The Bremen Roland is a statue of Roland, erected in 1404. It stands in the market square (Rathausplatz) of Bremen, Germany, facing the cathedral, and shows Roland, paladin of the first Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and hero of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass.
The Roland statue stands a few metres in front of the town hall and is no less impressive. Its wooden predecessor fell victim to an arson attack by the archbishop’s men. This emblem of the powerful merchants’ guild and symbol of the Hanseatic city’s freedom had always been a great annoyance to the church. And so the statue’s eyes are deliberately directed at the episcopal cathedral, to reinforce the claim of Bremen’s merchants to sovereignty of the city. Carved from stone, the statue has been standing on Bremen’s historical market square for more than 600 years, “the most representative and one of the oldest Roland statues erected as a symbol of market rights and freedom”, according to the UNESCO inscription.
Roland is shown as protector of the city: his legendary sword (known in chivalric legend as Durendal) is unsheathed, and his shield is emblazoned with the two-headed Imperial eagle. The standing figure is 5.47 m tall, and stands on a 60 cm rostrum. A supporting column, crowned by a baldachin, brings the combined height to 10.21 m. The statue was carved in limestone from Elm, and was commissioned by the city fathers to replace a wooden one burnt in 1366 by Prince-Archbishop Albert II. It confronts the church as a representation of city rights opposed to the territorial claims of the prince-archbishop. Statues of Roland appear in numerous cities of the former Holy Roman Empire, as emblems of city liberties, Stadtrechte. The Roland statue at Bremen is the oldest surviving example. From Bremen the symbol of civic liberty and freedom spread to other cities and has become a symbol of the new Europe. In July 2004, along with the town hall, the statue was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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