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A to Z Challenge: K is for Klaus Störtebeker, Hamburg's Pirate

By Monday, April 13, 2015 ,

This post originally appeared as part of the A to Z Challenge, and was called 'K is for Klaus Störtebeker, Hamburg's Pirate'.

Hamburg loves it's harbor. Despite not being particularly close to a sea, the Elbe is a large enough water way to make Hamburg a port city, where a popular past time is watching large cruise ships make their way in and out of the harbour.

But what every port city needs is a good pirate story.

Klaus Störtebeker was born around 1360, and much of what we know of him is legend. His name even, is a nom de guerre or nickname referring to his ability to down a 4l mug (that's nearly a gallon!) of beer in one gulp.

He had gained notoriety as part of the Vitalienbrüder, (Victual Brothers) privateers in the war between Denmark and Sweden. They fought against the Danish blockage to provide food and supplies to Stockholm. After the war, as seems to be the way with privateers, they kept attacking merchant ships, and renamed their company the "Likedeelers" dealing out like portions of their loot amongst themselves. Atlast Obscura puts their motto as "God's friends and the whole world's enemies".

He met his end at the hands of the Hamburgian Fleet, possibly with the help of a rudder disabled by a treacherous crew member, in 1401. Once captured, he first promised the senate a gold chain that would wrap around the entire city for his freedom. When that was refused, he requested the freedom of as many of his 73 companions as his decapitated corpse could walk past once he was executed. This request was granted and legend has it his corpse was able to pass eleven before the executioner stuck out his food and tripped him. The senate didn't keep their promise, and executed the 11 anyway, along with the executioner: when asked if he was tired from all the beheading, he replied that he had enough energy to execute the whole senate if he had to. They did not find his joke very funny.

The legends continue, and have it that gold, silver and bronze cores were found in the masts of his ship, and were melted down to create the top of the spire of St Catherine's, one of the five Hauptkirchen (main churches) in Hamburg.

Since his death, Störtebeker has lent his name to a brewery and become the inspiration for FC St Pauli's skull and cross bones logo

(image via spox.com © getty).
In 1878 a skull attributed to him was unearthed and put on display in the Hamburg Museum. In 2010, the skull was stolen, but soon returned by the Police. How they found it, where it was and who it was with has never been made public.

Photo via Atlas Obscura, link is listed below
There's even a children's musical about him:

Image via hamburg.de

Atlas Obscura:IMPALED SKULL OF KLAUS STORTEBEKER Executed in 1401, Exhumed in 1878, Stolen in 2010

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