Gallows at Hopfmannsfeld

What appears to be an idyllic resting place was once the execution site for the Hopfmannsfeld court. The stone remains of a gallows from 1707 are now monuments to local legal history.

At a glance

Alte Frankfurter Fahrstraße
36369 Lautertal / Hopfmannsfeld

Grounds freely accessible

A map of Hessen HESSEN


Between Hopfmannsfeld and Lautertal, about 5 km north-east of the town of Herbstein, there are two sandstone pillars on the roadside. They are the remains of a gallows which, according to the inscription, was erected there in 1707. There are recesses on the tops of the pillars. A wooden crossbeam was inserted there, to which a rope or chain was attached.

In Conspicuous Places

This type of gallows is called a “two-stemmed” or “two-slatted” gallows. They used to be made of wood, later of stone. Such execution sites were usually located outside the villages in a conspicuous place, on a hill or, as here, at a crossroads. Those hanged were not buried in cemeteries, but left on the gallows for all passers-by to see.

The locations of the gallows can also be explained by the symbolism of the law. Each court had a gallows as a sign of its punitive power, which was often erected on the boundaries of the parish to indicate the legal district.

Gallows at Hopfmannsfeld, notches on top of the pillars

From this perspective, one can see the recesses for the crossbeam on the top of the columns, which has not survived.

Foto: Michael Karkosch, 2011

The Gallows at Hopfmannsfeld Is Not a One-off

Many such gallows had to give way with the development of the suburbs. In rural areas, however, some of these monuments have survived. In the Vogelsberg district, these include the Stockhausen gallows between Herbstein and Rixfeld, which was erected there in 1709, only two years later. In Hesse there are other examples near Steinheim, Mudau, Münzenberg, Oberndorf, Pfungstadt and Beerfelden.

Gallows at Hopfmannsfeld, date

The date 1707 on the upper edge of one of the two columns.

Foto: Michael Karkosch, 2005

Memorials of Legal History

As memorials of legal history, they remind us of a punitive practice that was applied in Germany until modern times. With the Enlightenment, hanging was repeatedly banned from the last third of the 18th century. This type of death penalty was largely abolished in the course of the 19th century, but was frequently used again during the Nazi era.

Whether a delinquent was ever executed at the Hopfmannsfeld gallows is not documented. In any case, the execution tool is said to have come to a prosaic end. In 1891, a farmer unceremoniously burned the wooden beam that connected the stone pillars in the oven.

Gallows at Hopfmannsfeld, bench

On the pillared square with benches, a notice board informs about this historical place.

Foto: Katarina Papajanni, 2018