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Bad Bentheim

Bad Bentheim is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany lying in the district of Grafschaft Bentheim on the borders with North Rhine-Westphalia and the Netherlands roughly 15 km south of Nordhorn and 20 km northeast of Enschede. It is also a state-recognized thermal brine and sulphur spa town, hence the designation Bad (“Bath”). In Bad Bentheim is also found the Burg Bentheim (castle), the town’s emblem.

Geography

Extent of the municipal area

The town limit is 49 km long, with a north-south reach of 14 km and an east-west reach of 12 km. The area under Bad Bentheim’s jurisdiction, along with all its constituent communities, has a total area of 100.16 km².

Neighbouring communities

Bad Bentheim, a town shaped by the Evangelical Church, belongs to Lower Saxony’s district of Bentheim. It borders on two other towns in Lower Saxony, Schüttorf and Nordhorn as well as on the more characteristically Catholic towns of Gronau and Ochtrup in North Rhine-Westphalia’s Steinfurt and Borken districts respectively. Bad Bentheim lies right on the Dutch border, its immediate neighbours on the other side being de Lutte and Losser, both Catholic places in the province of Overijssel (Twente region). Not far away lie the Dutch cities of Almelo, Enschede and Hengelo, and on the German side Lingen, Rheine, Münster and Osnabrück.

Constituent communities

The town comprises the centres of Achterberg, Bardel, Gildehaus, Hagelshoek, Holt und Haar, Sieringhoek, Waldseite and Westenberg.

History

Bad Bentheim’s first documentary mention came about 1050 under the name Binithem. There are various etymologies put forth for the town’s name. It could refer to the rushes (Binsen in German) that grew on boggy land in the area in earlier times. It is also supposed by some, as with the Dutch region of Twente, that the name could go back to the Tubanti. Bad Bentheim, a former count’s residence, looks back on a history rich in tradition. For centuries, this market town was the hub of the like-named county (Grafschaft) of Bentheim. In 1945, the British occupational authorities stripped “brown Bentheim” of its district seat and transferred it to the working-class town of Nordhorn, which was more centrally located.

The town’s emblem is the mighty castle of the Counts of Bentheim, the Burg Bentheim, which was first mentioned in a document from 1116. About 1711, curative sulphur springs were discovered, from which grew the spa with its thermal brine and clinic.

In 1895, Queen Emma of the Netherlands and her 15-year-old daughter Wilhelmina spent several weeks at Bentheim’s baths. Before this, both Otto von Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm I had stayed there. In Otto von Bismarck’s honour, a sandstone statue in his likeness was raised on the square that also bears his name, Bismarckplatz, in Bentheim’s inner town. It still stands today, right beneath the castle.

Since 1865, Bentheim has held town rights. In the course of municipal reform in Lower Saxony, the town of Bentheim, the Samtgemeinde (a municipality made up of several centres) of Gildehaus (whose member communities were Gildehaus, Achterberg, Hagelshoek, Holt und Haar, Waldseite and Westenberg) and the communities of Bardel and Sieringhoek merged on 1 March 1974 to form the unified Town of Bentheim. Since 1979, it has been called Bad Bentheim. The constituent community of Gildehaus has been a state-recognized health resort (Erholungsort) since 1982.

After the Second World War, the whole area, along with many other border areas in Germany, would have been annexed by the Netherlands under the Bakker-Schut plan in 1945, but this plan was scuttled by US objections.

Bentheim’s sandstone, known as Bentheimer Gold, which is or was quarried in the main town and Gildehaus, was shipped beyond the old county’s borders between the 15th and 18th centuries into the Münsterland, to East Frisia, into the Netherlands and to Belgium and Denmark. A few examples of important buildings made of this sandstone are the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, the theatre and the Church of Our Lady in Antwerp, the Catholic church in Århus, the Martini Church’s tower in Groningen (completed in 1482) and the City Hall in Münster.

Supposedly, the pedestal on which stands New York’s Statue of Liberty is even made out of Bentheim sandstone, but other German towns, among them Obernkirchen, claim that they furnished the stone for that undertaking.

Coat of arms

The town of Bad Bentheim was granted its arms in 1661 by Count Ernst Wilhelm of Bentheim and Steinfurt (1643–1693). The coat of arms shows a golden monogram consisting of the letters E and G on a red background, surrounded by nineteen likewise golden balls. The letters stand for “Ernestus Guilelmus”, the Count’s name in Latin.

The golden balls stem from the district’s arms, although it is unclear what they mean there. This same charge is also seen in several other coats of arms from Bentheim district, among them those borne by Nordhorn, Neuenhaus, De Wijk and Geldermalsen.

