Aachen Landgraben - Aachener Landgraben

Borders and border posts of the Aachen Empire
Description of the course of the inner and outer land moat on a sign in the Aachen forest

The Aachener Landgraben is the name for the fortifications along the almost 70 km long border of the former Aachen Empire . Individual sections can already be documented for the 14th and 15th centuries, but it was not until the beginning of the 17th century that the construction of the Landwehr was consistently completed and on April 11, 1611 by Albrecht VII of Habsburg , the reigning regent of the Spanish Netherlands in Brussels, contractually legitimized with the lay judges and the city council in Aachen.

In the area of ​​the Aachen city forest , the land ditch was created as a double safety line, on the one hand on the southern edge of the forest along the official borderline and on the other hand through the inner or small land ditch on the northern side of the city forest facing the city. In addition, a total of 138 boundary stones were set along the outer wall at places where the land ditch was broken by roads, paths or paths, of which around 20 can currently be found. They are engraved with the coat of arms of the city of Aachen, the eagle, and are therefore called "eagle stones". [1]

The outer moat is mostly only visible along the German-Belgian border and the inner one only in individual sections. Due to their historical importance, these sections were added to the list of archaeological monuments in Aachen in 1988 and from 2008 they were restored as part of the "Green Route" of the EuRegionale in 2008 according to historical templates [2] and the old patrol routes as part of the "Border Routes" as Hiking trails made accessible for the population. [3] Despite the classification as a ground monument, it could not be prevented that a section in the Tönnesrather / Eberburgweg area was obviously cleared. [4]


Adlerstein near the border Moresneter Weg
Former Grindel near Linzenshäuschen

When the city rights of the free imperial city of Aachen were confirmed in 1336 by Emperor Ludwig IV , the area of ​​responsibility of the city administration included the area designated as the Aachen Empire, which was within the Barbarossa Walland the seven quarters outside the wall, which included Aachener Heide, Stadtbusch and Reichswald. These outskirts were used, among other things, to provide agricultural and forestry supplies to the city's population and, like the city itself, required special protection in order to protect it from robbery and from enemy troops. Therefore, the fortification of the external borders began a little later, as the city accounts from the 14th century show, which repeatedly speak of "in fossura generali" [5] . The border security received its first official partial recognition in 1419 by the Jülich Duke Rainaldwho accepted a Landwehr on the northern and eastern borders of the Aachen Empire. However, it was not until 1611 that the entire moat, which was now fortified all around Aachen, was contractually legitimized and equipped with eagle stones. Nevertheless, there were always and again, especially in the urban forest, which was mostly used jointly by the neighboring countries, occasional disagreements regarding the borderline and the allocation of individual areas had to be renegotiated. In the course of these disputes, the Duchy of Burgundy was finally awarded the forest parcel "Königswald" in 1611 as compensation for an area ceded to the city of Aachen, which Duke Philip III had already had since 1439 . of Burgundyhad been claimed and was now marked out in 1615 with the so-called "Burgundy stones", some of which are still preserved [6] [7]

The now closed external protection was only broken through by the former royal roads and military roads, established long-distance roads and several farm roads, the passages of which, also known as grindles, were secured with beams and barriers. The control of the condition of the entire fortification and the eagle stones was incumbent on the city of Aachen, which put together a mounted troop once a year under the direction of the stale (previous year) mayor, which among other things, the workmen and builders, town soldiers, the local forester as well as staff for kitchen and Horses belonged to. According to tradition, this usually three-day inspection was concluded with a lavish party.

Until the dissolution of the Aachen Empire after the French invaded in 1794, the ditch was regularly checked and maintained and then left to its own devices. This led to the fact that in many sections it fell victim to later settlement construction or agriculture and where it had been preserved it was exposed to weathering, erosion and overgrowth. Some of today's street names, also with the addition " Hag " or "Haag" for hedge or for fencing, enclosure, enclosure , still indicate the course of the former land ditch.

Course and plant

Outer moat

Outer ditch near the Cyclops stones, heavily filled
Outer moat near Hauset
Outer ditch between Berensberg and Wurmtal

The Aachen imperial border, and thus also the former outer ditch, essentially made use of strategically favorable geographical structures such as existing ridges and stream courses and initially ran from the old border crossing in Vaals westwards along the Senserbach via Lemiers to Mamelis, bend here to the north parallel to the agricultural path with the name "Finkenhag", which refers to the former border hedge, and swiveled at Orsbach and the watchtower Burg Orsbach northeast towards the Vetschauer Weg and the village of Vetschau . Until then, the ditch secured the border with the Spanish and later theAustrian Netherlands from and further on to Rothe Erde to the Duchy of Jülich .

From Vetschau, the fortification ran southwards past the Niersteiner Höfe over the ridge of Laurensberg in the direction of the Hirsch fortification tower, where the fortification swung eastwards shortly before and over the road now known as "Landgraben" and the adjoining Berensberger Strasse, which was also previously called Landgraben , down to the worm at the level of the Wolfsfurt mills . Now it extended northwards along the course of the stream to the Bardenberger Mühle , where it again bent eastwards and north of the former watchtower Morsbach and south of the village of Bardenbergran along. Here again the streets "Landgraben", "An der Landwehr" and "Grindelstraße" remind of the historical course.

