Bucksturm Tower

Place to see, Romanesque architecture

The Bucksturm Tower, dating from the 13th century, is located on the Bocksmauer Street (where the medieval city wall used to be located) in Osnabrück. Until the city's defences were largely demolished in the 19th century, the watchtower, formerly also called the Bocksturm Tower, was part of the medieval city wall. A detailed plan from the time of the Thirty Years' War gives an overview of the ramparts and the original 30 fortifications that surrounded the town.  
The Bucksturm Tower was open from both sides and thus accessible to the guards on duty via the city wall. In the winter months they could warm themselves in the tower with a warming pan filled with embers. The former entrances to the semicircular tower are still recognisable today. With its original height of about 28 metres, it was considered the highest fortification tower in the city. However, due to dilapidation, ten metres had to be removed in 1805. Since then it has had four storeys. The Bucksturm Tower, which is still 18 metres high today, has a diameter of 10.7 metres and relatively small embrasures. This suggests that the tower was never intended for cannons, but only for small handguns.
On the west side of the Bucksturm Tower is a war memorial by the sculptor Hermann Hosaeus for the infantry regiment “Duke Friedrich Wilhelm von Braunschweig" No. 78, inaugurated on 1 October 1922.
Other remains of the former city fortifications include the Neustädter Turm (New Town Tower), the Pernickelturm Tower, the Plümersturm Tower and the Vitischanze Street. Also remaining is the rampart on the Herrenteichswall on the River Hase, surrounded by lime trees, which invites visitors to take a stroll.
The Bucksturm Tower can be visited on public guided tours.

Origin of the name

Medieval Osnabrück had to defend itself with its own forces and had too few soldiers to do so. Partnerships were formed with noble families who undertook to defend part of the city wall in return for financial compensation. In the section of the later Bucksturm Tower, the family responsible was called "von Buck" (another family "von Bar" was responsible for another section, the tower now being called Barenturm). The noble families marked their respective sections of the wall with their heraldic animals, the von Buck family with the buck and the von Bar family with the bear. A buck's head on the top floor of the tower, which no longer exists, is said to have indicated this. This enabled the associated soldiers to recognise which part of the city wall they had to defend.

The Johanniskasten

The Bucksturm Tower gained historical significance in its time as a municipal prison. In 1305 Count Simon von der Lippe was imprisoned here for six years, and in 1534 the emissaries of the Anabaptists from Münster. However, the Bucksturm Tower is best known for the "Johanniskasten", Johann box, on the second floor. Prisoners were held in this box made of solid oak planks from the 13th century onwards. The name comes from its most spectacular inmate: the robber baron Johann von Hoya, who was held in the box as a prisoner of war of the Osnabrückers from 1441 to 1448.

The Bucksturm and the witch hunt in Osnabrück

During the witch hunts, the Bucksturm also served as a torture chamber in the 16th and 17th centuries. A total of 260 deaths (256 women and four men) were recorded in Osnabrück between 1490 and 1639. It was at the beginning of the modern era that Osnabrück became a stronghold of witch hunts. Between 1583 and 1592 the wave of persecution escalated with 180 women executed. This strong “zeal” for persecution was often intensified by personal interests and the active involvement of individual so-called "witch hunters", such as the Osnabrück mayors Rudolf Hammacher and Wilhelm Peltzer. The last major witch hunt between 1635 and 1639 was also attributed to the latter.
Power-political and confessional conflicts strongly influenced developments. The Protestant-dominated citizens sought ways to secure and expand urban autonomy and demonstrate their ability to act. Preferably, Catholics were persecuted as witches. The city council conducted the following trials as summary proceedings. The alleged witches were tortured in the Bucksturm Tower before being burned or drowned, and some of them died during the process. It was not until the Swedish ruler of Osnabrück at the time, Gustav Gustavson, took action that the persecution was ended by decree in 1639. Wilhelm Peltzer was removed from office.
A small exhibition in the Bucksturm Tower is dedicated to the former witch trials. Former instruments of torture were still on display there until the beginning of the 20th century.

The case of Anna Ameldung

Anna Ameldung was the last victim of the Osnabrück witch hunt. She was the wife of the council pharmacist Heinrich Ameldung, owner of the "Löwenapotheke" pharmacy on the market square. The building, also called the "Ameldungsche Apotheke" pharmacy, is now home to the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Centre.
The Ameldungs were successful business people with a good reputation. A rumour of a family celebration that spread quickly became Anna's undoing: a cousin claimed that she had attended a witch dance and brought a confectionery box with her husband's initials from there. Heinrich Ameldung confronted the cousin, Anna defended him. This was taken as an admission of guilt. Heinrich Ameldung tried to protect his wife, but on 1 August 1636 she was arrested and on 20 September the water test was carried out in the River Hase. For this, the women were stripped naked, their arms and legs tied together and then thrown into a boat. An executioner then threw them into the River Hase. Through the rope he could determine who would sink or float on top. Anna Ameldung was convicted of witchcraft (because as a witch she swam on top). She was then tortured in the Bucksturm until she finally confessed to being a witch on 5 October. The council then sentenced her to death. To avoid the shame of the stake, Heinrich Ameldung spent a lot of money to ensure that his wife was not burned in front of everyone. On 7 October 1636 at 4 a.m. she was beheaded in a guardhouse at Bucksturm Tower. The supposed confectionary box was never found.


  • Bucksturm Tower in Osnabrück
  • Bucksturm Tower in Osnabrück

Address & contact

Bucksturm Tower
49074 Osnabrück

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