The Salinenpark

The Saline Gottesgabe salt works, situated in the north-west of Rheine, a town on the River Ems, is a unique feature in the Münsterland region. Together with the neighbouring Naturzoo and the heritage and cultural centre Kloster Bentlage with its unique cultural landscape, the salt works with its thorn house and brine baths forms a popular tourist attraction for young and old. Saline Gottesgabe has a history going back almost 1000 years, but its heyday was in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today the preserved buildings from this period are fascinating industrial cultural monuments. The Salinenpark was redesigned as part of the REGIONALE 2004 programme; tree plantations with lime trees cut in box shapes now function as elements of garden architecture and accentuate the missing midsection of the thorn house. The old monastery complex of Kloster Bentlage forms the cultural centre point of Bentlage, and is an important element in the Culture Trail that presents the history and architecture of the monastery and explains the changes over the centuries.

The old garden and park area of the salt works and the brine baths have been reshaped several times over the years. Probably as early as the 18th century a ‘dance lime tree’ was planted next to the residential house of the salt works inspector. It used to be the custom with such lime trees to place matched wooden planks on the regular, horizontally cut branches of the tree, which then served as a dance floor for festive events. This old lime tree is now a rare natural monument.

In the following period the gardens of the brine baths became the town’s leading attraction and formed the motif for numerous picture postcards that were sent all over the world. When the zoo was opened in 1939, the grounds of the thorn house were included in the configuration of the spa park.

In 1946 the River Ems flooded and many buildings and the park suffered serious damage. In the 1970s the central section of the spa park was built over when the former kurhaus was given a southern extension as part of the Gertrudenstift episcopal centre. In recent decades the municipal park authority has reconfigured the remaining grounds of the salt works and the brine baths. The central design concept here was the axis of the missing central section of the thorn house, emphasized by flower beds with natural stone walls, rose colonies and shrubberies as well as prune yew trees.

The fundamental new design of the Salinenpark, which took place as part of the REGIONALE 2004 programme, significantly increased the attractiveness of this ensemble, an import feature in Rheine. As a modern leisure and recreation space, the new Salinenpark is intended to fulfil a broad range of functions.

The Salinenpark has been included in the European Garden Heritage Network as a contemporary European garden.