Steinfurt is a town in North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state of Germany, with four of the country's ten largest cities. The state was formed in 1946 as a merger of the northern Rhineland and Westphalia, both formerly part of Prussia. Its capital is Düsseldorf. The state is currently run by a coalition of the...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. It is the capital of the district of Steinfurt
Steinfurt (district)
Steinfurt is a Kreis in the northern part of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Neighboring districts are Bentheim, Emsland, district-free Osnabrück and the Osnabrück district, Warendorf, district-free Münster, Coesfeld, Borken.-Geography:...



Steinfurt is situated north-west of Münster
Münster is an independent city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located in the northern part of the state and is considered to be the cultural centre of the Westphalia region. It is also capital of the local government region Münsterland...

, North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state of Germany, with four of the country's ten largest cities. The state was formed in 1946 as a merger of the northern Rhineland and Westphalia, both formerly part of Prussia. Its capital is Düsseldorf. The state is currently run by a coalition of the...

. Its name came into being in 1975 when the two – up to then independent – parts of the city – Borghorst and Burgsteinfurt – combined into a unity. Borghorst became a prosperous city because of its flourishing textile industries, whereas Burgsteinfurt has never been an industrial town, but rather a city of culture and administration. Tourists of the 19th century passing Steinfurt praised the city and called it the “Paradise of Westphalia” and “Royal Diamond” (Königsdiamant) because of its 75 monumental buildings, the moated castle and the river.

Neighbouring municipalities

Steinfurt borders Ochtrup
Ochtrup is a town in the district of Steinfurt, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is situated approx. 20 km west of Rheine and 20 km east of Enschede.-History:...

, Wettringen, Neuenkirchen
Neuenkirchen, Westphalia
Neuenkirchen is a municipality in the district of Steinfurt, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Neuenkirchen is the biggest village in the district of Steinfurt. It is situated approx...

, Emsdetten
Emsdetten is a town in the district of Steinfurt, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.- Geography :Emsdetten is situated on the river Ems, approx...

, Nordwalde
Nordwalde is a municipality in the district of Steinfurt, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.-Geography:It is situated in the Münsterland area, approximately 12 km south-east of Steinfurt and 20 km north-west of Münster...

, Altenberge
Altenberge is a municipality in the district of Steinfurt, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is situated approx. 15 km south-east of Steinfurt and 15 km north-west of Münster.-References:...

, Laer
Laer is a municipality in the district of Steinfurt, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is situated approx. south of Steinfurt and north-west of Münster....

, Horstmar
Horstmar is a German city, located in North Rhine-Westphalia in the Steinfurt district, approx. north-west of Münster.-History:Its castle was built as early as the 9th century; the first mention of Horstmar is as early as the early 11th century....

 and Metelen
Metelen is a municipality in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located on the river Vechte in the district of Steinfurt.-History:The town history dates back to 889, when it was first mentioned in an official document...


Division of the town

The town consists of two districts Borghorst and Burgsteinfurt with three farming communities each:
  • Burgsteinfurt
    • Hollich
    • Sellen
    • Veltrup>
  • Borghorst
    • Dumte
    • Wilmsberg
    • Ostendorf

  • History

    Burgsteinfurt is one of the most remarkable places in Münsterland. Mostly influenced by Protestants, it is home to one of the oldest academies of continuing education in Westphalia. It has buildings of all ages and one of the most beautiful moated castles in the entire region. These landmarks distinguish “Stemmert” – as it is often called by its inhabitants – from the neighbouring countryside. Additionally a delightful landscape can be found in Burgsteinfurt, especially the Bagno, a green amusement park from the 18th century with one of the oldest free-standing European concert halls.

    The origins of Burgsteinfurt are unknown. Probably several circumstances led to the foundation of the city, especially farming, the river “Aa” and the Order of the “Knights of St. John of Jerusalem” (Johanniter).

    The farming communities Hollich, Sellen and Veltrup are significantly older than Burgsteinfurt. The centre of Burgsteinfurt developed around the main farm of “Veltrup,” which already existed in 890 as “villa veliun.” Probably “villa veliun” was the main homestead of a small settlement, which was located on the territory of today’s inner castle ward. At that time there was a market square at the current entrance of the castle, which later developed into the “Old Town” of today.

