Station: [106] The Bischofsburg (Bishop's Castle)

  • Bischofsburg
  • Agatha-Altar

Massive brick walls reach for the sky. The mighty cathedral towers high above and behind these walls. [Short Pause] Today's Ziegelhof or Brick Courtyard took its name from the remains of the brick walls which surrounded the once magnificent Bishop's Castle. The first documentary evidence testifies to the persecution of Jews in 1096, when the Jewish residents of the town sought refuge within the fortified walls of the castle. We don't know whether it was King Henry I who started to build the castle during his lifetime or his famous son Bruno, the Archbishop of Cologne. Today, very little of the castle built in the 10th century has survived. But a vivid impression can be formed from other comparable castles from the same period. The castle with its 25m high tower stood to the West of the cathedral and the area, which the Canons, the residents of the Xanten monastery, called their “domain”. The actual bishop’s residence adjoined the tower. In the two-storey building, a hall with a floor area of almost 400m² provided ample space for magnificent receptions and festivities. The well-fortified complex was enclosed by a perimeter wall and a castle moat. In the following centuries, the castle was repeatedly extended and together with the city wall was further fortified. The complex was probably used by the Archbishop of Cologne as an occasional residence. His clerks or the Governor of Xanten may have lived here. Graphic images of the Bishop‘s Castle may be found in the cathedral. On a side wing of the high altar, hidden from the eyes of the observer, a painting by Bartholomew Bruyn the Elder shows a view of the city in the 16th century. The panels from the former Agatha Altar dating back to 1499 are hanging at the far end of the nave. The centre section depicts the crucifixion scene with the mirrored image of the cathedral and the Bishop's Castle in the background. As we leave the Ziegelhof or Brick Courtyard westwards and pass beneath the white Middle Gate, the path leads us along the building to the Meerturm or Marsh Tower: An imposing tower, which was once built as a refuge for the bishops. It was connected to the Bishop‘s Castle by a long dark walkway. [Emphasise] Today, the rooms of museum.de are located in the Meerturm. [End emphasis] The walkway is now part of the Siegfried Museum and can be viewed during a visit to the museum.