Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar
Location and site
Stralsund is located in the northeast of Germany, directly on the shore of the Strelasund, a narrow strip of the Baltic sea that separates the island of Rügen from the mainland. Wismar is situated about 120 km west of Stralsund.
The Hanseatic city of Stralsund is an outstanding example of a medieval town characterized by its unique island location between three ponds and the Baltic Sea. Stralsund preserved its medieval ground plan, especially the structure of the streets, up to the present day. The Hanseatic urban architecture left its marks on the townscape of Stralsund, the use of the town as a traditional port and maritime trading place is obvious. Many buildings, such as the Town Hall, the ”Wulflamhaus” or the three big churches, represent the Brick Gothic architecture of the medieval time.
The 18th century under Swedish rule is still visible in form of the Swedish government palace, the Swedish ”Kommandantenhaus” and other baroque buildings.
Besides the ground of the historic old town presents an interesting place for archaeological excavations.
The historic city centers of Stralsund and Wismar meet two of the six cultural criteria:
Criterion (ii): The object has exhibited an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning, or landscape design.
As economically powerful and politically influential members of the Hanseatic League, both cities played a considerable role in the European exchange of cultural achievements, technical knowledge, and philosophical ideas, which took place based on the far-reaching trade relations in the entire Baltic and North Sea region.
This exchange of achievements is especially true in relation to the Gothic sacred architecture found throughout northern Europe. The group of six monumental brick Gothic churches in Wismar and Stralsund exhibits the important blending of various cultural influences: a number of Gothic basilicas were built in the Wendish Hanseatic cities as a result of the combination of the Italian brick Gothic technique and the northern French pattern of cathedral construction. The six churches exemplify this mixture. Wendish sacred architecture spread into the Baltic region and can even be found in Scandinavia.
In addition to church construction, the Stralsund town hall is an excellent example of the secular use of brick Gothic architecture and had a great influence on many other town halls in the southern Baltic Sea region. During the Swedish period, a unique sort of cultural exchange especially with regard to architectural styles took place between the two cities and Sweden. The results of this mutual exchange can still be seen today in various parts of Stralsund, Wismar, and Sweden.
Criterion (iv): The object is an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape, which illustrates one or several significant stage(s) in human history.
Both cities, with their unaltered and still remaining medieval city layout, the characteristic property lot segments, as well as the impressive amount of brick Gothic architecture, are excellent examples of typical Hanseatic sea merchant towns at the time of the flourishing city alliance.
The well-preserved medieval harbor basin in Wismar is of outstanding significance and illustrates the importance of this essential factor in the original development of sea merchant cities. In addition, the Grube river is the last remaining artificial medieval watercourse in a historic city center in northern Germany.
Stralsund’s location on an island between the Strelasund and the ponds on the landside, which were filled soon after the city’s foundation, is unique and has not changed since the 13th century. Because of these specific topographical characteristics, Stralsund has a very distinctive skyline. A large number of high-quality examples of brick Gothic architecture, especially the group of six parish churches, uniquely reflect the enormous wealth, incredible political clout, and rapidly growing economic power of the young Hanseatic cities.
In addition to Stralsund’s town hall – a building of outstanding importance in the history of architecture – there are many other examples of merchant houses in both cities constructed on the typically narrow but long medieval property lots. Wismar’s original city center with its almost fully intact rows of historical houses has been preserved in a unique state of completeness. Archaeologically speaking, the subsoil of both cities is a monument of outstanding importance.
- The town of Stralsund was founded in 1234, its first name was Stralow.
- In the 14th century, Stralsund became a member of the Hanseatic League and was the most important city in the Baltic region aside from Lübeck.
- After 10 years of conflict and war the ”Peace of Stralsund” was signed between the Hanseatic League and King Waldemar IV of Denmark on May 24th, 1370.
- The ”Sundische Gotik” is an independent form of architecture that developed between 1330 and 1380 and symbolized the political power and economic growth of Stralsund as an important part of the Hanseatic League.
- During the ”Thirty Years War” the town was under siege by Wallenstein, an imperial general. But Swedish troops came to defend Stralsund successfully. As a result, Stralsund signed an alliance contract with Sweden. After the ”Peace of Westphalia” in 1648 Stralsund was completely under Swedish rule.
- In the Swedish era, many baroque gabled houses were built, especially since Stralsund became the political headquarter of Swedish Western Pomerania in 1720, and an increase of administrative and residential buildings took place.
- After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Stralsund became a part of Prussia. The number of inhabitants increased severely and the industrial development supported the extension of the suburbs, the connection to the railway network, and a traject ferry to Rügen.
- After the end of World War Two, Stralsund became part of the Soviet zone and later of the German Democratic Republic. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of the two parts of Germany Stralsund became part of the federal state Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.
- In 2002 Stralsund and Wismar were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- The new bridge to Rügen opened in 2007.
Dr.-Ing. Alexander Badrow
Lord Mayor of the Hansiatic City of Stralsund
P.O. Box 21 45
Ms. Steffi Behrendt
Office Manager and World Heritage Coordinator
Public Relations Office