Weser-pottery, © Museum Hameln

Renaissance at the Weser

From the middle of the 16th Century, the Weser becomes an increasingly important means of transport. Hameln becomes the centre of this economic boom. It becomes the centre of export for local pottery. The grain trade for the whole Central Weser Area is concentrated in Hameln.  

At this time the appearance of the city starts changing too. Citizens start decorating the facades of their houses with distinctive designs. They also add gables, a visible indication of the wealth and personal self-esteem they feel they have achieved. The Abbey Manor is an early example of the new Renaissance style of architecture in the city. Soon it is all the rage and even poorer masons start emulating it.  

But this is all just outward show. People are still surrounded by hunger, illness and death. Time and time again famine, fires and epidemics cause great suffering and loss, especially among the poor.

Weser-pottery

16th/17th century, Leisthaus reconstruction 2008/09

Weser-pottery was produced in the Early Modern Age in the Weser Hills and was an important export commodity. The thin-walled, colourfully painted tableware was exported via Hamelin and the River Weser primarily to the Netherlands. It was also traded in Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea region, Great Britain and as far as North America.

The tripod skillet and fragments show the typical patterns and colours of Weser-pottery. Weser-pottery was also found during excavations at the Leisthaus.  It is most likely to have belonged to the crockery of a well-to-do Hamelin burgher household. 

Hochzeitshaus Timeline, © Museum Hameln

400 years Hochzeitshaus

The Hochzeitshaus (“wedding house”) was built between 1610 and 1617 as the last and most impressive building of the Weser Renaissance in Hamelin. For four centuries it has shaped the cityscape due to its central location and magnificent design language.

Right from the start, the building was laid out between representation and functionality: it houses the council pharmacy, the council wine tavern, the armory and the large ballroom, where city events and private celebrations take place. It also serves to welcome high-ranking guests.

Initially known as the New Building, the name wedding house that is used today prevailed in the 19th century. It reflects the romantic four-position that splendid celebrations were once celebrated there. Today, newlyweds can give a yes at the registry office, which has been here since 1972.

But that is just one facet in the history of the building, which has been largely empty after extensive renovations in the recent past and offers space for new perspectives and uses.

Quo vadis, Hochzeitshaus?

A large part of the building has been vacant since 2007, when the “Erlebniswelt Renaissance” (EWR) ended. The conversion, which was carried out for the EWR, makes further use more difficult. Since all floors are connected, they cannot be used separately.

After numerous project ideas and temporary exhibitions and events, the city council decided in 2017 to implement the overall concept, which ties in with the centuries-old tradition of the wedding house as a multifunctional building: gastronomy should move in on the ground floor. On the first and second floors, a citizens’ hall is to be created for a wide variety of events, from council meetings and receptions to lectures and concerts. Municipal administration offices are planned on the third floor.

Extensive renovation work is also pending, especially for the roof covered with Solling sandstones. The preliminary planning status assumes that all measures will be implemented by around 2022.

Plan of the wedding house from the feasibility study by Peter Nasarek, which forms the basis for further planning.

Rediscovered!

A floor plan appears in the city archive during the exhibition research. It shows the “Neue Schencke” around 1770. The shape and length of the building, the number of window axes, room names and other details reveal that this must be a plan of the wedding house. Since no floor plan of the building before 1900 is known, this is a small sensation.

A second illustration shows a draft for a planned renovation, probably after the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). It is uncertain whether this has ever taken place.

 

“The hall returns the scale kit of the Renaissance with contemporary design elements, without an attempt to historicize.”

Architect Peter Nasarek on the design of the citizen’s hall

Model of the Hochzeitshaus, © Museum Hameln

Weserrenaissance architecture

Hochzeitshaus

Osterstraße 2, Eberhard Wilkening (?), 1610-1617

The “new building” was built between 1610 and 1617 and unified various functions of a public building.  It accommodated facilities such as the Ratsapotheke [chemist], the city armoury and a wine tavern. On the upper storey is in addition, a large ceremonial town hall, the “Great Chamber”. Its usage for festivities eventually led to the building being named the “Hochzeitshaus”. 

It was established in the years before the outbreak of the Thirty Years War. The architect was probably Eberhard Wilkening.

Model of the Rattenkrug (left) and the Dempterhaus (right), © Museum Hameln

Rattenkrug

Bäckerstraße 16, Johann Reiche, 1568/69

A modern, Renaissance-period building was made by reconstruction of a Gothic stone house. Commissioned by the patrician Johann Reiche, the façade of the house was fundamentally altered in 1568/69. The steep stepped gables are strictly divided. The ancient and Italian precursors of Renaissance architecture are alluded to with an implied column storey. 

Dempterhaus

Am Markt 7, Tobias von Dempter, 1607/08

The typical house in the market square was built by the subsequent Mayor Tobias von Dempter shortly after his marriage to the preacher’s daughter Anna Bock. The building resembles a typical town-house in its customisation. Above the entrance door there is a building inscription, and right and left of it there are the stone coats of arms of the Dempter and Bock families. In the gable-end of the bow window stands a figure of Ceres: the ancient goddess of fertility and agriculture represents hope for the positive development of the family and business. 

Model of the Stiftsherrenhaus (left) and the Leisthaus (right), © Museum Hameln

Stiftsherrenhaus

Osterstraße 8, Friedrich Poppendiek, 1558

The house is located on the central Osterstraße. It was built in 1558 on the site of a Gothic stone house. The modern half-timbered house stands out with its richly decorated façade. The architect of the house was not a canon but the businessman and councillor Friedrich Poppendiek. He occupied various public offices from 1547; from 1562, he held the office of mayor at least eight times. The grand building demonstrates his wealth and importance in the city. In 1566, Poppendiek sold the house to Hynrich Reiche, himself a member of one of the leading town councillor families.  The occupier changed several more times in the Early Modern Age. The house remained in the possession of the Zeddies family for a number of generations from 1793 to 1969.

Leisthaus

Osterstraße 9, Gerd Leist, 1585

The oldest core of the building is a two-storey inhabited tower from the 13th century. 

Further parts of the building were added later. At the end of the 16th century, it presents as residential and business premises with a large accessible hallway. The owner was the businessman and grain dealer Gerd Leist.

The typical Renaissance façade was presumably built in 1589 by the master stonemason Cord Tönnies. Like the prominent bow window, the typical bay window, it is divided by half-columns chiselled in sandstone. The gable is distinguished by jagged, wave-shaped ornaments (volutes). A clear indication of orientation to the forms and patterns of classical antiquity is the figure of Lucretia standing in the gable alcove of the bow window.  The design from the Roman mythological world symbolically stands for republican civic virtues!

Welcome-goblet of the Hamelin small trader´s association, © Museum Hameln

Welcome goblet of the Hamelin small traders’ association
N.N., Hamelin, 1593
Goblets were used by the guilds for drinking and ritual affirmation of their regulations. New members were given a symbolic welcome-drink from it, and the apprentices were allowed to drink from it on graduating. 
The goblet of the Hamelin small traders indicates the wealth of the Guild. The finely-worked figures and panel headers are the result of the artistry of the Hamelin silversmiths. 
After the closure of the small traders’ association, the last members donated the cup to the city of Hamelin in 1875.  
When the German Emperor Wilhelm II visited Hamelin in 1904, he was offered a welcome-drink from this goblet.  An extra picture on the wall is a reminder of this event.