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Baustelle Stauferhafen © HMF Foto Uwe Dettmar
Grabungsort Stauferhafen 2012 © HMF Foto Uwe Dettmar

The discovery of the Staufer port in June 2012

In June 2012, the bored pile wall was completed for the new-builds of the Museum Quarter and the trench has just been excavated. The excavators stood south of the pit, close to the front of the Baroque Bernuspalais. Work stopped when the excavators stumbled upon a plastered path, which was secured with well-maintained wooden planks.

It soon became clear to the city archaeologists that this was an extraordinary find. There was evidence of this path and the wooden fortress stretching to about 20 metres in length. The well-maintained plaster and its connection to the southern wall could only mean one thing: it must have been a wharf for the Saalhof, which was built at the same time as the Staufer building in the late 12th century. Felling dates of 1303 or 1314 proving the age of the wooden beam were found in July, thus confirming this presumption.


The beam was a wear part which was last replaced at the beginning of the 14th century. In the mid-14th century, the wharf then became buried when this part of the wall was shifted south in the direction of the river as part of the approved city expansion in 1333. This is how the museum obtained a unique testimony of life in the Staufer port in Frankfurt. Its new highlight is directly in the entrance area. It comes into view right at the beginning of a visit to the museum: The prominent location of the city on the river, the ford through the Main in the near vicinity (Fahrtor), the transport hub arising from this and the city that was increasingly used and visited by kings and traders – the original wharf makes visitors aware of all this from the beginning.

In hindsight, the desire to present the highlight under the best conservational conditions and where it was found improved the original plan of the architects – even though construction took a year longer due to rescheduling and clarifying detailed questions.  The originally planned roof between the Bernuspalais and the entrance building was replaced by two covered and glazed passages and the port can be found in between. On the north facade of the old-build, guests in the Sonnemann-Saal can step out into the open through double doors and admire the wharf.

Historical life at the Staufer port

The journey to Frankfurt by ship on the Main River was handed down from the year 794 with the first mention of Frankfurt in writing. In 1149, Archbishop Albero travelled to a Hoftag (informal assembly) of Conrad III of Germany via the Main with 40 vessels, including barracks ships and kitchen ships. Just a few years later, on the 4th of March 1152, the participants of the first election for the king in Frankfurt travelled to Aachen by ship for the coronation of Frederick Barbarossa. The following could be verified by written sources: Those who thought anything of themselves took to the water. Goods that were traded in Frankfurt were delivered by ship.