Short Town Walk
The centuries come to life in the narrow lanes and the nooks and crannies which mould the town and its image. Soest positively breathes history, inspired by a prolific past extending as far back as Neolithic times. As a Hanseatic town Soest played a crucial role in the structure of medieval Germany and it was the merchants of Soest who made a decisive contribution to the formation of the powerful Hanseatic League. The silhouette of the town is dominated by its churches, as well as by its medieval town walls and numerous secular buildings dating from diverse eras. Rows of delightful half-timbered houses and romantic lanes give the old town centre its unmistakable character. Two thirds of the town walls and their dry moats have been preserved and a walk along them is particularly inviting in April and May when the trees are in full bloom.
A half timbered ensemble at the Seel
1. The Historical Town Hall
Many architectural styles and important eras have left their traces in Soest. One of the few remaining representative Baroque buildings is the Rathaus, 1713-1716 (the Town Hall) with its arcade of nine arches on its west side. A statue of St Patroclus, the patron saint of the town, looks down from above this arcade. At the back of this Baroque building is the newer part of the Rathaus which formerly housed a grammar school. The complete building complex encloses a leafy courtyard in which open-air performances take place attracting numerous visitors year for year.
2. The St. Patrokli Church
Directly next to the Rathaus rises the mighty tower of the Patrokli-Minster (The Tower of Westphalia). This Romanesque building dates from after 965A.D. when it was founded as a collegiate church. In the Marienchor there is a particularly fine apse fresco from 1200A.D. Although quite naturally called the Dom (Cathedral) here in Soest it was never a diocesan church. However, a high-ranking canon of the Cologne Cathedral Chapter was at the head of the Chapter clerics at that time. The west work is 77m high and was, in medieval days, the town armoury.
3. Nikolai Kapelle (The Chapel of St. Nicholas)
A few steps further on, in the Thomästraße, you will find the Nikolai-Kapelle (Chapel of St. Nicholas) which dates from the 12th century. This chapel is dedicated to the patron saint of seafarers and travellers. Inside is a precious altarpiece by the school of Master Conrad of Soest. For many years it was thought that the chapel was donated by sea-going merchants (the so-called Schleswig Fahrer) and was shaped like a Hanse cog for this reason. There was, however, never real proof for this theory. Newer historical research now seems to prove that it was a memorial chapel where the Provosts said mass for their deceased brethren.
4. The Wilhelm-Morgner-Haus
Directly beside the Patrokli-Minster is the Wilhelm-Morgner-House. Various changing exhibitions, and a permanent exhibition of works by the famous Soest expressionist Wilhelm Morgner, are to be found here. 1910-1912 was the start of his artistic ascent, which unfortunately came to an abrupt end during WWI. Wilhelm Morgner was only 26 years old when he was killed at Langemark. He nevertheless left an extensive legacy which, for the main part, is in the possession of the town of Soest. (About 400 drawings and 56 paintings.) The building, which was constructed in 1962, also houses the town art collection and the Soest picture lending library (Soester Artothek) In the front part of the Morgner House the Galerie im “Wilhelm-Morgner Haus”, regularly changing exhibitions of predominantly expressive representational art are to be found. Main emphases are on the classical modern in Westphalia, the national/international years as well as 21st century art. The gallery specifically supports young artists with an intercultural biography who pursue a socio-relevant approach.
5. The Petrikirche (St. Petri Church)
The Patrokli-Dom and the Petrikirche (the Auld Kirk), the oldest church foundation in Westphalia, are separated only by the width of the pedestrian area. The oldest part of the Petrikirche, which is no longer detectable, dates from the 8th century. In the nave the Kaiserempore (Emperor’s Gallery 1200A.D.) bears witness to the illustrious guests of former days. The choir is of Gothic origin, while the spire has definite Baroque characteristics.
6. Mill Pond and the Mill
To reach the Mill Pond you walk through the Theodor-Heuss Park, formerly a private garden. On the other side of the green sand-stone wall, which completely encloses the park, is the old mill (13th cent.). The millpond beside it never freezes over because it is fed by innumerable springs. Diagonally opposite the mill, on the other side of the pond, is the reproduction of the see-saw, a medieval instrument of punishment. In the Middle Ages miscreants were propelled from the see-saw (painted yellow – the colour of disgrace) into the pond, causing them to be ridiculed.
7. St. Mary in the Meadows (Wiesenkirche)
To the north of the old part of the town you will see the spires of St. Maria zur Wiese (Wiesenkirche). This is one of the most beautiful late Gothic hall churches in Germany. The spires, however, were not completed until 1882. Due to the ongoing restoration of the towers the façade is partly covered in scaffolding. This and the accompanying stone restoration workshop have become an integral part of the church. In addition to important paintings on wood (14th-16th cents.) one is particularly fascinated by the famous Westphalian Last Supper, a stained glass window above the northern portal. This window, created by an unknown artist around 1500 A.D., shows Christ and his disciples at the Last Supper. Peculiar is the fact that you will see ham, beer and Pumpernickel (black bread) on the table.
