The new exhibition house
The Old Buildings: The Saalhof Ensemble
The Saalhof is unique in Frankfurt. Today, it includes five buildings from 800 years. Originally, all buildings between the old Saalgasse (one of the oldest streets in the Old Town) in the north, the city gate (Fahrtor) in the west, the Main riverbank in the south and the small Saalhof in the east were identified with it. The five monuments of the museum, which are still around today, were restored thoroughly from 2008 to 2012. This followed the concept of Diezinger Architekten (Eichstätt). The concept emphasised the historical character of the five buildings, both in its interior and exterior design. The oldest building of the Saalhof is the Staufer royal castle from circa 1200. It is the oldest upright standing building in the city. This is why it was so carefully restored. The installations of the 20th century were removed and the foundation walls from the Middle Ages (1200-1500) were exposed. On the inside, the mighty tower house that reached from the basement to the roof was made visible once again. Around 1842, architect Rudolf Burnitz had renovated the tower as a residential building. Following the destruction of the Second World War, the medieval tower was restored on the outside but not on the inside. Traces of the medieval construction almost completely disappeared when it was converted into a museum building. The tower space – which is almost six metres high – has been reconstructed on the ground floor.
A chapel was built onto the eastern wall of the Staufer tower shortly after 1200. Another floor was added soon after. The chapel thus has a total of three floors. The basement was originally only accessible from the main room through a narrow hatch. This was typical of the multi-storey chapels in royal castles of the 12th and 13th century. The basement was presumably used as a vault for storing the imperial treasure. Until the 15th century, kings always took their imperial treasure with them on their travels. This treasure was of a religious nature and contained many holy relics. This is why it was stored in a church room. Today, the copies of the imperial insignia are exhibited there.
Aside from the Staufer royal castle and chapel, the Saalhof is made up of the following components: the Rententurm (Toll Tower) from the mid-15th century, the Baroque Bernuspalais from the early 18th century and the historical Burnitzbau and the customs house from 1842.
The Rententurm on the western side of the ensemble is one of the few towers that have been preserved from the late Gothic town fortification. It was built between 1454 and 1456 by Eberhard Friedberger. For the first time in its 500-year history, it has now been opened to the public via a Gothic spiral staircase. The concrete ceilings from the 1950s were removed from the interior and replaced by steel levels, which allow visitors to look through all floors. This landmark at the Main riverbank provides the most spectacular views over the city and river.
Between the Rententurm and Staufer building, there are two residential buildings on the foundations of the city wall from the Late Middle Ages. Wool and cloth traders Heinrich and Johann Bernus had the Bernusbau built from 1715 to 1717, perhaps by architect and Cistercian Bernardus Kirnde. Banker Jakob Bernus (1681-1749) presented his large painting collection here. A large window now enables a view from the Bernusbau to the neighbouring Rententurm. To the east of the Bernuspalais, Constantia Margaretha Leerse (née Bernus) commissioned another representative residential building in 1842. Architect Rudolf Burnitz (1788-1849) designed the facade of the Burnitzbau – which was named after him – in a Neo-Romanesque style. The shallow depth of the foundations was expanded by the inclusion of the Staufer building, resulting in the disappearance of the south-western edge of the tower. The restoration makes these tower walls in the Burnitzbau visible again. Visitors can access the house via a historical spiral staircase. The customs house on the western side of the Saalhof ensemble originates from the same time. The Neo-Romanesque construction replaced a Classicist building and the city gate (Fahrtor) from the Late Middle Ages at the southern entrance to the Römerberg. On the upper floor, the Gothic oriel was used as spolia and built into the city gate (Fahrtor).
The new museum forecourt
The HMF quarter