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Heidelberg Student Prison

Studentenkarzer, University of Heidelberg

From: Heidelberg, Germany

Student prison photo

ABOVE: A local dog poses next to a cell in Heidelberg University's Studentenkarzer. INSET BELOW: The prison's entrance is on the Augustinergasse, around the corner from Universitätsplatz.

sign photoThe University of Heidelberg has a long tradition as a center of learning, but students at the 500-year-old uni have often taken the view that "All work and no play makes Hans a dull boy." As long ago as the 16th Century, citizen complaints about carousing students led the university to open a Studentenkarzer, or Student Prison, where academic miscreants were kept off the streets for three days to four weeks at a time.

Over the centuries, the University of Heidelberg's Student Prison was moved several times, and it finally closed down in 1914. Today, that prison--with its original fixtures and graffiti--offers a glimpse into student life at the University of Heidelberg before World War I.

You enter the Studentenkarzer on Augustinergasse, around the corner from the Alte Universität, which was begun in 1712 and houses the University Museum. As you head the rickety stairs, you'll see student prisoners' graffiti everywhere: on walls, above the doors, and even on the ceiling. (For some fine examples, see page 2 of this article.)

The prison is about the size of a large apartment, with a door (now locked) that once allowed student prisoners to enter the Old University for classes during their confinement.

Being jailed in the Studentenkarzer couldn't have been too unpleasant, because time behind bars was a rite of passage for many students. The Heidelberg Tourist Office describes "the much-coveted stay in the 'Student Prison' for Town vs. Gown offenses, such as disturbing the peace, womanising, unruly drunkenness, and setting the townspeople's ubiquitous pigs free."

Visiting the Student Prison:

The Studentenkarzer is open most days except Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (4 p.m. from October through March). Tickets are inexpensive, and entrance is free with the Heidelberg Card. Buy your ticket at the University Museum in the Alte Universitäte on Grabengasse, then walk around the block to the Student Prison.

Tip: Your combined ticket will include admission to the University Museum and the Alte Aula or Old Assembly Hall upstairs. The museum will be of limited interest if you don't read German, but don't miss the Alte Aula.

Next page: More Student Prison Photos

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