The „Large Barrel“ in the Tübingen castle cellar can be viewed by visitors in the winter months. The barrel, built in 1549, is considered the oldest preserved giant wine barrel in the world. Its capacity is approximately 84. 000 litres. The next guided tours are expected to take place from October 2021 to March 2022.
The “large barrel“ – often also defined as “large book” in sources and in the vernacular – has a giant capacity. Based on data from historical sources, it can hold 47 fuders or 286 buckets. Its sheer size made it a superregional attraction. In almost all trip descriptions and chronicals about Tübingen, it is presented as highlight and is advised to visit. According to a written document of the Landesarchiv Stuttgart (signature: A 256 Bd 34), a payment was made in the year 1549/50 to Master Simon Binder.
Due to this source, the wine barrel can be dated and the price of 389 fl. Is determined. The barrel was crafted, by order of the Duke Ulrich von Württemberg, and was built up in the cellar of Hohentübingen Castle.
The large barrel itself measures at about 6,80 metres in length and about 4,70 metres in height. According to Kepler’s barrel rule from 1615, its volume lies at approximately 84 cubic metres. A dendrochronological report from the year 2018 determined a dating period on the basis of eleven wood samples. The oaks from the Schönbuch used for the barrel construction were felled between 1546 and 1550 – predominantly however in the winter years of 1548/49 and 1549/50.
As the head of the department Tübingen of the national office Property and Construction Baden-Württemberg, Bernd Selbmann, shared, the construction work on the development of the “large barrel” were completed at the end of October. This fulfils a long-held wish of the Tübingen population.
Together with the responsible construction office, a path was developed which leads from the rooms of the Museum of the University MUT directly to the large barrel. At first, the bat friendly viewer platform was designed and planned and tested, and a restoration appraisal of the barrel was carried out.
The necessary 170 000 euros were provided from the estate of Gudrun Schaal and Stefanie Wechsler in accordance to an agreement between the city and the state. Gudrun Schaal and Jule Gastl had been the founders of the book store “Gastl” in 1949. After the death of Gudrun Schaal in the year 2007, the inheritance was, at first, given to her flatmate Stefanie Wechsler (died in 2011) and then to the general public.
During the construction work, the barrel was accessed via a wooden staircase with an elevated wooden pedestal. In addition, a fire alarm system was installed, and a second escape route was created. The entire installation is designed in such a way that the rest of the castle cellar is not accessible. The installations had to be reversible due to the historic preservation.
The barrel itself had broken apart in the upper part already and had tilted forward towards the cellar. The restoration therefore served as static stabilisation and repair.
Of special importance, however, was the protection of the bats who are the main residents in the castle cellar. In closest coordination with the scientific companion of the bats, Ingrid Kaipf, it was decided that as little as possible metal will be obstructed in order to not irritate the animals’ sense of orientation, and that the lighting will be kept at a minimum. A temporarily installable curtain will separate the barrel from the bat habitat.
The first public guided tours will be possible from January 2018 until the end of February 2018 (acclimatisation and trial phase). Thereby, sound and temperature measurements will be carried out. After this first phase, longer time periods in the winter half-year (November to March) may also be conceivable, in which the barrel will be accessible to visitors. This, according to Ingrid Kaipf, “however depends on the inventory development of the colony or the use of the cellar as winter quarter.”
The director of the MUT, Prof. Dr. Ernst Seidl, is very happy about this development: “Since the oldest biochemical laboratory was made accessible two years ago, and since the observatory was restored and was opened to the public for the 200-year anniversary of the Württemberg land survey in the summer of 2018, this is once again a historically important and for all visitors quite exciting place which will now finally be opened. The visit to the barrel will be integrated into the highlight-tours in the museum, so that nothing important in the castle will go amiss.”
Together with the restorative assessment and repair of the barrel in 2017, the University City of Tübingen had submitted an application for inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records. In October 2019, it was finally official: Tübingen owns the oldest giant wine barrel in the world:
"Dear University City of Tübingen, we are thrilled to inform you that your application for Oldest wooden vat has been successful and you are now the Guinness World Records Title Holder!" reported Guinness to the MUT and the University City of Tübingen.
At this point, we would like to thank not only the Office of Property and Construction Baden-Württemberg and all the trades for making access to the barrel possible, but above all the University City of Tübingen, Mayor Boris Palmer and Christopher Blum from the Department of Culture.
Open to the public from
November 1st to March 15th
Guided tours at 2pm and 4pm
Group and school tours by appointment
Adults: 8 €
Reduced: 6 € (children, pupils, students, pensioners, severely disabled people)
Museum of Ancient Cultures