Stand eye to eye with Roland, the legendary warrior who fought for Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. Erected in the 15th century, the statue symbolizes the freedom and market rights of the city. The UNESCO Heritage Site (along with the Town Hall) is one one of the most beautiful examples of Roland statues, which feature across many German towns and cities.
A much loved stone giant
The statue is five and a half meters and with a canopy over the top of it bringing the total height to just over ten meters. It is the tallest free-standing sculpture of the German Middle Ages. The stone figure was erected in 1404 by rich merchants, after its wooden predecessor was destroyed by the archbishop's soldiers in 1366. The statue was built to symbolize the freedom and independence of the city. Roland carries a shield bearing a coat of arms with the double-headed imperial eagle and the inscription: "I manifest your freedom, as granted to this city by Charlemagne and many other rulers. For this, be thankful to God, that is my counsel." The young knight is dressed according to the height of 15th century fashion. He has long, wavy hair, a short, tight leather jerkin over his chain mail, a large, low-sitting belt, raised sword and armored legs. The lute-playing angel on the catch of his belt refers to the Song of Roland that had been popularized through the Guelph court at the time.
Symbolic and practical value
Far from just being an aesthetically pleasing landmark, the statue holds much symbolic meaning. Firstly, Roland is looking to the cathedral, the seat of the archbishop who had a claim to secular power over Bremen, something the city council disputed for centuries. At his feet, can be seen the face of a "cripple," which comes from the founding of Bürgerpark of Bremen. A rich lady wanted to donate a piece of land to the people, and to define the size of it, she said that it would be the plot "a cripple can walk around in one day." The local legend goes that Bremen will remain free and independent for as long as the guard Roland stands watching over the city. For this reason, it is said that a second Roland statue is kept hidden in the town hall's underground vaults, which can be quickly installed as a substitute, if the original falls. The statue also had a practical purpose in historic Bremen. The distance between Roland's knees is exactly one Bremen 'elle,' a historical unit of measurement, and it is thought that Bremen merchants used it to measure out their material. Today, it is still traditional to touch Roland's knees before setting off on a stroll through the old town's twisting lanes. Take a photo with the noble knight before continuing your Bremen adventure.