Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hulbe-Haus


Just as Hamburg’s Rathaus emerged from World War II completely unscathed, several notable buildings nearby also escaped wartime damage and destruction.

One such building was Hulbe-Haus, a beautiful 1910 building built in Dutch Renaissance style. Hulbe-Haus is notable for its layered steeple topped by a golden cog, the symbol of North German port cities.

Hulbe-Haus has become a minor landmark of the city of Hamburg, and this is so for three reasons. First, the building protrudes several yards into Monckebergstrasse, Hamburg’s main shopping street. It is the only building that protrudes into the lengthy, grand boulevard that connects Hamburg’s Rathaus with the city’s main train station (“Hauptbahnhof”). Second, Hulbe-Haus is one of only two buildings on Monckebergstrasse that was not obliterated by wartime bombs and the ensuing fires. Third, Hulbe-Haus lies atop the very center of Hamburg’s first settlement, Hammaburg, erected in the 9th Century.

Hammaburg was an ancient fortress after which the city of Hamburg was named. Hammaburg was also Northern Europe’s first Christian outpost—the fortress Hammaburg served as a diocesan town and the missionary center for all of Northern Europe. Indeed, Christianity came to Northern Europe via Hamburg, and it did so hundreds of years after Christianity had spread to most other parts of Europe.

The streets around Hulbe-Haus have been the sites of numerous excavations since 1962. A nearby office building displays in its basement excavations showing the remnants of what once was the bishop’s residence. The remnants are almost one thousand years old. The basement is open to the public, and we made a short visit. A couple of ancient stone walls and a few ancient stone columns were on display, all illuminated so that they might easily be viewed by visitors. It was not particularly impressive.

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