The Old Gate

The Old Gate

The Old Gate (Altpoertel) was the west city gate of Speyer. With a height of 55 meters it is one of the highest and most important city gates of Germany. It was first mentioned in documents in 1176. It was one of 68 wall and gate towers of the free imperial city of Speyer, besides the 25 church towers.


The old gate was built in the beginning of the 13th century on the ruins of a previous tower. The bottom part of the tower was built between 1230 and 1250. The upper part was added between 1512 and 1514.

In the year 1511, the incumbent mayor declared "Item Das Altporthor Zu Uwen" and the date, 1514, on the old gate is proof that the order was put into practice.

The tower survived the destruction of Speyer in 1689 in the War of the Grand Alliance and is one of the few remains of the medieval city fortification. The blast of the tower was already prepared when the Prior and the convent from the nearby Carmelite nunnery, where French Marshal Duras and his band of people resided, was alerted that the blasting of the tower would put his headquarters in danger.

The prior warned Marshal Duras that the monastery might be damaged in the explosion. Duras responded that his people knew how to demolish the building so it fell where he wanted it. When the engineers where waiting for the marshals order with burning firebrands, the whole Carmelite convent in front of the marshall. The prior said:

"Our monastery is old and weak, if the towers fall, it would not cover our buildings, so the rotten walls and the unconstrained coves would be rocked from the enormous mass of falling stones, and therefore collapse. So please have compassion and spare the tower."

The marshal thought for a while before saying "Stand up children, the tower shall stand." The old gate was spared, while the city of Speyer and the cathedral were an expanse of rubble.

The steep, 20 meter high roof was added in 1708.

The old gate was the most important tower gate. Originally build as an exterior gate, it was the connection between old town and the suburb of St. Gilgenvorstadt.

Two rows of embrasures were the only openings on the west side, for security reasons. The east side is finer structured. Above the arch a wall walk was build around the tower, from which you still can see 10 stone brackets, jutting 1 meter out of the wall; these were the connection of the adjacent northern and southern fortification walls.

In the year 1773 besides the old gate, which was build above the stream Speyerbach, a mill was documented. The stream is curving northwards from here, flowing subterranean under the buildings of the Salzgasse.


The old gate was the finishing of a prestigious road, the optical counterpart for the cathedral. The boulevard between the cathedral and the old gate was called "Via Triumphalis". On this 25 to 30 meter wide and 700 meter long stretch, the emperor and his dukes strolled to the cathedral on special clerical occasions.

Calibration shoe of Speyer

Until the beginning of the 19th century, Speyer had its own linear and mass measuring calibration. On the northern side of the passage there is still an iron bar- this is the Calibration Shoe of Speyer (Speyerer Werkschuh), an obliging calibration for each merchant of the city. It has a length of 28.889 centimeters and was subdivided into 12 inches.Senator Johannes Becker measured the city including its 4 outskirts in 1772/73 in dimensions based on this calibration.

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