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The Night Watchmans tradition in Ribe

Photo: VisitRibeEsbjerg

During nighttime the Night Watchman was responsible for keeping peace and order, making sure that the streetlights were on, and to raise alarm in case of fire and flodding.

Moreover, the Night Watchman marked the strike of the hour by singing in the streets. He sang to reassure the citizens that he was keeping watch, but also because very few people had a watch at that time. The singing was an important part of the role as a Night Watchman, he was perceived as a kind of professional street singer. The job as a Night Watchman was hard, especially in winter, when the shift was very long - whole 9 hours. The salary was low and often had to be supplemented with daytime work.

The Night Watchman scheme has existed since the 14th century, and the last "real" Night Watchmen in Ribe ceased their work in 1902. However, it did not take long before the Board of Ribe Tourist Association decided to let the Night Watchman tradition revive again as part of the continued tourism effort. Since 1935, with the exception of World War ll, the Night Watchman has thus been a permanent offer to the tourists. Today the Night Watchman walks his rounds in the streets of Ribe to the pleasure of the many tourists and locals.

The Morning Star - a terrifying weapon
Thinking back in time to Ribe in the Reformation period, when the streets were narrow and pitch-dark, and you could easily meet a footpad (a mugger), one understands the need for a robust Night Watchman, so that good and honest people could get home safely.

Today's baton would probably not have been very useful, but the morning star, on the other hand, was very effective. A real medieval weapon - a wooden spiked club with a long spike extending straight from its top. It became the Night Watchman’s special weapon and is a permanet part of his outfit.

Visit The Town Hall Collection at the Old Town Hall, where you, among other things, can see a few morning stars.