World Heritage Values
Apart from the distinctive layout of the two historic centres, it is in particular the cityscape with its variety of features that characterises the two areas of protected buildings, identifying them as outstanding examples of Hanseatic city architecture.
This is demonstrated by the synthesis of smaller buildings divided into blocks together with the larger individual and outstanding solitary residential buildings, especially public buildings such as parish churches, monasteries and town halls.
Seen from the sea, the historic centres of Stralsund and Wismar are traditional harbour and trading cities with the seafront expressing the typical development of harbour areas, dominated by storage buildings and loading areas. But equally it is the whole urban fabric that demonstrates how large parts of the city system revolve around the harbour, both through streetscape and visual relationships. In both cities the harbour is an essential element of the cityscape, by location, appearance, but also in mood and ambience. In Wismar, the extensively preserved medieval harbour basin bears testimony to the original interplay between the urban fabric and the sea front.
The two historic centres still offer slight traces of their former fortress town origins, in particular in Stralsund where the location between the Strela Sound and landside ponds of the historic centre island is recognizable as a natural fortress to this day.
The Medieval city layouts of Stralsund and Wismar, which originated in the early 13th century, have been preserved and remain largely unchanged to this day. Within the historic centres networks of streets and squares with neighbourhoods and plot structures/allotments have been preserved virtually unaltered.
While the layout of Stralsund as a maritime trading city is clearly oriented towards the sea, the plan of Wismar connected the port with the east-west trade route and thus emphasizes the character of Wismar as a commercial city with a strong export trade.
Both cities possess a number of important Brick Gothic elements. As an ensemble, the six Brick Gothic parish churches of Stralsund and Wismar constitute a representative cross section of Gothic religious architecture of the Wendish Hanseatic cities. From St. Nicholas´ Church in Stralsund to the late Gothic Church of St. George in Wismar, each of the six buildings adds its specificity to the overall picture of ‘Wendish’ church architecture.
Monasteries and Hospitals
From the two Medieval monasteries that existed in Wismar there are now only traces/ruins remaining. From the Dominican monastery church that was founded in 1293 on the south-eastern edge of the historic centre there remains a consecrated choir dating from 1397 which was integrated in a neo-gothic school building in circa 1878-80, and recently the choir of a Franciscan monastery founded in 1251 was identified archaeologically.
In Wismar, the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, founded in 1249 is situated on the northern side of Lübsche Straße. This complex of infirmary and residential quarters has retained its Medieval design and together with the decorated inner courtyard and former cemetery it represents an exceptionally unified ensemble.
In Stralsund, the monasteries of both mendicant orders have been preserved.
In particular the Dominican monastery of St. Katherine, founded in 1251, is almost entirely preserved in its original state. The monastery complex today houses the STRALSUND MUSEUM and the German Oceanographic Museum.
The second Stralsund monastery of the mendicant order, the Franciscan monastery of St. John, was founded in 1254 on the city wall in the north of the centre. It is a large building complex clustered around two courtyards from the 13th to 15th centuries.
Both cities have ‘Holy Spirit’ hospitals – places where the sick, the elderly and travellers were taken care of and which spread throughout northern and central Germany in the Middle Ages – and these are maintained with exceptional integrity.
Besides religious buildings of Brick Gothic, both cities also have an extensive inventory of significant secular architecture, and of these, the medieval town hall of Stralsund has particular significance. The town hall of Stralsund is an elongated four-wing building located in front of the west facade of the St. Nicholas´ Church. The building, dating from the early 14th century, was built over the course of a few decades and became the model for a whole series of town halls in the Southern Baltic region. The monumental north façade was completed around the year 1350 and its grandeur and decorative exuberance clearly reflect the pride of a city at the height of its power. The building also represents the most striking evidence of the style known as ‘Sundische Gothic’, which developed in the city on the Strela Sound from about 1330 as an independent and particularly magnificent expression of Brick Gothic.
The Gothic town hall of Wismar stood in the same location as its present-day classical successor building – elements of it are integrated into the present building: the rising masonry up to the first floor as well as two major architectural components, the ground floor of the west wing and its courtroom, a two-aisled, six-arched hall with a ribbed vault and the two aisled, eight-arched town hall cellar also with a ribbed vault.
An exceptionally authentic and well-preserved monastery is located in the vicinity of so-called ‘Kampischer Hof’ on Mühlenstrasse of the medieval city settlement. Stralsund also lays claim to the only preserved medieval execution house in the Baltic sea region. This significant monument of Hanseatic penal history lies directly on the outskirts of the core of the town’s first settlement. First mentioned in written sources in 1289, the building was the home and workplace of the town executioner.