    Another settlement that could not be dated precisely was found in the course of archeological excavations in the area of the contemporary “Steintorfeldmark.” All three farming communities had their own sanctuaries in pre-Christian time. After the era of Christianization they built a church in honour of Irish missionaries, which was the predecessor of today’s “Great Protestant Church.“ Still today the farming communities celebrate their own feasts and customs with their own special atmosphere, although they were incorporated into the city in 1939.

    Steinfurt’s name originates from an old stone passage (or “ford”) across the river “Aa.” This passage was probably located at today’s crossways of “Wasserstraße” and “Europaring.“ Being a part of a military connection between the east and west, it was one of only few possibilities to cross the river with coaches. The authority controlling the “ford” was powerful, being able to demand tolls, and fords were also places of commerce. Therefore it is not surprising that a group of knights – the ancestors of today’s Count of Bentheim-Steinfurt – seized power over the passage and all the roads around. In a document from 1129 there is the first reference to two noblemen “de Steinvorde” (of Steinfurt). They probably had a moated castle built in the place of the main farm of Veltrup near the “ford” in order to take control of it.

    The first rival was the Ascheberg clan living in a castle near today’s road to Emsdetten, the old road of army and commerce to Münster and other eastern Germanic areas. There was a permanent war between the House of Ascheberg and the House of Steinfurt. In 1164 the Ascheberg clan is said to have destroyed the castle of the Steinfurt clan while the latter were on a trip to Cologne. After their return back to Steinfurt they satisfied their desire for revenge and destroyed the castle of Ascheberg.

    Obviously the noblemen of Steinfurt put forward a liberal settlement policy offering tradesmen, craftsmen and other citizens favourably situated houses near the “ford.” In return they had to give money, wax or chicken to the Steinfurt clan so that the old farming community “Villa Veliun” became a market place. In a document from 1338 the settlement is named “unse Stat to Stenvorde” (our city of Stenvorde). From 1816 up to the administrational reform in 1975 the city was called “Burgsteinfurt” and now there is just the city of “Steinfurt” uniting the two parts – Burgsteinfurt and Borghorst.

    The “Knights of St. John of Jerusalem” was a religious and military order of particular importance for Steinfurt, which came to Burgsteinfurt together with the nobleman Rudolph II after they had taken part in several crusades to the Holy Land. Rudolph settled his fellow soldiers in and around Steinfurt. He made a foundation for the salvation of the Earl of Bentheim-Steinfurt and his family – the so called “Thirteen-Pauper-Endowment” and provided the knights with manors around Steinfurt. Next to the major church the “Knights” founded their settlement called “Kommende” in 1244 of which most of the old buildings have survived until today.

    From the 12th century on there was another settlement developed in the neighbourhood of the “Kommende,” which is now the district of Burgsteinfurt called “Friedhof” (free area).

    The wealth of the Order of St. John grew continuously. The noblemen gave them the right to supervise the major church, including the right to choose chaplains or priests and to manage its funds. Additionally they accepted donations of several rich farms as well as possessions in the surrounding area. The settlement of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem in Steinfurt, which was the first settlement of the order in Westphalia, became the biggest one in the region. In Münster they also founded a branch settlement. The Knights of St. John and the “Friedhof” (cemetery)-district formed an important unity. The “Friedhof” (free zone)-district was an independent area outside Steinfurt with its own civil rights. The name “Friedhof” has nothing to do with a cemetery, but reminds the reader of a pre-Christian sanctuary, which was located in the place of today’s “Great Church.” A person reaching this holy place was free; even criminals could not be punished here. In 1347 Steinfurt was awarded autonomy. A hundred years later the County of Steinfurt was integrated into the community of counties immediate to the Empire, so that Steinfurt was only subordinate to the Emperor of Germany. Nevertheless, the ambitions of Münster kept growing. The self-government of Steinfurt had always annoyed the Bishop of Münster.

    But Steinfurt prepared itself. The citizens built walls, ramparts, ditches and so on at their own expense. A complete wall around the city was put up. This fortification consisted of the city wall, the inner moat, the rampart, the outer moat and a forward wall. The course of this fortification can be traced in today’s cityscape. It develops around the old city centre from the “Schüttenwall” via the “Wilhelmsplatz,” the “Kalkwall,” the “Stampenwall” and the “Neuen Wall.” The small lanes “Türkei,” “Löffelstraße,” “An der Stadtmauer,” “Drepsenhoek” and “Viefhoek” run parallel to the old city wall.

