Famous Görlitzer: Bartholomäus Scultetus

There are some names that come up again and again if you are on a tour of Görlitz or reading more about the history of the city. One of those names is Bartholomäus Scultetus.

Bartholomäus Scultetus was born Barthel Schulze in Görlitz in the year 1540 (and for simplicity’s sake I will refer to him from now on by his birth name). He came from a family of farmers and was born on the Rabenberg, a hill on the east side of the Neisse river in what is now Zgorzelec.

View from Rabensberg in Zgorzelec

Barthel had an older brother named Zacharias Scultetus. Zacharias was an astronomer and mathematician. He painstakingly designed the sun dials on the façade of the Ratsapotheke (town council pharmacy) on the Untermarkt. On the left we have what’s called the Solarium. Many different ways of counting hours have been used over the centuries, this sundial uses three different ways. Typically we count 12 hours, beginning at midnight and ending at noon. This sundial also displays the Italian clock, which counts 24 hours beginning at sunset, and the Babylonian clock, with 24 hours beginning at sunrise. On the left is a sundial that’s called “Arachne” or spider. It displays the altitude, angle and location of the sun over the year. The lines of both sundials are slightly skewed. This is because the house doesn’t sit perfectly aligned east to west, but is off by six degrees and Zacharias took this into account.


Zacharias likely had a very big influence on his little brother, because Barthel soon followed in his brother’s footsteps by becoming interested in the same fields and by similarly latinizing his name – a practice common for the time that was often done to present a more impressive image or to produce a name that was internationally consistent. It indicated that the person was, or wished to be, internationally-known.

Barthel studied at the Universities of Wittenberg and Leipzig where he became a master in philosophy and began to lecture. In 1584 he returned to Görlitz and began teaching at the Augustum Gymnasium.

Barthel was a city councilor beginning in 1578 as well as city treasurer and later a city judge. He was elected mayor six times in his career, the first time in 1592.  As mayor and city councilor, he often represented the city in meetings of the Six-City Lusatian league. Several records and books that he kept, including diaries, are still in the city archives and provide us with a wealth of detailed information about this time in history.

Barthel was also one of the most important cartographers in central Germany in the 16th century. In 1568 he created a map of Meissen and the first map of the region Upper Lusatia in 1593.

Clocks on the old town hall

His work in the city council is not the only mark he left on the town hall – he also designed the lower clock on the tower. He had many interests, but one of his biggest was in precise time-keeping. He was influential in the adoption of the new Gregorian calendar in this region, which is the calendar that we use today.

Barthel lived with his family on Peterstraße 4 until his death. Today this location is home to a shop and a cafe with a lovely inner courtyard. Inside his home he had a brewery, a privilege that most wealthy and influential citizens of Görlitz had at the time.

Plaque inside Peterstraße 4

Barthel was a highly respected man and internationally known for his work in astronomy and cartography. He was personally-acquainted with the famous astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, who visited him at his home on Peterstraße 4. Barthel died in Görlitz in 1614 and was buried in the Nikolafriedhof, however his epitaph was lost in the town fire of 1717.

Photo from Wikipedia