Characteristics of the Jura House

Jura houses are only to be found in the middle of Bavaria in the Altmühl region

around the Altmühl river. The dwelling houses and the barns typically have low-pitched roofs covered in limestone slabs. The exterior walls consist of ashlared stone or of half-timbering. The limestone slabs and the quarried stones come from quarries in the neighbourhood and the other building materials were sourced locally too.


There has been this kind of houses since the twelfth century and some have survived from the late middle ages. They replaced the thatched houses of heretofore.

Tiled roofs had long been reserved for important buildings such as churches. After 1945 many of the houses disappeared because they were no longer deemed to be “modern”.

Features of the Construction

Whereas until 1800 many Jura houses had half-timbered exterior walls made of undressed stone or wattle and daub, from the nineteenth century onwards the construction was always of stone. Half-timbering was exclusively used for interior walls. Jura houses often had an almost square ground plan with a central narrow hallway off which the rooms led. This same pattern can also be seen in the barns. Most houses included stables, in the smaller they were integrated into the main plan and in the larger they were built up against the house.

The kitchen had an open fireplace and from this the neighbouring room was heated by means of a tiled stove. The dining table stood in a corner of the room and was lit by windows on two sides. The walls were often decorated with brightly-coloured stencilled patterns. The ceilings were constructed from beams. The spaces between were filled with boards wrapped in clay and straw. The front elevation is characterised by a slight projection of the roof and by fairly small, square windows. It is quite without any ornamentation, balconies or bay windows, based on a graceful, square, Mediterranean shape.

The pitch of the roof, because it was made of at least five layers of limestone, held together only by their own weight, is between 27 and 30 degrees. These layers were placed on top of spruce trunks, split in halves, as a base construction. A stone roof weighs at least 250 kg per square metre, and in the case of the older roofs, which are continually being repaired, up to a metric tonne.

And that requires strong roof timbers. In the nineteenth century a specific type or roofing tile was developed. These tiles were clipped from limestone slabs. As they were put on only in two layers their insulation effect was poor, so they were primarily used on barns. Jura houses and barns belong to the few remaining examples of vernacular architecture in Bavaria and still exist as ensembles. Every single building ought to be preserved.

Eva Martiny, Jurahausverein

Translation Simon Wilkinson

Aus: Klaus Staffel: Das Jurahaus – ein Bild von einem Haus, Pustet Verlag

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