The Burgtor or Castle Gate is one of only two (the other being Holstentor) surviving medieval gates of Lübeck’s original four. The oldest parts of Lübeck’s Burgtor date back to the 13th century, whilst its tower is a later addition.
The Hanseatic League was a defensive and commercial group of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe, stemming from a few German towns in the early 12th century. The League dominated the Baltic maritime trade and coasts of North Europe. The Hanseatic City of Lübeck in northern Germany became a port for colonists leaving for Baltic territories around 1200. Therefore, the city grew in import and size, becoming the most powerful member of the medieval trade organisation.
To reflect Lübeck’s commerical prestige, the Burgtor was built in 1444 in the late Gothic style, becoming the northernmost of the gates within the city’s fortifications. The gate was built in place of a Romanesque gate, set between adjoining stables and the customs office.
During the 19th century, the city considered destroying the gate for commercial building, but the proposal was denied by the citizenry, and ultimately the gate was widened to include four passages. In 1912, Ida Boy-Ed, a German writer, was awarded lifelong rights to live in the Burgtor for her services to Lübeck.
After her death in 1928, museum director Carl Georg Heise lived there until he was dismissed by the Nazis in 1933, at which point, the tower was left to hand weaving and embroidery by master Alen Muller-Hellwig to live and work from. Her last trainee used the workshop until she died in 2016.
With views of the river Trave and harbour, the UNESCO listed Burgtor is a great place to stop and appreciate the city’s medieval history. On site, there is a model display explaining the historical significance of the building.
There are also two memorial plaques on the Burgtor to take note of: the first commemorates the French invasion of Lübeck through the gate in 1806; the second is for Carl Hans Lody, a German World War One spy executed in London, which unfortunately became the occasional site of neo-Nazi events, now prohibited in the area.
Getting to Burgtor
The Burgtor is an 18 minute walk from Lübeck Central Station, and the number 11 bus will take you directly to the gate.