Zytglogge Tower, Bern

January 8, 2012 by staff 

Zytglogge Tower, Bern, The Zytglogge tower is a landmark medieval tower in Bern, Switzerland. Built in the early 13th century, it has served the city as guard tower, prison, clock tower, centre of urban life and civic memorial.

Despite the many redecorations and renovations it has undergone in its 800 years of existence, the Zytglogge is one of Bern’s most recognisable symbols and, with its 15th-century astronomical clock, a major tourist attraction. It is a heritage site of national significance, and part of the Old City of Bern, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

When it was built around 1218–20, the Zytglogge served as the gate tower of Bern’s western fortifications. These were erected after the city’s first westward expansion following its de facto independence from the Empire. At that time, the Zytglogge was a squat building of only 16 metres (52 ft) in height. When the rapid growth of the city and the further expansion of the fortifications (up to the K?figturm) relegated the tower to second-line status at around 1270–75, it was heightened by 7 metres (23 ft) to overlook the surrounding houses.

Only after the city’s western defences were extended again in 1344–46 up to the now-destroyed Christoffelturm, the Zytglogge was converted to a women’s prison, notably housing Pfaffendirnen – “priests’ whores”, women convicted of sexual relations with clerics. At this time, the Zytglogge also received its first slanted roof.

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