A bird's eye view of Beckum

St. Stephen's Church Square

Redesign of Saint Stephen's Church Square

After five months, the archaeologists from the State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments have largely completed their excavations on the church square of St Stephanus in Beckum.

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  • Guided tour: Time travel into the city's history

    Archaeological information at first hand: excavation director Dr. Joachim Meffert (right) and Horst Schenkel (2nd from right) were pleased about the great interest in urban archaeology on Beckum's church square.

    "Based on the remains, we can also determine whether unfavourable living conditions as well as malnutrition were responsible for the high mortality in the early modern period," explains excavation director Dr Joachim Meffert. The oldest burials are stone box graves from the 13th century, i.e. from the period when Beckum was founded. The city archaeology is thus not only uncovering structural relics, but can also provide unique insights into the living conditions of Beckum's deceased. "As we are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the town next year, these results also provide important insights for research into the local town history," explains Marianne Witt-Stuhr from the Beckum town marketing department.

    The former cemetery around Beckum's Provost Church was used as a burial ground for over 1,000 years. The picture shows stone cist graves from the High Middle Ages, so these burials date back to the time of the town's foundation in the 13th century.

    In order to give an insight into this valuable historical work before the end of the excavation work, the museum association of the Beckum town museum is offering a lecture in the public part of this year's general meeting on 19 October at 6.30 pm: Excavation director Dr. Joachim Meffert will report on the archaeological work and classify the finds historically. Please register for the lecture.(brede@beckum.de)

  • A short journey through time in the city's history

    Kindegrecht Discovering history(s) - excavation director Dr. Joachim Meffert and Ivonne Durant are looking forward to an exciting archaeology project with the children of Beckum.

    Adventure Archaeology for Kids: Discover, experience and understand together

    Archaeology is on the trail of human history: Where do we come from? How did we develop? This trail can be followed from the beginnings of mankind to the modern age. In Beckum, too, traces of history can be found in many places. And time and again new archaeological finds come to light - like the current excavation on the churchyard of the Provost Church of St. Stephen. In addition to various individual finds, such as a large gravestone from the 15th century, the excavation team also discovered a fragment of a so-called pilgrim's horn. On the north side of the Gothic provost church, remains of the former bridal portal also came to light. The name refers to the medieval custom of performing marriages in front of the church portal and then entering for mass.

    In order to give the youngest Beckumers a good insight into this valuable historical work, the city marketing and the city museum are now offering an exciting project on city archaeology for the children of the local primary schools. "Together with the little researchers, we would like to embark on a journey through time in the city's history in September," reports Ivonne Durand. The trained excavation technician has worked out an individual concept for Beckum together with museum educator Silvia Brede from the City Museum.

    "With this, we bring the children and young people closer to the city's history. Here they come across the traces of people in the Middle Ages and they learn about the exciting work of archaeologists." In this way, the primary school children learn about the history of their city's origins in a very playful way. "For example, we show them the previous finds and the tools used by the archaeologists," says Silvia Brede. In addition to special archaeological programmes for schools, the museum also offers other exciting educational programmes (phone 02521 29-4243 or brede@beckum.de).

  • Pilgrim's horn, funerals and a bridal portal

    Urban archaeology at the Beckum church square
    (from left to right) Dr. Christian Hofbauer (City of Beckum), Dr. Andreas Wunschel (LWL), Dr. Joachim Meffert (Goldschmidt project office) and Volker Hahne (City of Beckum) inform themselves on site about the current excavation results.

    After the suspension of construction work at the historic church square in Beckum, the excavation team from the Goldschmidt project office was able to uncover various wall and foundation remains on site and document numerous burials from the early modern period. Now, the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (Westphalia-Lippe Regional Association), as the agency responsible for the preservation of archaeological monuments, has presented the first results of the city archaeology.