Behind Bardenberg, the ditch swung southeast past the Würselen district of Weiden until shortly before the site of today's Aachen-Merzbrück airfield , where it then turned south in the direction of the no longer existing watchtower Wambach, where the Wambach estate near the Jewish cemetery is still today Broichweiden reminds. Then it ran further south-west towards Verlautenheide , in the direction of the watchtower, which was also no longer in existence at the time, to which the street "Türmchenweg" still points. Now the ditch used the natural course of the Rödgener Bach past the later Hüls cemetery to the place where the Aachen-Rothe Erde train station is todayis located. The last part of this section is identical to the later railway line and the street called “Reichsweg”, which runs parallel to the city side here, again refers to the old city history.

From Rothe Erde, the ditch moved north and west around the area of ​​the Imperial Burtscheid abbey , where it met the Eupener Strasse and followed this old route to the south. Shortly before the former Alt-Linzenshäuschen watchtower , it swung slightly to the east, offset in parallel in the area of ​​the II to the former Duchy of Limburg and today's Belgium . Here the ditch bent westward and pulled almost in a straight line on the Cyclops stonesand the Zollamt Köpfchen in the direction of Zollamt Bildchen. After a short north-east swing to the west of Gut Entenpfuhl, it extended again in a north-westerly direction to the triangle or four-country corner , where it then ran northwards over the ridge of the Vaalserberg and then down again to the old border crossing to Vaals.

The structure of the fortifications of the outer land ditch consisted of a 4 m high central wall and two 1.20 m high parallel side walls, which were separated from the central wall by a 4 m deep and water-filled ditch at a depth of about 20 meters. The middle wall was a tight hornbeam hedge planted, which was regularly trimmed to a man's height, so the branches especially exorcised sideways to verharkten together and impenetrable Gebück formed [8]. For further compaction, the undergrowth and the wild perennials and creepers that spread out were allowed to grow wild. Thus the height to be overcome for intruders from the bottom of the trench to the height of the hedge was almost 10 m. The side walls themselves were not planted and a combined foot-bridle path ran along the foot of the wall facing the city for the patrols.

Since the end of the regular maintenance in 1794, in the area of ​​the still existing land ditch that runs along the German-Belgian border, the erosion of the ramparts has largely led to the ditches being filled and the control paths to overgrown and silted up. Furthermore, numerous beech trees died, which were then disposed of and used as firewood, which resulted in large gaps and the character of a continuous, dense hedge no longer exists today. The trees that still exist today are shot and grew together into bizarre shapes and so-called "harp trees". After the start of the current restoration work, this historic course of the land moat has been opened up for tourism and is largely accessible for walks.

Inner moat

Inner ditch at the level of Philippionsweg

The inner or small ditch did not represent a border and only served as an additional defensive barrier between the Aachen city forest and the agricultural areas in the south and south-west in front of the city. Shortly before Alt-Linzenshäuschen at the height of the Grindelweg, which in turn reminds of an old control station, it branched off northwest and then passed Gut Tönnesrath and Ronheide in the direction of Gut Hochgrundhaus at Von-Halfern-Park . He crossed this and ran north to the former watchtower Adamshäuschen and south to the hamlet of Gut Hasselholzpast, crossed the Philippionsweg and then climbed a distinctive ravine on the edge of the Friedrichswald, which is referred to in the topographical maps as the "old ditch". Then the ditch swung westwards and climbed up to the former Beeck watchtower, where shortly afterwards it came across the edge of the forest of the Vaalserberg and continued upwards on its eastern and northern edge. There it met the outer ditch again two hundred meters north of the Wilhelmina tower.

This fortification consisted of two parallel ramparts with a water-filled ditch running between them and a control path towards the city. Both ramparts were planted in the manner described above for better protection. The dimensions of the complex are not described in more detail, but are approximately the dimensions of the outer moat.

The small and meanwhile heavily weathered and cleared ditch has only been preserved in sections and even after the restoration work is not completely accessible. [9]

Literature and sources

  • HJ Gross: The Aachen Landgraben. In: From Aachen's prehistory . Announcements from the association for customers of the Aachen prehistory . Sixth year 1893, pp. 18–31.
  • Joseph Nellessen: On the history of the Aachener Landgraben. In: Journal of the Aachen History Association . (ZAachenerGV) 33, 1911, pp. 290-291.
  • Albert Huyskens : City fortifications, moat and waiting area of ​​the former imperial city of Aachen. In: ZAachenerGV. 61, 1940, pp. 167-200.
  • J. Wehrmann: The ditch in Aachen - a living wall. Student thesis FH Aachen, Faculty of Architecture, 1986, unpublished


Commons : Aachener Landgraben - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Picture series Adlersteine
  2. Aachener Landgraben as part of the "Green Route" of the Euregionale 2008 (PDF; 758 kB)
  3. "Grenzrouten" hiking trails along the Aachener Landgraben
  4. A piece of Aachen history is simply gone. , online contribution from the Aachen City Archives
  5. City accounts from the 14th century
  6. Preusswaldsteine ​​and Burgundy Line
  7. Königswald and Burgundersteine
  8. ↑ Picture series head book in the Aachen forest
  9. ↑ Series of pictures of the inner ditch