History of the hotel building

The building in Alfstraße 38 dates back to the first phase of urban development of the Hanseatic city of Lübeck.

Lübeck was first founded in 1143, and as a young town consisted mainly of wooden buildings with only a few exceptions such as the Cathedral, the city walls and a few churches which were constructed after 1180. After the great fire of 1276 the city council ruled that all buildings had to be made of stone or brick.

Lübeck’s Alfstraße

Alfstraße is one of the oldest streets of the original urban settlement dating from 1159. Since the 13th century the street has been mentioned in several historical documents, and was given its current name in 1789.

The historic building stands on the corner of Alfstraße and An der Untertrave, thus occupying an important strategic position within the original street network of the newly founded settlement of traders. The first written reference to the house dates back to 1305.

Due to its location on the street corner, the building has a unique layout, its main façade being on the long eaves side rather than on the gabled front. A wing added to the northern aspect of the building now houses two of our exclusive luxury suites.

Anno 1216

The façade, with its Renaissance-style portal of moulded bricks, mainly reflects the architectural style of the early 17th century. However, archaeological research has shown that the origins of this building date back to the early 13th century. Thanks to tree ring dating of ceiling timbers in the basement and thermoluminescence dating of masonry, we now know that the very first parts of the house were built in 1216 (give or take a year).

The building, classified as a “Saalgeschosshaus” (a building with a single, large room on each floor), originally had two floors of equal height and a double-naved basement. There are only two more buildings of this kind in Lübeck: Haus Kolberg 2 and Schüsselbuden 6.

Due to its size and location, it is assumed that the building was used by merchants as a guild hall during the 13th century. Alfstraße 38 is situated next to the former trading port and has a floor area of approximately 3,300 square feet. According to documents from the city archives, the house has been privately owned since 1284 and its owners can be tracked all the way back to 1305.

Starting in the year 1300, the mezzanine floor was redesigned and the house was converted into a “Dielenhaus” (a house with a high-ceilinged entrance hall), a design typical of Northern Germany at the time. The basement ceiling and the roof remained untouched during this process.

Renaissance and Rococo

Around the year 1564 another major reconstruction took place; the interior layout of the basement was redesigned and the house received an enormous roof structure with six floors and a winch which is still preserved today. Some Renaissance-style features typical of the time were added to the façade as well; above the carved green Rococo entrance door with its skylight there is a moulded brick portal crowned by a cornice with intricate sandstone carving from around the year 1650 which cannot be seen anywhere else in Lübeck.

The layout of the house was changed again during another makeover phase in the 17th century; this time a splendid chamber of lavish proportions was added and the extravagant Rococo wall design was finished in stucco lustro – a technique which was then more costly than marble. This chamber, with its balcony that faces the port, is now our Suite No.2.


The final major transformation of what is now the Hotel Anno 1216 took place in the late 18th century when some Baroque-style modifications were undertaken. These included larger windows and a tail gable on the roof which was modified again in 1939, turning it into the wide stepped gable which is preserved to this day.

Helios, Aurora and Selene ceiling fresco

When the stucco ceilings on the ground floor were renovated in 1980/81, a fresco was exposed, almost 20% of which remained undamaged. During the reconstruction work for the hotel, the original painting was completely restored with the help of the monument protection authorities. This fresco now adorns our Suite No. 3; it depicts the sun god Helios with his carriage, his sister Aurora, goddess of dawn and the moon goddess Selene. This combination of a ceiling fresco and stucco is the only one of its kind in Lübeck. A cast of the impressive stucco is housed in the Saint Annen Museum.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses on wall panel paintings

In 1981 an ornamental wall painting from the first half of the 16th century was discovered on the upper floor of the side wing. It depicts illusionist checkerboard patterns which were a popular decorative feature of the late Gothic and early Renaissance period. In addition 24 wall panels were discovered in 1989. The panels illustrate various scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses inspired by a 1676 Parisian edition of the poet’s works. As part of the reconstruction work they were fitted with a narrow metal frame and anti-reflective glass for protection. Both the painting and the wall panels can now be seen in our Suite No. 4.

For further reading (in German) you may download an essay about the wall panels at www.wandmalerei-luebeck.de.

Restoration of the building – 1980s

In the 1980s the house was thoroughly restored. The north-western corner of the side wing had sagged and had to be repaired and secured to arrest further decline. In 1985 the roof structure was renewed and the whole building was lifted by means of a steel corset. At the same time the ceiling beams were raised by about a foot in order to create more headroom for future use of the rooms with the original beams being preserved where possible. However, the original ceiling height was maintained for demonstration purposes in our Single room No. 5 .

Historical hotel

In 2010 we began conversion of this extraordinary historical building into the Hotel Anno 1216.
The hotel today: → view gallery

Booklet: Lebenslauf eines Hauses, Dagmar Hemmie
(Kleine Hefte zur Stadtgeschichte Heft 20)

You may purchase this booklet (written in German) at the hotel for 10 €.