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St Martin’s Square is one of the most beautiful squares in the city. It came through the devastation of the Second World War largely unscathed. What makes the square so charming are the handsome 18th and 19th-century houses, in conjunction with the venerable array of trees and the sparkling patter of the fountain. It was here, at the entrance to the old part of the city, that the building known as the Kaufhaus once stood, where the city’s stocks of grain and other supplies were kept.
Entering the square today, on the northern flank you see a house with a great archway bearing the coat of arms of the local Rettig family. The lower part of this features a radish (which is what the word Rettich means in English), and the upper part a stag’s head, for the gentleman in question was a forester. The building to its left was once the site of the Hotel “Zum Donnersberg.” A number of famous figures found accommodation there – such as the French poet Victor Hugo and King Ludwig I of Bavaria. Napoleon had at least breakfast in the hotel, while his horses were being changed. The house to the right of the archway is the Alte Stadthaus, until 1968 the City Hall of Kaiserslautern. Today it houses the Emmerich Smola Music School and the Music Academy.
On the opposite side of the square is St Martin’s Church, which today serves as a Catholic parish church. It was built in the early 14th century for the Franciscan Monastery established in Kaiserslautern by King Rudolf of Habsburg. At the entrance to the church is a statue of John of Nepomuk, the patron saint of bridges. This originally stood on a footbridge over the Lauter, but the river now flows through subterranean channels beneath the city.