Evidence of Roman occupation can be seen at Porta Praetoria which dates back to the second century. The Roman’s certainly built things to last! The Roman name, Castra Regina (Roman Fortress by the Regen River or Regensburg) gives the city its name today.
Today, the old town hall is a fine museum (tour only) including fine decorated rooms of state and original medieval torture rooms complete with cells, dungeon and interrogation room (and torture tools). The rules of the day dictated that guilt could only be established via confession but up to three sessions of torture were permitted to assist the process.
The interrogation room features a wide variety of grotesque instruments to exert pain. Apparently, over 80 percent of people confessed immediately. Stretching, dunking in water and sitting in spiked chairs were favourites though the Spanish Donkey where victims sat naked for hours on a thin wooden wedge must have been particularly agonising. Ironically, both a doctor (to ensure death didn’t occur) and God (in the form of a cross) were always present while a witness recorded any uttered confessions. While not everyone confessed, those freed typically died from the process.
The cells in the dungeon prevented prisoners from standing straight while some of the worst prisoners were simply tossed into a hole covered by a grate. The Deadman’s Cell was where your family could speak to you through a slated hole and a condemned prisoner was served their last meal.As expected with a city with such a rich history, a number of significant people have lived in the city including the astronomer Johannes Kepler (the house has a great little museum detailing Kepler’s life), Oskar Schindler (who saved 1200 Jewish lives during World War 2 and is the only Nazi Party member buried in Jerusalem) and Pope Pius XVI. For a chance to wander around ruins that date from 1,800 to 500 years ago, don’t miss Document Neupfarrplatz, underneath Regensburg’s main square of the same name. This superb archeological site was uncovered during excavations less than twenty years ago. The underground tour walk through the ruins of Castra Regina on the lowest level and the remains of many houses and a synagogue in the medieval Jewish Quarter. An excellent video in the museum shows what both communities looked like. After the death of Maximilian I in 1519 the Jews (around 500) were expelled given just five days to leave Regensburg. Their houses were demolished for two churches.
Schloss Thurn und Taxis is a former Benedictine monastery granted to the von Taxis family. Franz started the European postal service in the late 1400s and gained immense wealth from the service. The family was granted the palace in compensation by the Bavarian government when they lost their monopoly on the postal system. The palace includes St Emmeram’s Church and a trove of furniture, porcelain, horse carriages and other family treasures.
Two thousand years have left an indelible print on Regensburg leaving an enticing vibrant city combining a modern energy with a rich history of authentic medieval buildings, atmospheric laneways and historic squares. Spared the bombings of World War 2, don’t miss the medieval masterpiece of Regensburg, nicknamed Italy’s northern most town.