The Wachtman

…keeps an eye on Ystad

Every night of the year, a long, muffled signal hangs in the air over central Ystad. With a single note every fifteen minutes, blown to each of the four cardinal points, the Watchman in St:a Maria church declares ‘All’s well’, a living tradition that dates back many hundreds of years.

No one knows how old this tradition is, although we know a Watchman worked here in the 17th century when the current tower was built. Originally the Watchman’s job was to warn of unwelcome visitors by land or sea or report fires in the town.

The watchman at work


The watchman at work

Today the Watchman is a sign that Ystad cares and watches over its citizens and guests. Although he now telephones the emergency services if anything untoward happens.

There are those who believe that the horn is mechanical and that the Watchman is a myth. It is not until they have stood at the base of the tower and seen the Watchman’s copper horn protruding from the small window under the face of the clock, that their doubts are quelled. The Watchman blows his horn from 21.15 to 01.00 every night.

We are quite certain that St. Maria church was built in the 13th century and is Ystad’s oldest building. The church also owns a unique collection of silver, most of which was made by Ystad silversmiths.

St:a Maria church has been refurbished and rebuilt a number of times. The most extensive rebuilding took place in the 19th century when its appearance was radically changed.

In 1923, when Sam Stadener was the vicar, it was decided to try to recreate the original appearance of the church; the work took two years. Was the renovation successful? We do not know – there are no pictures for comparison.

Sam Stadener was a charismatic man who went on to become Bishop of Strängnäs, an ecclesiastical minister and Bishop of Växjö.

St. Mariy church is not the only church in the town, the others are St Petri at the abbey and St Nicolai – the Catholic church is between Stickgatan and Åfåran.

Publicerad 2011-11-09, Uppdaterad 2020-11-04