Jerusalem Tower

The Jerusalem Tower is the oldest structure in the building complex "Walderdorff Palace" and counts among the most important medieval structures in Trier. The building belonged to the "Jerusalem Curia", a Cathedral canon's residence, later torn down. The name "Jerusalem" has been used since the High Middle Ages, although its origin and meaning are unclear.

The Jerusalem Tower was constructed in the 11th century. Just as in other important cities such as Regensburg and Metz, several such residential towers stood in Trier in the Middle Ages, mostly from the 11th and 12th centuries. From written and structural evidence, nine such towers are known in Trier, but it may be assumed that there were more. Franco's Tower in Dietrichstrasse is one of the few well-preserved buildings of this type.

The medieval residential towers must be imagined as the central structure of large fortified town estates. Occupied by the families of city leaders as well as by Cathedral and collegiate canons, these estates also had sheds for wine presses, storehouses, stables and probably other residential structures. Archaeological excavations in 1998 in the courtyard of Walderdorff Palace brought to light several such structures. These were built as half-timbered houses with stone foundations.

Most of Trier's residential towers were built with recycled Roman building material. Furthermore, the builders imitated ancient masonry techniques in the Jerusalem Tower in that they put into the walls the layers of bricks typical of Roman structures. In the Roman era, these bricks served as structural stabilising layers; whereas in the Middle Ages this function was not understood and therefore the bricks served only as decoration. Originally, the tower had four or five storeys, crowned by battlements. The Jerusalem Tower was altered greatly in the course of the centuries. One or two storeys were town down, and the east wall, facing the courtyard, was plastered, and large windows were built in.

When, during the restoration, the external and internal plaster was removed, medieval niches and window arches, monolithic slit and round window openings as well as remains of vaulting were discovered. However, the former entrance in the first upper storey could no longer be found; it was walled up during the many alterations. In the first upper storey, in the area of the new staircase, remains of crossed vaulting built in later were found, perhaps an indication of a remodelling as a chapel.

The archaeologists made their most spectacular find when they hit upon the buried ground floor of the tower during their examination of the floor level with the courtyard. Evidently, following a fire in 1689, the original ground floor was filled in and made level with the surrounding courtyard, then forgotten over the course of the centuries. This newly discovered ground floor is significant evidence of architecture from the High Middle Ages with late medieval alterations. A massive pillar with the beginnings of vaulting, windows, niches and a spiral staircase which, in all probability, led up through the entire structure date from the original building.

In the Late Middle Ages, this original ground floor was remodelled to become a cellar, the surrounding ground level having been raised considerably by evening out rubble. The interior floor level was lowered and a cellar entrance was added in the southeast corner. The red flooring still preserved today and a storage shaft in the floor date from this period. Roman layers lie below this level. In the course of the restoration, this newly discovered level was made accessible for visitors.

Further information

The building is used today as the Registry Office and the Office for Senior Citizens.
Opening hours of the Office for Senior Citizens:
Monday - Wednesday 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon, Thursday from 9:00 am - 4:00 p.m., tel. +49 651 75566