In the early 19th century, the bearing of these arms was banned. Later, in the late 19th century, the arms consisted simply of 18 golden balls on a red background, without the monogram. In 1955, the town was granted approval by the Lower Saxony ministry of the interior to bear once again the arms originally bestowed upon the town by Count Ernst Wilhelm in the 17th century.

Religion

As with the old county, the town of Bad Bentheim has mostly been shaped by Evangelical belief, held by 52.6% of the townsfolk (30 June 2006), of whom 36.7% are Evangelical Reformed and 15.9% Evangelical Lutheran. A further 21.5% are followers of the Roman Catholic faith. The other 25.9% either hold no religious beliefs or follow other faiths.

Culture and sightseeing

Sightseeing

The town’s most prominent emblem, the castle – Burg Bentheim – stands in the town’s centre where it simply cannot be overlooked. The popular tourist site can be visited nowadays as a museum, with or without a guide. The high keep, known as the Pulverturm, or “Powder Tower”, affords visitors a good view over Bad Bentheim.

The Bad Bentheim Sandstone Museum (Bad Bentheimer Sandsteinmuseum) is a museum housed in an historic Bentheim farmer’s townhouse (the farmer in this case was an Ackerbürger, who lived in town and had a townsman’s rights, unlike many farmers ) with additions, which shows the history of Bentheim sandstone (quarrying and use, trade and work) and the stone’s geology. Exhibits like, for instance, Romanesque baptismal fonts from the 12th and 13th centuries or fossils, to mention the two permanent exhibits, may be seen here.

Another museum is the Museum for Radio and Broadcasting History (Museum für Radio- und Funkgeschichte) in the Haus des Gastes (“The Guest’s House”) right beneath the castle on Schlossstraße, which runs alongside it. In the same building is also found the tourist information centre.

The Franzosenschlucht (“Frenchman’s Gorge”) is found right next to the open-air theatre, the so-called Bentheimer Freilichtbühne (open-air stage). The Bad Bentheim open-air plays have an unusual venue set in three disused quarries, thereby offering an extraordinary natural backdrop. In summer plays are staged here. Often special events are held here such as nighttime performances.

The Haus Westerhoff is said to be one of the town’s loveliest farmer’s townhouses (Ackerbürgerhäuser), with its beginnings in 1656. Between 1989 and 1991, it was professionally restored. Today, artists and craftsmen display their works there.

Also worth seeing is the Evangelical Reformed church with its Calvinistic interior décor, within which, among others, Count Arnold II zu Bentheim-Tecklenburg lies buried. It was built in 1696 on the site of the former early Gothic church from 1321, of which only bits are now maintained, such as a Gothic room and the Count’s crypt that lies thereunder. Today it is a plain Baroque church in the middle of which stands an old stone pulpit. In the graveyard around the church are found impressive, centuries-old gravestones of importance to art history.

The Roman Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist (Kirche St. Johannes Baptist) with its Baroque interior lies west of the Schlosspark and comes from the time of the Counterreformation. At Count Ernst Wilhelm’s behest, it was built in 1670 from Bentheim sandstone.

Outside, the building is rather plain, but inside there are stately, early Baroque altars and remains of the original glazing in the windows in the north wall.

Other sightseeing highlights include:

  • evangelisch-altreformierte Kirche (church, 1896)
  • Martin-Luther-Kirche (1912)
  • Bardel Franciscan Monastery
  • Naturökologisch - Niederländisches Ferienreservat Gut Langen (holiday reserve)
  • Bentheimer Wald (forest)
  • Bentheimer Berge (mountains)

Culture

A popular activity in the town is the Nachtwächterrundgänge, or Night Watchman’s Walks. These take place Monday, Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 9 o’clock. The meeting point is the lower castle gate at the Burg Bentheim. These walking tours are staged by the town travel office and are free. On these nighttime tours through Bad Bentheim visitors are treated to stories and legends about the town and the castle as well as historical data and facts, making for an interesting insight into the town’s history.

The so-called Weggen wegbringen is an old tradition still practised in Bad Bentheim and the old county. The Weggen is a metre-long loaf of raisin bread brought by friends and neighbours after a child’s birth to the family to celebrate the newborn’s future. The Weggen is borne for this endeavour on a ladder.

Another cultural “hallmark”, in this case culinary, is the Bentheimer Moppen. These are rather hard, long-keeping biscuits baked with a great deal of caraway, and are eaten in Bad Bentheim and Schüttorf, as well as the neighbouring areas, mainly around Christmastime. They are supposed to be an especial treat if dipped beforehand in coffee. The caraway gives them a flavour that sets them very much apart from the usual Christmastime treats.

