The hangman was not wanted as a neighbor

When there was a fire in medieval Freising at night, it depended on one person: the watchman, who moved into his office high up in the St. Georgsturm, 212 steps above the ground. As soon as he saw a fire in the city, he should sound the alarm with a horn so that the civil fire brigade could move out. He should – because in Freising, as in other cities, tower wardens often turned out to be unreliable people who fell asleep at work or preferred to spend their evenings in the tavern. Since people used open fires for cooking and heating and the houses were built of wood, fires could spread very quickly. In order to get the watchman to work reliably, he was finally obliged to use a control clock and, from 1890 onwards, to report by telephone cable that he was doing his job properly. It was not until 1930 that the watchman was replaced by fire alarms using an electronic telephone system. Today his room in the St. Georgsturm is accessible after the current restoration has been completed and offers a magnificent view of Freising.

Historical city tour in Freising: The tower of St. George's Church. There the watchman watches over the city.

The tower of St. George’s Church. There the watchman watches over the city.

(Photo: Marco Einfeldt)

Historical city tour in Freising: Diana Melzer (right) with the participants of the city tour.

Diana Melzer (right) with the participants of the city tour.

(Photo: Marco Einfeldt)

Diana Melzer reports all of this during the adventure city tour of the city of Freising “Why the goalkeeper doesn’t just have something to do with football – on the trail of historical professions” on Friday evening. Melzer is a full-time pharmacist, but as she was born in Freising she is interested in the history of the city and works part-time as a city guide. For an hour she shares her historical knowledge with a mixed group of people of all ages.

The Moosach as a lifeline

Anyone who strolls through the Freisinger Fischergasse today can imagine that Freising’s town fishermen used to live here. Three to six fishermen caught the fish from the Moosach with their traps and sold them on the spot. The pious citizens of Freising consumed large amounts of fish on fasting days and during Lent. Of course, not everyone could afford these delicacies: Melzer points out that the less well-off primarily ate the cheaper crayfish, a use that could possibly also be used to get rid of the signal crabs that have become a nuisance in the Moosach today.

The post of court fisherman, who supplied the prince-bishop’s court with enormous profits and was allowed to lay larger nets and traps, was particularly popular. The fishermen eyed each other with envy and ratted out their competitors to the authorities if they noticed a violation of the strict rules, according to Melzer, in order to possibly become court fishermen themselves.

Historical city tour in Freising: The fishermen eyed each other through these small side peepholes.

The fishermen eyed each other through these small side peepholes.

(Photo: Marco Einfeldt)

But the Moosach was not only important for fishing. Their water powered millstones, which millers used to grind grain and grind objects. The millers had to regularly clean the Moosach of aquatic plants and excrement, which the population simply disposed of in the river to keep the course of the river free and the water clean, as Diana Melzer explains. The millers were also envious businessmen: Again and again the competition at the upper course of the river tried secretly at night and in fog to dig up the water for the millers downstream, as they still say today.

Historical city tour in Freising: The Moosach was the lifeline of the city for a long time.

The Moosach was the lifeline of the city for a long time.

(Photo: Marco Einfeldt)

Likewise, the tanners depended on the water from the Moosach, as they used it to wash the animal skins and to use it in the brew for tanning the skins from which they made leather. If they hung out the animal skins in the Moosach to wash them and didn’t fasten them well enough, it could happen that the skins literally swam away.

torture and witch trials

Today, the Old Prison is known as a place of art exhibitions and education, offering tours of the old premises. Of course, the place used to have a completely different character, which Melzer reports: the jailers devised resourceful torture methods that were supposed to obtain confessions during the so-called “embarrassing interrogation”. In prison, the so-called Nachrichtener, a Freising term for executioner, carried out executions. His job was considered “dishonest”, i.e. dishonourable, so he had to live outside the city. From the 16th to the 18th century, Freising was also the site of repeated witchcraft trials, in which citizens, including children, were repeatedly executed on charges of sorcery and witchcraft until 1723.

Historical city tour in Freising: A remaining part of the Freising city wall at the Bürgerturm.

A remaining part of the Freising city wall at the Bürgerturm.

(Photo: Marco Einfeldt)

Melzer left the answer to the question of what the goalkeeper was all about for the end: each of the six Freising city gates in the city wall had its own goalkeeper, who locked the gate at night and collected and checked customs duties during the day who was allowed into the city. When gunpowder and cannons appeared after the Middle Ages, the military use and the protective function of the city wall decreased, so that the gates had to be opened to the Swedish besiegers around 1632 during the Thirty Years’ War. Although none of these city gates are still preserved today, a trip to Freising’s historical professions is definitely worthwhile.

Further information on city tours in Freising can be found here:

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