Speyer’s Walk of Shame

In You’ll Be Sorry! I gave you Schifferstadt’s Walk of Shame for medieval and Renaissance miscreants. And shame on you for enjoying my Tale of Schadenfreude.

Today I give you the city of Speyer…. Speyer is a mere 5 miles /8 kilometers from Schifferstadt. Coincidentally (?) both cities are known for their Walks of Shame.

Speyer Cathedral is glorious

Speyer was the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. Five German kings and eight Holy Roman Emperors are buried here, and the Speyer Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The city is beautiful. Speyer is on the River Rhine, and cool beer gardens and restaurants decorate the shore. The streets are filled with bicycles of students from the German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer. From 1084 to 1349 an important Jewish community flourished in the region. You can still visit the medieval mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath house, first mentioned in 1126. [1]

Speyer’s main street is lined with gorgeous old buildings like the Unicorn Apothecary from 1703.

As you leave the Speyer Cathedral, you walk past a huge basin known as the Cathedral Bowl. In a custom that began in the Middle Ages, the bowl is filled with wine on special religious occasions! Everyone gets to partake, citizens and visitors alike. [2, 3]

this is one big wine goblet

One last fact matters most to this post. According to the website Speyer.de, “[s]ince its construction in the 14th century, it played a significant role in the execution of a prison sentence: whoever had broken a state law and fled to the cathedral bowl was protected from prosecution.” Reread this sentence, because it takes on ominous importance with the next factoid….

At the other end of the main street stands the Altpoertal, the Old City Gate. Building began in 1230 and the Old City Gate marked the terminus of a road pompously called Via Triumphalis, extending from the Cathedral to the city walls. The Holy Roman Emperor and his retinue paraded from the Gate to the Cathedral on major religious days. However, the Altpoertal tower also served as the town prison, and the road in the opposite direction, leading from Cathedral to prison, was the scene of Walks of Shame.

start your Walk of Shame from here
keep going and don’t look back
almost there

Some guilty women were forced to parade down the street naked, with a stone tied around the neck. Males were allowed to keep their clothes on. If he had enough money, a man could pay a hefty sum and avoid the Walk of Shame. [4] Reaching the gate to begin a prison sentence might have been a relief. It would have been a looong walk from the Cathedral to the Altpoertal.

The top of the Altpoertal tower provides a great view of the route taken by the humiliated. But I want to know more about that Cathedral Bowl and how it provided sanctuary!

NOTES: [1] While Crusaders busily slaughtered Jews in the Rhineland, a Speyer law stated that anyone who harmed a Jew would have his hands cut off. Wikipedia/Speyer But then the Black Death struck Speyer in 1349 and Jews were blamed for the plague, proving that stupidity has a long history. [2] The bowl was filled in 2011 for the Cathedral’s 950th dedication anniversary. It holds more than 1500 liters of wine!  [3] The Church knows how to throw a party [4] Sexism and the ogling of female bodies, along with wealthy men buying their way out of trouble have long histories too. Go to these sites for more on Speyer: Speyer Tourism; Speyer.de

Text and Photos © Jadi Campbell 2018. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Did all roads lead to Speyer? Rome?

5 thoughts on “Speyer’s Walk of Shame”

  1. Fascinating reading…cruel and humorous at the same time. About the wine bowl, I wondered if they provide cups for dipping or straws for sipping…

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