Infrastructure and economy

Transport

Air transport

Bad Bentheim is roughly one hour’s drive from Münster/Osnabrück International Airport (FMO) in Greven. A regional airport is found in Klausheide near Nordhorn, about 30 minutes’ drive away.

Rail transport

Bad Bentheim railway station lies on the Wiehengebirgs-Bahn, which begins in Bad Bentheim, although connecting tracks continue west into the Netherlands. The local train on this line is the RB 61 (Bad Bentheim–Rheine–Osnabrück–HerfordBielefeld).

As for long-distance rail travel, Bad Bentheim is served by the IC-77 (AmsterdamOsnabrückHanoverBerlinAngermündeSzczecin).

There has been recent talk of connecting Oldenzaal and Bad Bentheim with a trainservice. Full details are not yet known, but both cities show great interest in this connection.

Roads

The town lies on Bundesstraße 403 and is furthermore connected to the long-distance road network through the Autobahnen A 30 (Bad OeynhausenOsnabrückHengelo) and A 31 (EmdenOberhausen).

Economy

Bad Bentheim has small and medium-sized businesses for tourism typical of smaller spa towns: cafés, hotels and guesthouses. The constituent community of Gildehaus has developed itself into a centre for the German-Dutch ambulance trade.

The town’s biggest employers are:

  • The Eylarduswerk in Gildehaus; an Evangelical Deaconry institution for helping youth; roughly 210 employees
  • Fachklinik Bad Bentheim (dermatology, psoriasis, rheumatology, orthopaedics); roughly 270 employees
  • Site and offices of the oil and gas companies Deilmann, KCA Deutag, Interfels; worldwide roughly 9.500 employees

Agriculture

Bad Bentheim or the surrounding “county” is known for two breeds of domestic livestock, namely the Bentheim sheep and the Bentheim Black Pied pig.

Leisure

Schlosspark

A popular meeting place in town for walking is the so-called Schlosspark beneath the castle. This is a geometrical 12-ha parkland laid out going by old records in the style of princely gardens of the 18th century. In a big lake at the park’s north end are found ducks that are often fed by visitors. Other animals, too, such as wild rabbits, may be spotted from time to time in the park’s bushes.

In summer a water fountain runs in the Schlosspark, which shoots up into the air from a flat, sandstone basin. In winter, the water is pumped out and the fountain does not run. This fountain is surrounded by symmetrically laid-out rosebeds, themselves enclosed by hedges. In winter, the towsfolk, especially the younger ones, come to the park to run their sleds down the steep slopes in the south part of the park, right beneath the castle. In late summer (on the last Saturday in August), the Bad Bentheim flea market is held. Even by early morning, traders and private dealers are on their way to market so that they can be sure of getting a good place.

Since 2006, there has been a high rope course in the southwestern part of the park, not far from the children’s playground.

On the great carpark in the western part of the park, the summer and autumn kermises, whose midway has games, rides and other attractions, are held every year.

The same carpark, near which also stands the Bad Bentheim Sandstone Museum, is free the year round for cars and caravans when special events are not being held. These include the aforesaid kermises and the flea market, as well as the town shooting festival, which is only held every other year.

Famous people

Honorary citizens

After the Second World War, the town of Bad Bentheim sought to improve once again the noticeably cooler relations with its neighbours to the west, that is to say, the Dutch. Prof. Dr. Hendricus Prakke, since 1966 an honorary citizen of Bentheim, strongly supported this quest. Prakke, who died in 1992, was a citizen of the Dutch town of Assen, with which Bad Bentheim has been intensively cultivating a partnership since 1959.

Also Herr Dr. h. c. Hans-Carl Deilmann was awarded the town’s honours when his business, Deilmann AG (now KCA Deutag), employing more than 8,000 in the 1970s, took a leading part in the economic upswing in Bentheim and the old county. To honour Deilmann, Deilmannstraße in Bad Bentheim was named after him.

Celebrities

Further reading

  • Hubert Titz (publisher): Bad Bentheim - Aspekte einer Stadtgeschichte. Schriftenreihe der Volkshochschule des Landkreises Grafschaft Bentheim Bd. 21/Schriftenreihe des Heimatvereins Grafschaft Bentheim Bd. 138, Bad Bentheim 1996.
  • Herbert Wagner: Die Gestapo war nicht allein… Politische Sozialkontrolle und Staatsterror im deutsch-niederländischen Grenzgebiet 1929-1945. (Gestapo und Grenzpolizeikommissariat Bentheim), LIT-Verlag, Münster 2004.

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