    Due to the archaeological work so far, the originally planned construction work is currently seven weeks behind schedule. "Due to these delays, the originally envisaged completion by April 2024 is unrealistic. However, we have considered such a scenario from the beginning and have always communicated it openly," emphasises Horst Schenkel, head of technical services at the City of Beckum. The square around St. Stephen's Church was used as a cemetery by Beckum residents for several centuries. This is confirmed by the latest finds of the team around excavation leader Dr Joachim Meffert, who has been carrying out excavations around the Provost Church for several weeks.

    "More than 60 burials have been found so far, mainly from the 16th to 18th centuries," reports Dr Joachim Meffert. The archaeologists' assumption that the churchyard had been continuously used and expanded since the Middle Ages has also been further consolidated. "This is shown by foundations that lay beneath the burials and were disturbed when the cemetery was expanded." A Christian burial at that time followed a fixed ritual: the dead were oriented in an east-west direction - just like the church building - laid on so-called boards for the dead and then buried without a coffin. However, other citizens of Beckum's urban society were also given wooden or stone coffins of higher quality: analogous to the medieval graves in Propsteigasse, which were discovered in 2022, another stone box grave was also uncovered. "Nevertheless, by no means all the dead found their final resting place in the churchyard or in the church: among others, suicides, executed persons, members of "dishonest" professions, people of other faiths and adulterers were often denied this right," Joachim Meffert emphasises. Perhaps a burial found outside the Beckum church wall also had such a background.

    In addition to various individual finds, such as a large gravestone from the 15th century, the excavation team also discovered a fragment of a so-called pilgrim's horn. "Such clay blowing horns are associated with pilgrimages in Aachen, among other places. There they were carried along on the procession and then brought back home. The object dates to the 14th to 16th centuries," says Dr Andreas Wunschel of the LWL Archaeology for Westphalia, classifying the find. On the north side of the Gothic provost church, remains of the former bridal portal also came to light. The name refers to the medieval custom of performing marriages in front of the church portal and then entering for mass. The previous finds will certainly not be the last.

    "No decision has yet been made on how to deal with very special finds, but the bones from the area of the former cemetery will in any case be given to the parish of St. Stephanus for reburial," emphasises Dr. Christian Hofbauer, head of the department of the City of Beckum. Further information on the excavation results is planned in the context of the excavation work - the city museum will offer a programme for children after the summer holidays, explaining the tasks of city archaeology to the youngest visitors. After completion, guided tours will also be offered for interested visitors. In addition, the City Museum is planning a lecture event with Dr. Joachim Meffert in autumn. The dates will be announced later.

  • Archaeologists take the sceptre

    Construction work on the church square suspended for the time being

    Following the recent ground-breaking ceremony, construction work on the historic church square in Beckum is suspended for the time being: The first preliminary investigations by the Goldschmidt project office have confirmed wall and foundation remains and provided numerous indications of burials. Therefore, the archaeological team on site, together with the LWL as the agency responsible for the preservation of archaeological monuments, will carry out a more in-depth and elaborate scientific excavation in order to document the finds in detail.

    "Historically valuable finds during the construction work in this area in particular were to be expected," says Mayor Michael Gerdhenrich. "The fact that the construction costs will increase and the construction time will be extended is not good news at first. But I think it is expressly good and right to deal with archaeological monuments of this kind. Such cultural-historical legacies of our ancestors must be meticulously documented and - if possible - preserved. And after the previous experiences during the last construction work on the historic market square, the Office for the Preservation of Archaeological Monuments, the construction company and the city of Beckum as the building owner will also cooperate well now."

    After the experts on the construction site had initially planned a two-way operation on the site, the civil engineers are now leaving the field to the archaeologists. "We will know more in about four weeks," explains Horst Schenkel, head of the civil engineering department. If the planned construction work allows, the remains of walls and foundations will remain in the ground after they have been documented. No decision has yet been made on how to deal with very special finds. Finds from the area of the former cemetery will be left to the parish of St. Stephanus for reburial.

  • Groundbreaking ceremony on the church square

    Steeped in history and soon like new
    The sun comes out just in time for the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony with many participants.

    The church square with the Provost Church of St. Stephen is an important historical nucleus of Beckum. After the successful reconstruction of the market square, the redesign of the church square is now also an important milestone in urban planning and the creative upgrading of the city centre.

