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A Medieval World Event: Constance celebrates a landmark anniversary

A Medieval World Event: Constance celebrates a landmark anniversary

The 600th anniversary of the Council of Constance: from 2014 to 2018, Constance is commemorating a time when the town was the centre of the western world.

There are so many reasons to visit Constance: the idyllic location on Europe's third-largest lake, the stunning views of the Swiss Alps, the historical old quarter, the cosmopolitan atmosphere and the exquisite Flower Island of Mainau, to name but a few. From now until 2018, there is yet another reason to visit, as the town is celebrating the 600th anniversary of the Council of Constance.

In 1414, Constance became the focus of the Christian world for four years. There, away from the centres of ecclesiastical power, a new Pope had to be found. King Sigismund convened the Council of Constance, and the largest religious congress of the Middle Ages got under way.

Today, you will encounter reminders of this dramatic period in the town's history at every turn. The impressive council building, for example, was the site of the papal election of 1417 – the only due and proper papal election ever to have been held north of the Alps.

Just a few steps away is Niederburg, the oldest part of town and once home to craftsmen and merchants. Today, quaint wine taverns, fashion boutiques, artist studios, quirky craft shops and cafés have taken up residence in these crooked, medieval buildings, retaining all the charm of this delightful quarter.

The university town of Constance is the largest town on the lake and also the only German town on its southern shore. The medieval old quarter lies on the border with Switzerland, on Lake Constance and on the Rhine, at the point where the river exits the lake. Constance is not far from UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the nearby Island of Reichenau whose abbey was an important religious centre in the Middle Ages and the Swiss town of St. Gallen, home to an exquisite monastic library, thought to be the most beautiful library in the world. The remains of prehistoric pile dwellings on Lake Constance were also granted World Heritage status a few years ago.

The town is an ideal base for trips on the water. A ferry operates between Constance and Meersburg. On a fast catamaran from Constance, you can be at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen in 45 minutes. Cruise boats run from Constance to almost every destination on the lake. Probably the most popular excursion on Lake Constance is the Flower Island of Mainau which can be visited by boat, by bike or on foot. Thanks to the lake's mild climate, palm trees, giant redwoods, lemon trees and orange trees all thrive in the extensive palace park on Mainau.