    Additionally, there were built four city gates – “Kirchpforte,” “Rottpforte,” “Steinpforte,” and “Wasserpforte.“ There was only a small gate for pedestrians southward to the castle in the “Burgstraße.“ The road to Borghorst was built in the 19th century, when the ancient fortification had almost gone. The “Friedhof”-district had its own fortification – secluded by its own city gate “Blocktor.” The old guarding plans of Steinfurt showed the names of citizens who had to “tho wake und to yse,” i.e., to guard the fortification and keep them clean and to de-ice them. In winter, when the moat was frozen, they had to break up the ice to guarantee the security of the city. Therefore the citizenship was divided into three boroughs – the so called “Eise” (Kirchsträßner Eis, Steinsträßner Eis, Wassersträßner Eis).

    Simultaneously the city became more prosperous. In 1421 Eberwin I von Götterswick, who ruled Bentheim and Steinfurt because the Steinfurt-dynasty had died out, donated the town hall with market stalls of butchers and with a set of scales to the city. All citizens became more and more self-confident. As the Great Church was located outside the fortified city, they built a new Small Church from 1471–1475, on the foundation walls of the poorhouse of the Holy Spirit; until 1807 the annual election of the council took place there on the 7th of January. Later the Counts of Steinfurt conferred the right to build, and the right to put taxes on routes and beer to the city authorities. In 1561 the citizens proudly built their new town hall, resembling the town hall in Münster, on the foundation walls of the old market hall. This town hall was located at the crossways of the three main streets from Münster (Wasserstraße), from Coesfeld (Kirchstraße) and from Schüttorf (Steinstraße).

    In the troubles that followed in the time of the Reformation, Count Arnold II had to convert to the Lutheran denomination at his wife’s request. This led to problems with the order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, which resulted in the assault on the Great Church on the 25th of January 1564 (Steinfurt Reformation Day). While her husband was sleeping, the young countess had the knights displaced and the Great Church taken. From this time on, only Lutheran church services were held in the Great Church and even today the date is known as the “Robber-Feast.” And the Counts that had by now converted to the Calvinistic Church continued their “mobilization.” From 1591 to 1593 Count Arnold founded a special type of university, the so-called “Hohe Schule,” which was a Protestant institution directed against Catholic Münster.

    To reach the status of a real university there was just the right to award a doctor’s degree lacking. Nevertheless, this oldest of all Westphalian universities attracted students and scientists from all over Europe to Steinfurt; the city became wealthy and famous throughout Germany and the neighbouring countries. Especially Protestant Dutch students liked to study in Steinfurt. The professors built Renaissance-style houses, two of which can still be discovered at the old market square. The Count of Steinfurt even provided cover to Calvinists and Mennonites, who mostly came from wealthy families and, therefore, brought many economic resources and also education to Steinfurt. So Steinfurt became and remained a Calvinistic-Mennonite island in the centre of Catholic “Münsterland” for a long time.

    But all the prosperity vanished in the Thirty Years War. The Black Death as well as soldiers from different countries and territories plundering the city made the citizens escape – most of all to the Netherlands. In the end most of the houses had been destroyed. Only a few citizens still lived in town. Even in the post-war period Burgsteinfurt remained turbulent. In 1660 the Bishop of Münster occupied the city and did not even release it after judicial orders by the “Reichskammergericht,” the highest court of the “Holy German Empire” at that time. He even enforced the right of Catholics to perform the mass in the Great Church. The occupation stopped in 1716 because an agreement was reached. Shortly after that a Catholic baroque church was built in Burgsteinfurt. Furthermore, the county of Steinfurt proved to be liberal towards Jews. In 1662 the Count of Steinfurt licensed one of them to live and work in Steinfurt in accordance with his religion. Even though the citizens originally objected to the settlement of Jews, more and more Jews came to live in Burgsteinfurt in the course of time.

    A more peaceful period of time began. Moats and walls were flattened and the resulting new land was given to the citizens for cultivation. Count Karl Paul Ernst thought about increasing the economic power of the city. Inspired by several journeys to foreign countries he decided to build pleasure grounds east of the castle – the “Bagno” (Italian: il bagno = bath, spa) – based on French models.

    His son Count Ludwig expanded the originally very small lake and reconstructed the garden in the English style. In the time to follow many exotic buildings were put up, among these a Chinese palace, an Arion ship, a Gothic house and the artificial ruin of a castle. Today there are only the concert hall, the island with the ruin and the New Guardhouse (“Neue Wache”) left, but the “Bagno” has turned into an attraction for visitors.

