The Importance

In the years before the dawn of the 20th century, the night watchman was one of many citizens of Rothenburg responsible for the safety of the inhabitants of this walled, fortified city. Even though the citizens who slept soundly at night in their beds trusted him to keep the streets inside the high stone walls safe, his status was less than honorable. His pay was low and his job was a dishonorable one. Only the gravedigger and the executioner were lower. His job was dangerous, because he had to guard the city at night like a policeman.

The good citizens went to bed early. The people that he met on the streets were the drunks and the thieves. To protect himself and to show his authority he carried an intimidating weapon called a hellebarde. 


The Night Watchman gathers his followers in the Market Square in the heart of historic Rothenburg ob der Tauber, with the Councilor[+]s Tavern in the background.


His Lantern.

The night watchman made his rounds from nine in the evening until three in the morning, relying on the town hall clock to tell him when to sing his "Hour Song," which reminded the people who slumbered safe in their houses that he was still alive and taking care of them.

The night watchman[+]s horn, carried on a chain around his neck, warned the citizens of fire--the worst possible disaster that could strike a city in the days before fire hydrants. Keeping watch over the streets of the inner city, lighting the lanterns and announcing the hours in the still of the night were the duties of Rothenburg[+]s night watchman. There were six of these men patrolling the city up to the year 1920.




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