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History stands still in medieval RegensburgImage: dpa

The Pope's Chosen Hometown

DW staff (win)
April 20, 2005

The best preserved medieval city in Germany, Regensburg was the new pope's German home town. It presents a perfect combination of an inviting skyline, impressive historical monuments and legendary Bavarian hospitality.


It does not require much fantasy to imagine the life in medieval ages. You just have to walk through the city center of Regensburg to experience what it was like to live in a city 2000 years ago. The city is alive witht he aura of those golden days of the 12th and 13th centuries.

Regensburg, an important Roman frontier station known as the Castra Reginais, one of the oldest German cities. The city was one of the most prosperous commercial centers of Germany in medieval times, trading with India and the Middle East among others making a name through its gold work and fabrics.

Regensburg Altstadt
Streets in the city center are very narrowImage: dpa

Regensburg was made a free imperial city in the year 1245. In the 16th century, the city was the location for German princes when theys met with the Kaiser in the "Reichssaal" for sessions of the imperial parliament.

Unlike other important German cities, Regensburg was not bombed during the World War II, which is why all the historic monuments are still found intact and well-preserved.

Pope's brother still lives in Regensburg

Among the many historical buildings in Regensburg, Saint Peter's Cathedral is the most important. It is an interesting example of a pure German Gothic. It was founded in 1275 and given the final touches in 1869. Though the cathedral is small, the interior contains yet another "old cathedral" which dates back, perhaps to the 8th century, masterpieces of Peter Vischer and museums containing medieval and Renaissance church art. The cathedral has maintained a well known Boys' choir for more than 1000 years.

Benedict XVI.
Joseph Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVIImage: AP

The choir, also known as Regensburger Domspatzen, or "Regensburg Cathedral Sparrows," was led by Georg Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI's brother, for many years. Ratzinger still lives in the city and the new pope owns a house just outside of town and regularly visited Regensburg, where he taught for many years.

Germany's first stone Stone Bridge (Steinerne Brücke, completed 1146) across Europe's longest, Danube River, was the only way to cross the river for hundreds of years. It was also the starting point of the second and third Crusades. The Bridge provides a breath-taking view over the city. The 310 meter long bridge itself, is an excellent example of medieval architecture.

Almost Italian?

Regensburg is often referred to as the most "northern town of Italy", north of the Alps, mainly due to the high grandiose, patrician houses, embellishing the city skyline. This image is further enhanced by the city's magnificent location, situated at the northernmost point of the Danube in the midst of small running hills.

Regensburg Altstadt
Old Town RegensburgImage: dpa

Hard to imagine, but Regensburg has its dark side too. A visit to the Reichstag, which includes the Museum of the Perpetual Diet takes you to the dungeons and torture chamber. Instruments of torture tell tales of Regensburg known as the "Fragstatt"-the place of asking. The difference unlike today was that the visitors weren't asking. If one was interrogated and didn't want to answer, torture was applied generously.

In contrast to other German cities, the city has not changed much. The center has not been overwhelmed by commercial buildings and office goers. But, at the same time, one can find a healthy mixture of shops, offices, hotels and cafes.

The younger generation brings in the flair of a modern city so much so that Regensburg has an astounding number of bars and restaurants. Regensburg is a Mecca for jazz lovers. Every year, the city hosts a jazz festival where around 100 jazz bands can be heard performing in historical courtyards of the old city center.

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