Vilseck’s Vogelturm and the Zollhaus

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – Vilseck used to be a border town in the bishop’s district, and charged toll fees for people passing the city of Vilseck in a time when the night watchman announced the hour several times throughout the night and day. 


Vilseck’s rich history dates back to 930 A.D. when the first parts of the castle were built. The Vogelturm tower was built much later, in 1466, still 26 years before Christopher Columbus discovered America.


The landmark of Vilseck is the Vogelturm tower, which was the home of the night watchman back in medieval times. From his apartment, he was able to see fires or enemies quickly. His job was to announce these emergencies from up there.  He also walked through the city to announce every full hour as well as the start and end of a working day.


The Bamberg crest still can be seen at the Vilseck tower, as well as on the remains of the drawbridge going over the former moat between the tower and the Zollhaus.  The statue of the holy person for bridges, Saint Nepomuk, also still reminds passers-by of the former drawbridge.


In the shadow of Vilseck’s tower is a small and unique building called the Zollhaus, or “tax house.” This used to be the place where people passing the diocese were charged the toll. The diocese is the jurisdiction of the bishop.


The diocese of Bamberg included Vilseck as well as the former Grafenwoehr Training Area, which used to be settled during that time period.


The diocese Eichstaett was right next to it. While Vilseck was part of the diocese Bamberg, Schlicht, which is now part of Vilseck, belonged to the diocese Eichstaett. 


When the Thirty Years’ War ended, Vilseck and Schlicht used to have two different currencies. Vilseck used the Franconian currency, while people from Schlicht paid with Bavarian money.


At the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, Bavaria was close with France. Napoleon tried to strengthen the area to be more powerful against Austria. He made Franconia, including the diocese Bamberg, a part of Bavaria. 


The Vogelturm now hosts the first Tuermermuseum, Germanys’ first watchtower museum.


The city of Vilseck coordinates historic night watchman tours in English. Please call the Vilseck Tourist Information office at 09662-99-16, or email them at