Friday, October 27, 2017

Postcard: Graffiti-covered "student prison" in Heidelberg


This unused, undated postcard, an "Original Farbaufnahme," has the following caption on the back:

HEIDELBERG — ALTE UNIVERSITAT
Karzer (Student's Prison)

Alte Universit├Ąt translates to "Old University," which is precisely what this is in the dual college/river town of Heidelberg, Germany. According to a translation of the German-language Wikipedia page:
"The Old University was built in the 23-year period from 1712 to 1735 according to the plans of the Baroque architect Johann Adam Breunig. The building replaced a college building at the university, which was located here. The construction project was part of the reconstruction of the city of Heidelberg, which was severely destroyed in the Palatinate Succession War (1688-1697)."
Karzer better translates to "detention cell," so it's not wrong to call this room a prison. The full name is Studentenkarzer.

A Europe For Visitors website article by Durant Imboden does a nice job of describing the history of this room:
The University of Heidelberg has a long tradition as a center of learning, but students at the 500-year-old uni have often taken the view that "All work and no play makes Hans a dull boy." As long ago as the 16th Century, citizen complaints about carousing students led the university to open a Studentenkarzer, or Student Prison, where academic miscreants were kept off the streets for three days to four weeks at a time.

Over the centuries, the University of Heidelberg's Student Prison was moved several times, and it finally closed down in 1914. Today, that prison — with its original fixtures and graffiti — offers a glimpse into student life at the University of Heidelberg before World War I. ...

The prison is about the size of a large apartment, with a door (now locked) that once allowed student prisoners to enter the Old University for classes during their confinement. ...

Being jailed in the Studentenkarzer couldn't have been too unpleasant, because time behind bars was a rite of passage for many students. The Heidelberg Tourist Office describes "the much-coveted stay in the 'Student Prison' for Town vs. Gown offenses, such as disturbing the peace, womanising, unruly drunkenness, and setting the townspeople's ubiquitous pigs free."
If the cost of saving pigs from being turned into sausage and scrapple is a stint in the Studentenkarzer, then sign me up!

You can see more photos of the Studentenkarzer in Imboden's article.

1 comment:

  1. Great piece :)
    I'm going to form a band ... and we will be called The Academic Miscreants. You can say you knew me "when".

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