The site

Hamelin, in German Hameln, is a small city located in the state of Lower Saxony, Germany. The place is rich with historical reminders of its long history as a trading outpost that was once part of the Hanseatic League, but also a place that was a crossroads for armies, ideas, and culture. The city is famous for the folk tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, a medieval story that tells of a tragedy that befell the town in the 13th century. The version written by the Brothers Grimm made it popular throughout the world; it is also the subject of well-known poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Robert Browning.          

With its monumental graves, the Hamelin Garrison Cemetery is one of the most remarkable historical cemeteries in Northern Germany. Most of the gravestones date from the 18th and 19th centuries and are of high quality in terms of art and historical relevance.

The Hamelin Garrison Cemetery was probably laid out as early as 1676 after the purchase of two gardens by Wilhelm Röper on a narrow rectangular plot of only about 3,000 square metres in front of the gates of the then star-shaped fortification of the town. The first documented burial took place there in 1685.

In 1808, after the town had been surrendered to the French without a fight two years earlier, Hamelin's fortifications were demolished on Napoleon Bonaparte's orders. However, the cemetery remained untouched. In 1865, the city administration took custody of the cemetery from the garrison. In 1907, the two richly decorated gateposts were erected at the entrance by the stonemason Franz Mainzer.

Despite ongoing efforts to preserve it, however, the cemetery also suffered a partial loss of its historical substance, and individual graves were cleared away. Around 1900, a hedge was planted in the cemetery to delimit individual grave monuments. In addition, gravel was spread between the graves.

There are numerous elaborately and artistically designed monumental grave monuments in the cemetery. In addition to local stonemasons, nationally known artists also made their mark, such as Ernst von Bandel (1800 – 1876), the sculptor of the Hermann Monument near Detmold.

First and foremost, high-ranking persons of military history are buried in the cemetery. These are not only officers from the Hamelin garrison but also military personnel from all over Northern Germany. In the rear part of the cemetery, there are also war graves of 185 soldiers of the First and Second World Wars who succumbed to their wounds in military hospitals in the town and found their final resting place in the cemetery. The First World War burial ground is located at the rear of the cemetery to the left of the main path, the Second World War burial ground to the right of the main path.

According to the regulations, the cemetery was to be a burial ground for officers only. However, there were several exceptions. Since the Reformed Huguenots were initially forbidden to share the use of the civic cemetery, they had been granted guest rights in the Garrison Cemetery. From 1950, the administration and ownership of the cemetery passed to the City of Hamelin, and it has been designated as a listed monument since 1987.


The training course

Gravestones represent an important means of preserving a tangible source of historical documentary evidence for future generations and symbolise the continuity of communities in communion with their past. The gravestones found at the Hamelin Garrison Cemetery not only serve as visual reminders of the collective history of the community of Hamelin but also exhibit exquisite artistic expressions in stone, representative of the craftsmanship prevalent during their creation.

During the European Heritage Training Course, the participants will continue the work that began in the training course of 2023, and continue to contribute to the conservation of this significant historical site through their involvement in various practical activities aimed at enhancing the accessibility to the gravestones and safeguarding them against environmentally caused degradation. They will actively engage with four selected gravestones, located in the oldest section of the cemetery, enabling them to meticulously observe and acquire specific conservation techniques.

Initially, the participants will clear the pathways and surroundings of the cemetery to improve visibility and easy access to the gravestones.

To prevent further damage and deterioration, meticulous removal of moss, lichen, and algae will be carried out, and samples of the surfaces will be collected for further analysis.

Following, the surfaces will be cleaned in various steps depending on the grade of degradation and pollution. Firstly, brushes and a solution of alcohol and water will be used. In a next step, participants will remove pollution and discolouration using scalpels and a micro-steamer. At strongly polluted surfaces, compresses and lime bandages will be applied to reduce discolouration caused by salinisation. 

Subsequently, the participants will focus on executing minor repairs of cracks and other defects that compromise the stability and integrity of the gravestones. Where necessary, consolidation interventions will be performed. Finally, small missing parts will be supplemented using appropriate stone replacement materials.

Throughout all these activities, detailed records will be maintained through written documentation and photography, culminating in a comprehensive report on the undertaken conservation works, which will serve as a valuable resource for future conservation efforts.

The training course will be led by a certified conservator-restorer specialised in stone and surface restoration, possessing extensive experience in this field of work.

In addition to the practical aspects, the educational component of the course will encompass guided tours, discussions, and an excursion, providing participants with a comprehensive and detailed understanding of the city's heritage. These visits will contextualise the training course by offering insights into the rich history and multi-layered heritage of Hamelin.


The training course will take place from August 04th to August 17th, 2024, and is organised by European Heritage Volunteers in cooperation with the City of Hameln.

European Heritage Volunteers