The man with the round bread at Rostock’s stone gate
For reasons unknown, over the past few centuries the date at the stone gate has been changed. The ‘man with the round bread’ is truly puzzling.
In 1859, in the collection of tales by Albert Niederhöffer and with a wagging finger, a part of Rostock’s history was written for generations to come. The tale is introduced with the description of the inward-facing side of the stone gate. “Above the inscription there is a bust of a man holding a round shield over his left side for protection. At the time, the year 1314 was written, split on both sides.” Today, the year written is “1576”. How can this be explained?
In 1859, it was written: “In around 1314, Rostock was at war, which happened frequently at the time. Enemies had besieged the city for a long time, unsuccessfully. They could not overwhelm the city, and efforts to starve the people out were not going to plan. They resorted to betrayal and it was namely one of the mayors who was blinded by the enemy’s gold. In an act of devilry, he exposed the city’s nakedness, handing it over to the enemy. The matter was dealt with discreetly, but it still came to light. And when the people of Rostock had peace on the surface, they caught the traitor and locked him up.
At the time, minor offences were often punished very harshly; and it goes without saying that the punishment this time was not just harsh, but savage. The unfortunate man was dragged
to the wall tower near the stone gate - behind the houses on the new Wallstraße - and suspended with neck, arm, chest and foot irons, so that he could only move his hands to his mouth. He was woefully and slowly tortured to death, as for his daily nutrition he was only given a shilling loaf (a round bread) and a small amount of water.
The image was supposedly put up later on as a warning to everyone, and should even depict the neck and arm irons. However, the shield is thought of as a portrayal of the round bread.”
After the gate was pulled down in 1566 by order of Johann Albrecht, Duke of Mecklenburg, the new construction of the stone gate, which was originally built in 1270, began in 1574/77. The city’s chronicler, Vicke Schorler, also wrote in his drawing of the stone gate, built in 1582, “1576” next to the clearly recognisable man with the round bread. (Aged around 18, Schorler, the contemporary of the stone gate construction, began the graphic representation of his hometown in 1578, on the meanwhile famous picture scroll measuring almost 19 metres.)
“1576” is thereby a reference to the year of construction of the new stone gate, which was standard practice. The round bread design could have been adopted from the previous construction from the Middle Ages. In the 19th Century, “1314” was written on the northern side of the gate. The memory of this event seems to still be alive and was told in 1859. Between 1576 and 1859, the number had to be corrected and the link had to be made between the relief, year and history. It is very possible that this only happened in the 19th century - a time of intense preoccupation with the city’s history.
Until the 1930s, Photos of the stone gate showed “1314”, the year the inner city fighting for Heinrich Runge, with the participation of Denmark and Duke Heinrich of Mecklenburg, ended. At the end of the 30s, repair work was carried out on the stone gate. In 1939, the printed Vicke Schorler scroll was published by Hinstorff Verlag. It is very possible that under the impression created by this unique document from the 16th century, the original date “1576” was now being used again.
After the bombing of April 1942, the stone gate burned down to the four foundation walls. During the reconstruction work at the beginning of the 50s, the “1576” was renovated and further figures and writings were also restored.
As 1314 was not the original date, those who wrote the legends in the 19th century may well have contributed to the creation of the legend, but not to the clarification of the picture.
A good viewing spot would be the northern or inner side of the stone gate in the Steinstraße, near the city hall.
Picture caption: Man with the round bread at night at Rostock’s stone gate. Text, photo: Dr. Hartmut Schmied, www.hartmutschmied.com
Further fables and legends about Rostock and the area can be found in: Hartmut Schmied,
Geister, Götter, Teufelssteine (Ghosts, Gods, Devil’s Stones) Sagen und Legendenführer MecklenburgVorpommern (Fable and Legend Guide Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), Hinstorff Verlag, Rostock 2011 (sold at the tourist information desk) and at www.cryptoneum.de (CRYPTONEUM LegendenMuseum Rostock).
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Der Mann mit dem Rundbrot am Rostocker Steintor