The Vogeltor has stood “perfectly straight” in the downtown center of Augsburg for many years.
Built in 1445, the uniquely named Vogeltor (“vogel” means “bird” in German) is a four-story gated tower in the heart of this busy Bavarian college town. It was built to replace a previous tower which had stood since the early Middle Ages. It was one of four indoor and ten outdoor gates that were built into the fortified city’s protective wall. For centuries it protected access to the suburb of Jakober, along with a moat and drawbridge. The origins of its unique name remain a mystery. Some say it was named after Mayor Konrad Vogelin, who ordered its construction. Others say that a flock of birds swooped down during its groundbreaking ceremony, or that it is named after a fowler who had lived in the previous tower on the site.
Legend has it that after the tower was completed, the city coffers were running low on funds. The Mayor and City Council claimed that the tower wasn’t straight. They refused to pay the builder. The builder, in utter frustration, told the council he could prove the tower was straight and marched up to the very top level, pulled down his trousers, stuck his rear end out the window and defecated. His feces fell straight down on to the ground below (some legends say it fell onto the councilmen watching below) without soiling the wall on the way down, and thus he demonstrated that his walls were indeed “straight and true.”
By 1880, the tower was no longer used to protect the city, so the moat was filled in and the drawbridge demolished. The tower still stood until the nights of February 25th and 26th, 1944, when Augsburg was severely bombed by Allied forces. The tower was hit, and only the gothic archway remained. It was rebuilt in 1954, and has now become a symbol of this proud city’s determination to start anew.