It has been keeping watch over the town for centuries – the “Hochturm” or “high tower”. Erected in the Staufer period in two construction phases, it was first recorded in 1304. Together with the double-layered town walls, it fortified Rottweil that was unprotected to the west. This explains its massive 6-metre base and three-and-a-half metre thickness. Originally, the tower was more than 36 metres high and open in the direction of the town. You can still see this on the walls.
After the Staufer period, a gallery encircling the spire was added. On the historic map dated 1564, which is on display in the town museum, the gallery had already been removed and an eight-sided tent-shaped spire placed on top of it. At that time, the town architect, Weber von Werth, added a charming bay in the uppermost part of the tower, which overlooks the town. According to the employment contract concluded between the town and the builder, the salary agreed consisted of a coat of cloth from Lindau, 5 guilders per quarter and 5 shillings for every working day.
On 26 June 1758, between 7 and 8 o’clock in the evening, lightning struck the tower and destroyed the late Gothic structure. The magistrate and mayor were eager to rebuild the tower without delay and to give it a beautiful and functional appearance. At the same time, it was decided to attach a gallery protected by an iron “grating” that can still be seen today. The council minutes of 8 August, 1759, recorded the origin of the grate: it had been removed from the Dominican church in the course of its reconstruction in baroque style. The fire bell, which was struck by lightning, was recast and dedicated to the fire patron saints Florian and Agatha. Thus, the tower keeper could fulfil his obligations again: ”as a fire rose and he beheld its flames in the town or old town, he promptly makes it known by fiercely ringing the bell”.
The tower keeper lived in the tower. In case of danger, he had to warn the town with the fire bell, the trumpet or the sound canon. His morning call woke people up, and in the evening his trumpet call marked the end of the day. He took great pains to do this when the Imperial Manorial Court gathered at the entrance to the town.
In addition, he was assigned the task of playing a fanfare to announce the arrival of important visitors riding into town, and to welcome them to music.
In 1658, tower keeper Matthäus Mutschler had seen noble gentlemen entering the town on horseback. He rushed to their lodgings at the “Armbrust” inn, which was diagonally opposite the town hall, to perform, while a mischievous fellow citizen stuffed his “official trumpet” in the high tower. As a consequence, Mutschler was reprimanded by the town council and ordered “to play at midnight, in the morning and in the evening, day and night, and likewise to play fanfares with greater diligence for the foreigners riding in and out of town”.
The “Hochturm” was also a prison tower. The incarceration mainly enabled the enforcement of custody and preventive detention. Suspects charged with witchcraft were also incarcerated in the Hochturm. In 1648, a suicide in the “Hochturm” was reported – “a mischievous person from Villingen” had “cast himself down from the Hohenturm”. The executioner had to burn the body under the gallows at night and received compensation for this.
Ever since the 19th century, the Hochturm has been a popular observation tower. The poets Berthold Auerbach and Ludwig Uhland enjoyed the magnificent view of the town and the charming surroundings of Rottweil from it. Even so, during the last phase of the 1848 revolution, there were plans to reactivate the canon in the Hochturm. Rottweil sided with the freedom movement. Unfortunately, the efforts of the construction supervisor Hezinger and of the Horgen mayor Burkard to mount the wheels were in vain. What’s more, the Republicans of Baden had to surrender on 23 July, 1849. Thus, the canon in the Rottweil Hochturm stopped being used at all.