The town centre is still surrounded by a largely intact town wall. Right in the middle the town hall is situated, built in 1558 and decorated with a step gable. Its arcades of pointed arches at the street façade used to be salesrooms in former times. Later they were bricked up and today accommodate the tourist office. The assembly hall in the upper floor is a simple but impressive room with deep window recesses and marquetry wall panels. The spacious hallway – also called “Bürgersaal” (‘Citizens’ Hall’) - is decorated with massive beams and a wooden-beamed ceiling. It is also used for wine tastings, receptions, and events. In the foyer of the city hall, art exhibitions are presented during the summer months. Even the former jail served for artistic purposes in the past. Irmingard von Freyberg (deceased in 1985), an artist from Sommerhausen, exhibited ceramic works and silhouettes here. Diagonally opposite the town hall is a fountain. Its statue of an armoured knight - called “Ritter Jörg” – embodies the right to hold markets that was given to Sommerhausen long ago.
The Protestant parish church, called “Bartholomäuskirche”, stands beside the town hall. First mentioned in 1341, it was altered from 1666-1672. In 1739, the nave collapsed and was rebuilt in 1740. The steeple from the 13th century stands sideways and was enlarged by the upper floors and the stairway in 1596. It remained intact when the church collapsed. It is interesting that the steeple is not owned by the church but by the town. Inside the church, the pulpit immediately catches the eye. A richly carved Renaissance superstructure dates from 1620 and was enlarged in the 18th century. A commemorative plaque reminds of the former pastor Carl Heinrich Caspari (1815-1861), who contributed much to Sommerhausen’s reputation by his book “Der Schulmeister und sein Sohn” (‘The Schoolmaster and his Son’).
The castle of Sommerhausen is located on the other side of the town hall. It was owned by the countess Hildegard von Rechteren-Limpurg. When she died it passed into other hands and was gradually renovated. Nowadays it used for various events. The monumental three-storey gable with its pinnacle-like attachments dominates the townscape. The main building dates from 1569, whereas the older part, which consists of two wings, goes back to the 15th century. The former owners, the counts of Rechteren-Limpurg, used to hold the office of the Imperial Hereditary Cupbearer at the Imperial Court (cf. Ludwig Uhland’s poem “Der Schenk von Limpurg”). In the course of the Thirty Years’ War, Emperor Ferdinand III took up quarters in the castle which was plundered by Piccolomini’s troops in 1634. Gustav Adolf’s march through Sommerhausen is shown on a mural painting at the façade of the hotel “Ritter Jörg”. The picture was created by the above-mentioned artist Irmingard von Freyberg. The old centre of Sommerhausen is characterised by several magnificent houses of patricians and winegrowers. Their time of construction goes back to the 15th century. The town centre is surrounded by a well-preserved fortified wall. The moat is largely backfilled today. At the town exit close to the castle, the main street leads through the “Ochsenfurter Tor” (a town gate) towards Ochsenfurt. The gate is crowned with a bulbous cupola and little bells. The old oak double door had holes for getting into or out of the town and was in use until 1945. After the war, passages for pedestrians were built left and right of the gate.
From the “Ochsenfurter Tor”, a path between the wall of the castle garden and the town wall leads to the ruin of the “Kalkturm” (‘Lime Tower’) and further on to the “Bürgerturm”, (‘Citizens’ Tower’), which is also called “Roter Turm” (‘Red Tower’) because of its red roofing tiles. It once served as a jail for the execution of the punishments inflicted by the mayor and the council. A little further away, you will reach a wall gap with a tower. There, the painter Karl Großberg used to live, a representative of the so-called “New Objectivity”. His pictures can be found in numerous museums, among others also in the “Kulturspeicher” in Würzburg.
The way leads on to the so-called “Blauer Turm” (‘Blue Tower’) the name of which is derived from the “blue” slate roof. The tower had a subterraneous dungeon where the sentences were executed that had been inflicted by the ruler. The town cemetery is situated opposite the “Blauer Turm”, outside the town wall. It has got a remarkable free-standing pulpit built in 1607.
It is only a short walk from there to the “Würzburger Tor”, through which Sommerhausen can be entered from the north. In this gate, the “Torturmtheater” (‘Gate Tower Theatre’) is located, founded by Luigi Malipiero in 1950. With less than 50 seats the smallest German theatre, it made Sommerhausen widely famous. Luigi Malipiero, honorary citizen of Sommerhausen, was an actor, a director, a stage designer, and a painter at the same time. He died in 1975. Then Veit Relin took over the theatre, successfully continuing with premières and first performances of contemporary playwrights.
Next to the “Torturmtheater” is a second stage, the “Theater Sommerhaus”. Funny but also contemplative theatre productions are shown in an old vault. The theatre also offers a programme for children.
A fountain decorated with a female figure is located only a few steps behind the “Würzburger Tor” at the main street. The fountain’s lady was given several names in the course of the centuries. The last one was “Kathararina” and that is why the fountain is called “Katharinen-Brunnen” (‘Catherine’s Fountain’) nowadays.
Walking further along the town wall, you reach the “Frauenkirche” (‘Our Lady’s Church’) which dates back to the 12th century. It was severely damaged during World War II. Once a fortified church with a cemetery surrounded by a wall, it had served Sommerhausen’s inhabitants as a place of refuge and defence before the town was fortified. The preserved steeple is decorated with a late Gothic Madonna.
From the “Frauenkirche”, the town wall runs parallel to the river Main to the “Rumorknechtsturm”. First, however, you get to the “Maintor” with the former customs house. The goods that were brought to the town by ship had to be cleared there. Giving proof of the often very high water levels in former times, the “high-water marks” at the gate are well worth seeing. Somewhat below is the “Anker”, an inn situated directly on the Main. Bargees and raftsmen used to put up at the “Anker” and the towers who pulled the boats with horses would change horses there.
The name of the “Rumorknechtsturm” is derived from its former inhabitant, the “Rumorknecht”, who was responsible for peace and order in Sommerhausen. At this tower, the town wall again turns to the east towards the “Ochsenfurter Tor”. On the walking tour along the wall, there are several smaller towers to be seen that used to serve as watch towers and were partly overbuilt in the course of time. They are still inhabited.
Back in the town centre, you will arrive at the market place, the “Plan”, which is surrounded by stately houses. Among them, a narrow half-timbered house and a winegrower’s house catch the eye. Once, the beautiful small house was the Office of Weights and Measures (“Eichamt”). Therefore it is still called “Alte Eich”.
The larger house next door is the birthplace of Franz Daniel Pastorius, the first German settler in America and founder of Germantown. A commemorative plaque reminds of him.
In 1976, a monument, the “Schnecke” (‘snail’), was erected in the vineyards above the town on the occasion of the opening of the bypass motorway after the completion of the plot realignment of the vineyards.
Sommerhausen’s memorable history is not only told by the above-mentioned sights but also by its old houses and its quiet nooks.
It is well worth visiting!