarily one of the ideal political figures of the time, it was decided to rename the tower the Kepler Tower (after the mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler). Later, the Prussian military symbols were not exactly carefully removed. Fortunately, a local resident managed to save one of the eagles that adorned the tower.
After reunification, the tower was given back its original name. In the meantime, it was in a desolate structural condition due to a lack of maintenance measures and had to be closed.
At a festival in 2005, which took place around the closed tower, the idea to renovate the tower came up. The Weißenfels Bismarck Tower Association was founded and planned, organised and realised the renovation with a lot of commitment and, above all, their own work. The first construction phase was already completed in 2007 and the tower shines with a new dome. The dome did not yet bear an eagle, that was to happen some time later.
Afterwards, the members of the association began to renew the intermediate ceilings and stairs of the 4 floors, windows were installed, electricity was laid and finally, from 2010, the outer façade was repaired. The crowning glory was the erection of the 4 stone eagles, which were made from sandstone blocks modelled on the rescued eagle. What was still missing was the Bismarck relief above the entrance. This found its place in 2014.
Today, the Bismarck Tower in Weißenfels is a popular vantage point.
Our visit to the Bismarck Tower
The gate to the grounds of the Bismarck Tower is open only exceptionally today. In beautiful sunshine, we enter the lovingly tended grounds and step in front of the tower. I feel quite small next to the massive building. The lower part of the tower reminds me a little of a fortress tower and the top of a lighthouse. First we learn the most important facts about the construction and renovation of the tower. I am amazed at what the members of the Weißenfelser Bismarckturm Verein e.V. have achieved over many years to preserve this building, which is well worth seeing. I am already curious to see what the tower looks like from the inside.
We step through the door into the tower and a pleasant coolness envelops us. The thick and massive walls don’t let the heat in. I can imagine that it is really icy cold here in winter. The walls are made of natural stone and although no builder ever thought about the acoustics, there is a pleasant silence here. Only through the open door can you hear the sounds from outside, and when it closes behind us, it is completely quiet in the tower.
A modern staircase leads to the top, and in between you will come to a raised mezzanine floor. Here you can read information about the tower on panels. On the first mezzanine floor, a transparent panel is embedded in the floor, allowing a view of the ground floor.
After 64 steps we arrive at the top of the tower. What a beautiful view! We can look out over the city and even discover some places we have already visited. The thought of a fortress tower comes back to my mind – from here it would have been good to keep a lookout for enemies or fire. But that’s not what the tower was built for.
We stand at the top of the tower for a while and enjoy the view before heading back down.
I am thrilled by the history of the Bismarck Tower in Weißenfels, the view and the great guided tour – thank you very much!
April – October:
every second & last Sunday of the month: 2-5 p.m.
per person: 1,-€
Disclosure: During our blogger trip to the Saale-Unstrut region, the visit and guided tour was an item on the programme in Weißenfels that we were able to experience. The report was written independently of our visit.