    At the same time the conflict between Count and city came to a climax. After a law dispute the Count of Steinfurt deposed the city council, arrested the mayor and deployed 150 French soldiers. He banned the town guards and, consequently, the town guard festivals called “Schützenfest.” Later peace was restored through a settlement and a new council was elected. In 1806 the French allocated Steinfurt to the grand duchy “Berg.” Steinfurt was now the head of the “arrondissement” and therefore its administrational centre. Thus, a decision had been made which is still valid today. Steinfurt is still the seat of the local government, the local district court and the financial authorities. The French also closed the “Kommende.”

    The decision of the French to choose Steinfurt as an administrational centre was simultaneously the start of the industrial era. Because of bad harvests and mass poverty many citizens emigrated to the USA. Especially in Ohio and Missouri old “Stemmerter” (= citizens of Steinfurt) left their traces at that time. Steinfurt was linked to the existing road networks. Old city gates were torn down to establish new housing estates beyond the old city boundaries. In 1851 the first house was built outside the ancient urban area. Railroad connections were established from Steinfurt to Münster, Enschede, Rheine, Oberhausen and Borken. Textile industries, tobacco factories and the brewery “Rolinck” became famous. The mostly Protestant population grew remarkably. An almost forgotten fact is that the first line of telegraphs existed between Burgsteinfurt and Borghorst. Christoph Ludwig von Hoffmann, MD, scientist and personal physician of the Count, invented the optical telegraph.

    Historical monuments

    The Old Town Hall built in 1561 reveals in its gable the self-confidence of the economically successful citizens of Burgsteinfurt. The swinging contours of the Renaissance gable lead to seven peaked pyramids and the crest of the city. The turret of the town hall is supported by one big beam, called “Kaiserstiel” (i.e., emperor’s beam). The Gothic hall below on the first floor contained the city guard and the prison for a very long time. On the second floor you will find the big assembly hall of the city council and the chamber with the fireplace.

    Opposite to the Town Hall the street leads to “Hahnenstrasse.” Right at the beginning you will discover the so-called “Huck-Beifang-Haus.” Eberhard Huck, the financial administrator of the Count, had built this house as an annex to his wife’s home in “Bütkamp 3.” The proud owner wrote down on the bay in Latin: ”Sunt hae structae aedes Eberhardie sumptibus Hucki. Ex his as superas sperat abire domos,” which would be in English something like: “This house was built at the expense of Eberhard Huck. From here he hopes he will come into heaven one day.” The bay is marked with the crest of the Huck family (Huck = hook) and Beifang family and the year 1607. The building, which was used in former times as a library and a stable for horses, is now used for exhibitions of fine arts and lectures.

    From here a narrow medieval lane, the so-called “Kalkarstiege,” leads to “Bütkamp.” Here you will encounter several old buildings all at once: first the Haus Bütkamp 3 on the left side and the so-called Ackerbürgerhaus, a house inhabited by a citizen who was a farmer as well as a citizen of the town and who had his land outside the city walls. On the right side stands a very graceful half-timbered house with two storeys. It dates from the beginning of the 17th century and is called Kornschreiberhaus (“Bütkamp 14”). The second floor and the third floor extend into the street. In this way the house offered more space. Michael Oeglein from Swabia in southern Germany is regarded as the architect and first owner of this house. He was in charge of collecting the duties and taxes the farmers had to give to the Count in the form of rye and other grain before they were liberated at the beginning of the 19th century. He had to write down what the farmers handed in and, therefore, the house got its name “Kornschreiberhaus.”

    The tall building with “Stadtbücherei” (city library) written on it is the so-called “Weinhaus” (wine-house). It is the oldest building at the market square. Built around 1450 by the Count, it served for the accommodation of his guests and later on for selling wine. It also represents the power the Count practised inside the city, because the market usually symbolized the wealth and power of the citizens. Because of certain defects in the construction of the building, the roof already had to be remodelled in 1490. The wall close to “Kirchstrasse” had to be rebuilt after the Thirty Years War. And the stucco façade, a mix between Baroque elements and “Jugendstil” (Art Nouveau), was added in 1912. The house lodges a fireplace today, which originally stood in the house “Markt 16.” Contrary to the biblical stories it shows both Adam and Eve holding an apple.