    The currently barely visible, historically significant church square is thus to be integrated more strongly into public life. The plans for the construction project were developed in close cooperation with the Catholic parish of St. Stephen. Mayor Michael Gerdhenrich thanked all project participants and sponsors at the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony. "With the redesign, we will upgrade the square and make it more prominent." He also referred to the canal renewals and modelling to protect the surrounding buildings from heavy rain. Provost Rainer B. Irmgedruth spoke of a "joint venture project" and hopes that the new church square will be well received by all.

    "Peace" in 27 languages
    The plans include the following measures: The same concrete paving stones and natural stone slabs as on the redesigned market square will be used for the paths, with slightly different formats. In the niches of the church, a so-called "cat's head paving" will be laid. The area is bordered by a bronze band inserted into the paving. There, sayings and texts prepared by the parish of St. Stephen's will be placed for 220 metres. As a recognisable feature, the word "peace" will be read between the individual texts in 27 different languages.

    Protection against heavy rainfall
    The adjacent properties will be better protected against heavy rainfall in the future through the construction of new storage channels, a new sewer system in the area of the northern path and through terrain modelling and gutters. The tree population on the square will be preserved.

    Garden of Remembrance
    In the vicinity of the church, the entire construction project is being accompanied archaeologically by the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe. It goes without saying that the removed remains will be treated with reverence. To this end, the "Garden of Remembrance" will be created on the east side of the church, enclosed by a hedge of copper beech. On the square, new benches and a revolving stone will be installed next to the granite stone heavenly mirror with a dammed-up water surface. To illuminate the church square and the church, 17 pole lights and 32 floor lights will be installed.

    Information about the construction site
    During the construction work, attractively designed construction fence banners with the motto "Acting together - shaping the future" provide information about the planned measure. The City of Beckum's website also provides regular updates on the progress of the construction work. A construction site telephone number 29-2929 provides a direct line for questions and comments about the construction project.

  • Redesign of the St. Stephanus church square in Beckum

    Acting together, shaping the future

    The church square, with the medieval collegiate church of St. Stephen, is an important historical nucleus of the city of Beckum. Therefore, the redesign of the church square area is an important concern of the local urban planning and a core task of the creative inner city upgrading. As with the historic market square, the planned measures are intended to improve accessibility and, in particular, the design quality and quality of stay in the historic town centre.

    Funding for more quality of stay in the historic town centre
    The redesign of the Kirchplatz has been planned for more than ten years - also with the participation of the citizens of Beckum. This measure is part of the so-called "Integrated Action and Measures Concept for the City Centre of Beckum" (IHMK for short) - it dates back to 2012 (Council resolution on 05.07.2012, submission 2012/0078/2). The IHMK forms the basis for action for the entire urban development of Beckum's inner city and is also an important prerequisite for applying for urban development funding.

    The city of Beckum has a great interest in integrating the currently barely visible but historically significant church square into public life and to better integrate it through a structural enhancement: In addition to a dignified design integration into the urban surroundings of the city centre, the square should in future temporarily serve as a barrier-free alternative location for the weekly market when the market square cannot be used because of Beckum events such as the Pütt Days or the Christmas market.

    For the future-oriented and citizen-friendly redesign of St. Stephen's church square, the Münster district government has approved a grant of 897,182 euros from state and federal funds. The parish is contributing 300,000 euros to the costs.

    Konzeption und Prävention
    Das Motto „Geschichte erleben – Gemeinsam handeln – Zukunft gestalten“ ist die Grundlage der baulichen Inwertsetzung für die weitere städtebauliche Entwicklung der Innenstadt in Beckum. Dies betrifft als historische Keimzelle auch das Areal um die St. Stephanuskirche, das durch eine neue Ausstattung als besonderer urbaner Raum behutsam in Szene gesetzt wird.

