hidden europe 70

Free thinking: the appeal of Friedrichstadt

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Gables galore in the main square of Friedrichstadt, a small town in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany (photo © hidden europe).


Friedrichstadt, a small town in northern Germany close to the Eider River, has a remarkable cultural history. It has been a haven for those seeking to escape religious persecution. Remonstrants and Mennonites settled here in the 1620s. There is still today in Friedrichstadt a sense of being somewhere very special.

As one walks across the water meadows towards Friedrichstadt, there is a real sense of approaching somewhere special. Between the willows and poplars, the township stands clear and proud close to the point where the River Treene joins the Eider.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the granting of special privileges to Mennonites who moved to Friedrichstadt. The Mennonites who migrated to Friedrichstadt came originally from the Netherlands, in many cases directly but some had moved earlier from Holland to Jutland, settling first in Eiderstedt where there had been an Anabaptist community since the mid-16th century and then, upon the announcement of the 1623 dispensations, moving on to Friedrichstadt. The Mennonites joined an earlier group of Dutch religious refugees who had settled in the town that’s today in the German State of Schleswig-Holstein.

In 1621, a large number of Dutch Remonstrants had moved to this area of Holstein where they were granted permission by Duke Friedrich III to build a new settlement by the Eider. These new arrivals, keen to leave the Netherlands to escape Calvinist teachings on predestination, were greatly touched by the goodwill of the Holstein duke and named their new settlement after him.

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Editorial hidden europe 62

We do rather like an amble, even sometimes a ramble, but when we are in rural regions we do also quite like to vegetate, and the current pandemic has certainly allowed us many opportunities to do just that. And thus maybe unsurprisingly, there is a walking theme to this issue of hidden europe. Enjoy the read.