It is the landmark of the town of Neustadt in Hesse. With a diameter of 12.60 m and a total height of 48.80 m, the Junker-Hansen Tower is the largest preserved half-timbered circular building in the world with its own entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
At a glance
This imposing building was erected around 1480–1483 by the landgravial master builder Hans Jakob von Ettlingen. It was commissioned and named after Hans von Dörnberg, court master of the Hessian landgrave Henry III and sole lord of Neustadt since 1477.
A Magnificent, Yet Unfinished Tower
As part of his refortification of the castle and town of Neustadt, Junker Hans had planned a massive fortification of which this tower was to form the south-eastern bastion. Three other corner towers were planned, but they were never built, nor was the medieval palas itself rebuilt. Only the south-west wing and this magnificent tower were completed. Whether the halt in construction was due to a lack of money or for political reasons is not known.
The Junker-Hansen Tower combines the character of a fortress and a home with Dornberg’s high standards of representation. With Hans Jakob von Ettlingen, he had gained one of the leading fortress builders of his time, who demonstrated all his skills here. Inside, a stone spiral staircase leads to the tower shaft, each with 3.5 m high half-timbered storeys, which were separately planked.
The frame construction method used here shows the high skill of the craftsmen. The complex interlocking geometry of the entablature and the steeply rising slate roof with the four elegant oriel towers are true masterpieces in the field of architecture. Thus, the Junker-Hansen Tower reflects the highly developed state of technology at the end of the 15th century like hardly any other preserved building.
Conjectures about Its Use
Little is known about its specific use over the centuries. Apart from defence, this battery tower probably served administrative and representative purposes. It was certainly not a purely residential tower, and it was hardly ever used as a storage building because of the narrow staircases and the lack of exterior openings. In the 19th century, the lower floors were temporarily used as a prison. Today it houses a permanent exhibition on its history and is used by the city administration as a registry office.
What is special about the Junker-Hansen Tower is that it has survived the many wars almost undamaged and that about 90 % of the original building fabric has been preserved. Thanks to the restoration of the historically documented slate covering on the weather side and the elaborate new covering of the roof, it presents itself today in its original appearance.