The building of the Stralsund “Stadtwaage” on Wasserstrasse with its preserved medieval core is noteworthy as the last surviving example of its kind. The ‘Wulflam House’ built by the mayoral family of the same name was erected prior to 1358 and is distinguished by an additional festival hall located above the foyer that served a ceremonial purpose. With its polygonal columns, alternately glazed and unglazed bricks and rich decorative forms, the gable expresses an unmistakable association with the north facade of the town hall.
The ‘Alter Schwede’, which is located on the east side of the market-place in Wismar is an impressive example of Gothic gabled house architecture. The brick building, built around 1380, is a one-storey design and has a very large stepped gable towering above a pointed-arch portal and a tracery frieze, the central axis of which covers five more storeys.
Of the original ten Stralsund city gates, two land gates were preserved, the Kütertor in the west and the Kniepertor in the north. Both are three-storey brick buildings with pointed-arch passageways and are partially laid out with windows. The Kütertor is a fine example of the early construction of city gates around 1300, which has almost completely vanished from maritime cities.
Of the five original water gates on the harbour, the preserved Water Gate of Wismar remains, dating from the second half of the 15th century. The gate is a square brick building over a pointed-arch passageway with a stepped gable with six-part niche structure. On the east of the city a medieval wall tower with a high tented-roof also still stands. From 1685 the tower was used in the municipal water supply, and thus became known as the water tower.
The gradual decline of the Hanseatic League during the 15th century, signaled a loss in importance and prosperity for both Stralsund and Wismar. The Renaissance period brought only a few new buildings to Stralsund, among which are the 16th century corner house at 12 Badenstrasse, the building at 42 Badenstrasse built in the early 17th century with its by Dutch Renaissance influenced façade, and the double gabled house 44 Badenstrasse. Also of note are the flight of steps from 1579 included in the town hall passage and the superb portal at 32 Jacobiturmstrasse dating from 1562.
In spite of the dwindling economic power, in Wismar a number of outstanding examples of North German Renaissance architecture were erected in this period. These include the famous Fürstenhof, or more precisely the north wing of the former city residence of the Mecklenburg dukes. Of equal significance is the second large-scale Renaissance building in Wismar known as the ‘Schabbellhaus’ which is located at the Schweinsbrücke and is now used by the City History Museum. The existing street-facing façades of red brick in the Dutch style features rich structural elements of light sandstone, providing an effective contrast with the red brickwork. The ornamentation of the facade decoration, which culminates at the gable and the portals of the eaves also mimics Dutch models, as does their material composition. Inside the building, the hall with its magnificent beamed ceiling and oak-wood paving has been preserved, as has the spiral staircase that leads from the cellar to the roof area.
Between 1580 and 1602 a highly ornate housing was built on the marketplace for the previously installed collection tank of the wooden water main. The ‘Wasserkunst’ (waterworks) is a delicate but superb pavilion-like structure and was designed by Philipp Brandin from Utrecht. It has since become a symbol of the Hanseatic city Wismar, expressing the forms of the Dutch Renaissance.
In the second half of the 17th century and into the 18th century intense building activity took over in the then Swedish occupied cities of Stralsund and Wismar. In Stralsund, the Kommandantur (military command), built in 1746 occupied a prime location on the Alter Markt (Old Market). This wide three-storey building with its simple design language already shows signs of the classical style.
As early as 1726-1730 the Swedish Government Palace was erected in Baden Strasse – a two-storey, three-wing structure with an open courtyard facing south. Influenced by some of the eaves-fronted built Swedish administrative buildings, certain elaborate somewhat palatial residential buildings were also built as eaves-fronted houses, such as the buildings at 1 Ossenreyerstrasse, 23 Mönchstrasse, 11 Mönchstrasse, 39 Badenstrasse, and the so-called ‘Landständehaus’.
In Wismar there are two preserved examples of military buildings of the Swedish government, the Provianthaus and the armory. The latter is one of the most important baroque testimonies of Swedish military architecture in Germany. Two years before the armory was built the Royal Swedish Provianthaus was erected in the northeast of the city adjacent to the city walls.
In Stralsund and Wismar there is a large number of new and altered buildings from the 19th century. Within this group of buildings, Wismar in particular has a rich variety of classical facades from the first decades of the 19th century, which has no parallel in Stralsund. The most prominent building of the classical style is the broad structure of Wismar Town Hall, which covers almost the entire north side of the square.
The material heritage of the archaeological subsoil is also of utmost significance as World Heritage. In the event of any pending building works, developers are obliged by preservation laws to carry out systematic excavations and thoroughly document their findings. In recent years a number of findings highly regarded by experts in the field were uncovered by the underwater archaeology of the State of Mecklenburg Vorpommern, in particular in the waters just outside the cities of Stralsund and Wismar.