    The concept is to stage the existing linden wreath around the church as a green element. The historic church and its surroundings will also be illuminated with energy-saving LED lighting. After the market square, the redesigned church square will create another barrier-free recreation and rest area for the entire city community in the middle of the core city, with children's playground equipment and 19 benches for resting. New bicycle parking facilities will improve the accessibility of the city centre by bicycle. In addition, Propsteigasse will be upgraded either as a traffic-calmed area or as a pedestrian zone.

    In the course of climate change, the frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall events will also increase in our region. Effective protection against the possible consequences of heavy rain begins with the urban planning concept. The city of Beckum is therefore also taking special precautions in the reconstruction of the Kirchplatz: by building new storage channels, a new sewer system in the area of the northern path, as well as terrain modelling and gutters, the adjacent properties will be better protected against heavy rainfall events in the future.

    Archaeology: insight into living city history
    The uncovering of the church square will lead to new historical insights. In addition to modern burial rites with finds such as funerary crowns or clothing remains and jewellery, this may also include information on former buildings on the now uncovered church square. The cemetery does not have to have extended to the buildings that border the square. The large-scale opening can show how far the burials actually extended and possibly the enclosure of the churchyard, which certainly once existed, will be uncovered. All these findings, together with the visual and plan material that the excavation will provide, will contribute to the visualisation of the former cemetery and thus also help the public to understand the history of the churchyard. The excavation will be followed by a scientific examination of the burials uncovered - reverent treatment of the removed bones is a matter of course. The plan is to rebury the remains to the east of the choir in the so-called "Garden of Remembrance". A mirror of heaven as a round water surface will additionally enhance the special area of the churchyard and represent the spiritual connection between heaven and earth for the observer.

    New findings on the medieval cemetery at the Provost Church
    This enclosed area is the first time that a place has been created that makes the existence of a cemetery tangible for the public, something that the lawns that have existed up to now have not been able to do. Concerns about "disturbing the peace of the dead" also seem unfounded. In contrast to Jewish cemeteries, it is not unusual for Christian burial grounds to interfere with graves and move bones. What is important is that they are treated with reverence and find a new resting place at the site. This was the case in the medieval past with the establishment of an ossuary and the same applies to the planned "Garden of Remembrance".

    In many towns, the market place is architecturally located directly next to the church. The direct juxtaposition of the cemetery in the rear, eastern surroundings of the church and the market hustle and bustle around the western entrance area of the church was also practised in Beckum as early as the Middle Ages.

    Needs-based traffic planning
    In the course of planning the upgrading of the area around St. Stephen's Church, a total of three construction phases have been defined (Kirchplatz street, path connection north of the Kirchplatz and the Kirchplatz itself). In terms of funding law, these are all part of the same project, which is known as "Kirchplatz" (Church Square) in the context of urban development funding.

    The adjacent areas of the "car park at the Kolpinghaus" and "Clemens-August-Straße" were not initially included due to their particular complexity. The inclusion of Clemens-August-Straße and the car park at the Kolpinghaus would have significantly increased the planning time, as additional traffic planning concerns and applicable planning law would have to be taken into account here.

    By assigning the redesign of the Kirchplatz to the field of action "Places to linger", the administration sees a much stronger functional link with the Marktplatz and Propsteigasse and less towards the south and east. These areas could be reconsidered in the course of the upcoming redesign of the IHMK for Beckum's inner city.

    Further documents can be viewed here:
    Site plan Kirchplatz
    Site plan Propsteigasse

    Facts and figures
    Three construction phases were defined: the Kirchplatz road, the path connection north of the Kirchplatz and the Kirchplatz itself.

    • The works for the redesign of the Kirchplatz, the street Kirchplatz and the northern path area Kirchplatz as well as the selective sewer rehabilitation were awarded to the company STRATIEF GmbH from Lippstadt for about 2,888,000 Euros.
    • A grant of 897,182 euros from state and federal funds has been approved by the Münster district government for the entire redesign of St. Stephen's church square.
    • The parish is contributing 300,000 euros to the costs.
    • Planned implementation period: 22 May 2023 to 15 June 2024
    • Total area of the construction project: 3 800 square metres
    • The measure is part of the "Integrated Action and Measures Concept for the City Centre of Beckum".