historic center, regensburg, east bavaria


The Arch - A House Through the Ages

When talking about the Arch in Regensburg, locals immediately know which building is being referred to. Many structures in the old town are known by their house names, some of which have been preserved for centuries. Typically, these were named after their former owners, like the “Zant” and “Ingolstetterhaus”, or after their use, such as taverns or restaurants located within them. Examples of this include ‘der blaue Hecht’ (the blue pike) and the “Goldene Krone” (golden crown).

However, this is not the case with the Arch - how the house got its name remains unclear. One theory is its similarity to Noah's Ark from the Old Testament. When viewed from the west, the building looks like the bow of a large ship. Yet, a more likely derivation is found in Johann Andreas Schmeller's Bavarian Dictionary from 1872; under the entry "Arch", it explains a "shore fortification against the tearing of a river." While the Arch is quite far from the nearest river, the Danube, the Vitusbach once flowed through Rote-Hahnen-Gasse from the south. Its original path remains evident in the curve of the alley and the construction line of the houses leading up to Haidplatz.

We also have records of the old profession of the archer (but not with bow and arrow) who was responsible for maintaining the riverbanks, ensuring they remained free of rubbish. This was essential during the middle ages since streams within the city were often used for waste disposal.

Altstadthotel Arch

The Arch House

Square and City

The Arch's location on the southern side of Haidplatz places it within the medieval merchants and traders' quarter. "Haid" (or "Heid"), referred to a barren, hence unbuilt area. This space was used for markets and also tournaments – knightly games under special competitive conditions. It was long believed that Haidplatz had retained its distinctive triangular shape throughout the middle ages. However, an excavation in 2009 on its western side revealed the foundations of a Romanesque house, indicating a trapezoidal building once stood near the later Arch. This suggests that the Haidplatz was originally square and considerably smaller than it is today.


Over the centuries, Haidplatz hosted not just knightly tournaments but various events. The Arch's residents, hence, always had a front-row seat to the action. Legend says that Hans Dollinger fought against the Hun Krako here. This tale reflects Regensburg's fear of Hungarian invasions in the 9th/10th century and has been recounted in various versions over time. Of course, they all celebrate the victory of the brave knight Dollinger, immortalized in stone in the Dollinger Hall, not far from the Arch. In the 17th century, the locals witnessed a memorable spectacle. Doctor and juggler Charles Bernovin planned to walk a tightrope from the Golden Cross tower to the Neue Waag House on the eastern side of Haidplatz. Rockets and fireworks were attached to his body to add a spectacular effect. Unfortunately, he lost his balance and fell, surrounded by light and smoke, leading to his tragic demise.

At the site of the current Thon-Dittmer-Palais, which now houses the city library, there originally stood two patrician houses. One had a mighty tower from around 1250, known as the Erlbeck Tower. With its seven floors, it was a prominent landmark. Its collapse in 1742 struck fear and horror in the hearts of the Arch's residents.

Brief Architectural History

Diving into the architectural history of the Arch is also exciting. It comprises multiple sections, forming a grand four-winged structure. Unique is its triangular layout with an incredibly narrow facade facing southwest. The oldest parts of the house are the previous mentioned western building on the corner of Rote-Hahnen-Gasse and the western north building, directly facing Haidplatz. These sections date back to the early 14th century. The eastern part and the southern building on Rote-Hahnen-Gasse were initially service buildings and stables. Over the centuries, owners modified the buildings according to their needs. The late Gothic period saw initial renovations, and the Renaissance brought arcades in the courtyard. The large staircase leading to the hotel's upper floors was constructed during the Baroque period, possibly replacing a medieval predecessor. The upper floors of the south and east parts were converted into apartments. Significant architectural changes, especially on the ground floor facing the square, occurred in 1863. A well niche still exists in the courtyard, where the date 1657 was visible until the 19th century. An 1863 blueprint documented a pump well in the northwest corner of the courtyard, which has since disappeared.

The Chapel

It is confirmed that, like many other medieval Regensburg townhouses, the Arch had a chapel. Dedicated to St. Laurentius, it's mentioned in records from the early 14th century and was likely a private prayer room for the owners. This religious practice of maintaining a private chapel was common among leading families, both as a status symbol and out of religious dedication. For a long time, research suggested the chapel was located directly west of the driveway to the courtyard. However, newer findings suggest it was probably further east on the property - today's breakfast room of the hotel. Its gothic-vault ceiling still creates a unique atmosphere.

Brotherhood Foundation

In the 15th century, Regensburg citizen Stephan Notangst owned the Arch. Besides his profession as a long-distance trader working in Venice and Bohemia, he held significant positions for the city. In 1419, he set up his so-called Brotherhood Foundation, providing a house for up to twelve respectable craftsmen who were in difficult situations and couldn't provide for their own living. Initially, he provided the building at Haidplatz 2 for this purpose. This foundation, along with another by Hans Kastenmaier from 1437, was later combined into the Brotherhood House at Emmeramsplatz and respectively Untere Bachgasse. During the Reformation, this foundation converted to the evangelical confession and lasted until 2004 as a senior citizens home.

The Arch holds much more history and mysteries that continue to this day.