    Close to the Wine-House you will observe two houses in Renaissance style. The house “Markt 18” was owned by the judge and law professor at the “Hohe Schule,” Johannes Goddaeus, who had the house built on the foundations of a wine-shop. The house “Markt 16” was erected by the administrator of the Count Dr. Caspar Kestering, and his wife Adelheid Huberts immediately after the Thirty Years War in 1648. Their initials can be seen in the crest of the two lions in front of the door. In the past there was a tavern, the cellar of which still exists. During the Thirty Years War the house was destroyed, but Kestering had a new house put up on the foundation of the old one in the style of the so-called Dutch Renaissance.

    Opposite to this house you will observe the Haus Pieter van der Swaagh, which was built in 1784 by the judge Friedrich Houth in classicistic style. The flowerpots on the house with the artificial agaves probably derive from the Bagno.

    The tour leads on to “Burgstrasse.” It is worth having a look at the former “Kunsthaus” (House of Arts) of the Count. More than a hundred years ago it was a unique museum of works of art, stuffed crocodiles and strange instruments for scientific experiments. At the end of “Burgstrasse” there is the “Schlossmühle” (castle mill) on the left and the castle itself on the right. There was a mill on this site already in the Middle Ages, today there is a café and a restaurant.

    The Castle is one of the most important buildings of Burgsteinfurt. Tours of the Castle are possible with a reservation, but only certain parts of it can be visited as it is still inhabited by the Prince and his family. A fortified castle was erected on a hill already dug up in the 10th century, but was destroyed in 1164 in a fight with the noblemen of Ascheberg nearby. The new facility contained an outer wall, the “Buddenturm,” a big tower for defence demolished in the 18th century, and the tower used for living with the Big Hall of Knights. A rare construction are the two chapels built on top of each other and used as a two-storeyed chapel. The auxiliary building (“Vorburg”) of today in front of the main residence or “Hauptburg” comprises flats, garages, stables and farm buildings. In the middle there is a little Baroque “house” for a well, built by the stonemason Johann Schrader.
    From the castle and the market the majestic building of the “Hohe Schule,” a former university building, can be seen. To counter the activities of the Jesuits in Münster and “Münsterland,” Count Arnold IV (1554–1606) founded a Calvinistic university, once the oldest university in Westphalia. Starting in 1591 the “Hohe Schule” offered courses in law, theology, medicine/physics, philosophy, history and rhetoric. Doctors’ degrees, however, were not awarded in Burgsteinfurt. The “Hohe Schule” was built in the Renaissance style and is crowned by two weather vanes that are marked with the crest of Count Arnold IV and his wife. Around the big tower runs a gallery, where people could make astronomical computations. At the beginning of the 19th century the “Hohe Schule” was closed. It was used then by French troops under Napoleonic rule, later on as the seat of a law court and as a prison.

    From the “Hohe Schule” an alley branches off, the so-called Kautenstege, actually Kortenstege or “short way.” At the beginning the old “Geisthaus” (House of the Holy Spirit) can be seen, the only surviving poorhouse of the city from the 15th century. In “Kautenstege” a memorial stone reminds the visitor of the Synagogue that once stood here and the Jewish citizens who were deported. The Synagogue was destroyed in November 1938. At the end of “Kautenstege” you reach Steinstrasse (“cobblestone street,” in former times the only paved street in Burgsteinfurt); on the right side there is the old town hall, the starting point of the tour.


    Steinfurt and all its 34,000 citizens (14,000 of them living in Burgsteinfurt) profits from its location in the centre of the charming landscape of “Münsterland.” Steinfurt is also the home of numerous medium-sized enterprises, especially the brewery, spinning mills and transportation companies. In Steinfurt there are all kinds of schools and colleges, including of course the traditional academic high school “Arnoldinum,” a descendant of the “Hohe Schule.” The polytechnic institute of Münster keeps several world-famous departments in Burgsteinfurt, particularly for electronic technology and bio-chemistry. The city possesses two swimming pools, several gymnasiums and in the “Bagno” there is one of the most beautiful golf courses in Westphalia (9 holes).

    The engineering faculties of the University of Applied Sciences Münster
    Fachhochschule Münster
    The Fachhochschule Münster is based in Münster/Westphalia and Steinfurt. The administration is accommodated in the Hüfferstiftung building...

    (Fachhochschule Münster) are based in Steinfurt.

    External links

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