8. The Green Sandstone Museum
Only a few steps further to the north of the Wiesen Church you will find the smart, new Green Sandstone Museum. Numerous plaques and exhibits give precise information about the history of green sandstone itself in addition to what part it played in the history of art as well as in the economic life of the Soest Börde. Workpieces and stone fragments of ecclesiastical and commercial buildings which no longer exist, are also to be seen. Relevant to the present-day is a collection of stones depicting the work currently being carried out by the Stone Restoration Workshop at the Wiesen Church.
9. St. Mary's on the Hill (St. Maria zur Höhe also called the Hohnekirche)
By walking back via the Wiesenstraße and the Hohe Gasse you reach the Church of St. Maria zur Höhe. This church with its splendid murals and painted ceiling was built around 1200. The Byzantine influence can best be recognized on the painted ceiling in the main choir which depicts a roundelay of angels, the so-called Engelreigen. On the right hand side of the altar you will find the only disc cross (Scheibenkreuz) in Germany. The interior does not comply with standard proportions, since the church is broader than it is long.
A short walk along the Kleine Osthofe brings you to the Osthofentor. This is the only existing gate of originally ten in the town wall. The reconstruction took place between 1523 and 1526. Inside there is a museum of town history including a worldwide unique collection of 25,000 medieval crossbow bolts. The town wall (approx 1180 A.D.) starts directly opposite. It was formerly 3.8 kms. long and enclosed the 102 hectares of the old town. Two thirds of the walls still exist today. It is possible to take an interesting walk along the top of the wall, or through the dry moats which were situated between the inner and former outer walls. From here you can catch a glimpse into some of the charming gardens of the old town centre.
11. Alt St. Thomä und Neu St. Thomä (Old and new St. Thomä Churches)
The "Schiefe Turm" (The Squint Tower) is the nickname of the Alt St. Thomä Kirche, one of the oldest Gothic churches in the town (approx. 1270 A.D.). Many strange tales are told about the origin of its tower (1653 A.D.). Fact is that its “crookedness” is a result of damage due to rot in its timbers. A few steps further on you will come upon the Neu St. Thomä church, a former monastery church of the Order of St Francis, who founded their first monastery in Westphalia here in 1233. The former Minorite church was built without a bell-tower. The monastery buildings have, except for a few remains, disappeared.
12. Burghof Museum
Crossing the Grandweg and wandering through a narrow lane you come to the Burghof Museum, an old patrician house from 1559A.D. where exhibits of art and town history, as well as a permanent exhibition of copper engravings by Heinrich Aldegrever can be viewed. Behind the museum is the Romanesque House from about 1200 A.D.which is one of the oldest residences between the rivers Rhine and Weser.
13. The "Katten"tower
Moving on to the Ulrichertor you have a view of the Kattenturm (1230A.D). This is the only remaining defensive tower of the former inner town wall.
14. The Pauli Church
Situated between the Ulricherstrasse and the Paulistrasse is the Paulikirche which originated around 1200. This church, with its many glass paintings and statues, was converted in the middle of the 14th century from a Romanesque to a Gothic church demonstrating the typical Soest style of church construction. It was in this church in 1530 that the Dominican monk Johann Kelberg gave the first Protestant sermon. He and his brother monk, Thomas Borchwede were the fore-runners of the Reformation in Soest.
15. The Soest Town Archive
The Soest Town Archive in the Haus zum Spiegel, a former patrician residence, harbours the largest medieval collection of records and documents in Westphalia. A particular attractions is the famous “Old Cowhide” (Alte Huhhaut -13th cent.), the oldest Soest Town Charter. This is also the seat of the Soest town archaeology department. A particular treasure is the Nequam- Buch (the Vehmic Court Book) which immortalises the names of the “good-for-nothings,” i.e. citizens of Soest who were banished from the town. This book also contains illustrated miniatures demonstrating the drastic administration of justice at that time.
16. The Bergenthal Park
In the Bergenthal Park you can admire a particularly rare stock of trees. This park was named after C.W.Bergenthal (1834-1893), one of the early pioneers of industrialisation in Soest. Here is also a former half-timbered barn which served the artist and philosopher Hugo Kükelhaus between 1954 until 1984 both as residence and place of work and which he converted to conform to his “organlogical” principles.
17. The Brunstein Chapel
The Brunstein–Kapelle, first documented in 1225A.D, is, in addition to the Nikolai-Kapelle, the only one of the originally twenty Soest chapels still in existence today. It is now used as a studio and for exhibitions by the Soest artist Fritz Risken.