Lorsch Abbey

2016-04-30T23:07:54+00:0023 October 2015|Germany, UNESCO World Heritage|

Willkommen! Schön daß du wieder da bist!

Back in Germany, I’ve now travelled from 21st century Frankfurt, to 12th century Maulbronn, then 11th century Speyer, and now 8th century Lorsch.

The last stretch, though 300 years through history, takes a mere 45 minutes on the Autobahn. World Heritage sites are prolific and close in south-western Germany.

Lorsch Abbey

In the car park, I spot a woman on a bicycle. That’s Andrea Klitsche, welcoming me to Lorsch Abbey. I’m eager to go out to the site as soon as possible, but Andrea advises a walk through the visitor centre first. Explanations are necessary.

And she’s right. Not many buildings remain, so Lorsch Abbey is a site that asks a lot of your imagination. Walking around, it’s at first difficult to picture this as one of the most famous monasteries of its time.

So what happened?

Remember Charlemagne? He was the first leader of the Holy Roman Empire. Charlemagne and his successors, the Carolingians, regarded themselves as heirs of the Roman Empire. And as they were recognised by the Pope they had divine rights as well.

In 764, Count Cancor and his mother, Williswinth, founded Lorsch Abbey. It was a proprietary abbey, meaning that it was built on private grounds by a feudal lord, who also appointed the religious personnel. Cancor’s nephew, Chrodegang, became the first abbot here at Lorsch.

Cancor, Williswinth, Chrodegang… they had such wonderfully curious names in the Early Middle Ages, didn’t they?

Now, how do we draw the crowds, Chrodegang must have thought. Why, relics, of course. Preferably those of a martyr. He secured the body of Saint Nazarius from Rome, and Lorsch soon became a place of miracles. A bit like Lourdes or Fatima or Medjugorje is today.

Lorsch was very popular with pilgrims. For centuries, the monastery prospered. Then – through time – fires, politics and wars happened. The abbey lost its privileges and gradually its standing.

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During the Thirty Years’ War, many of the buildings were torn down, and late in the 1600s, French soldiers burned down even more. But not everything.

Pictured above is the Königshalle, the King’s Hall. This intriguing 9th century building was added by King Ludwig the German. Try to imagine it without the metal fence. It’s a gorgeous building. And all that is left of this once magnificent monastery that was once a power centre.

Gorgeous, yes – but what’s intriguing about it, you ask? Simply that nobody knows what it was for. How was it used? Who used it? Theories abound, but no one really knows, says Andrea. All we know with a relatively high degree of certainty, is that it was a profane building. Worldly. Not religious.

So what is the function of a secular building in the middle of such holy surroundings? Did King Ludwig use it himself? If so, for what? As a court, perhaps? Though that would be highly unusual in a monastery.  At least a court of this world.

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Inside the Köningshalle

Continuing our walk around the grounds, I try to imagine the church, Altenmünster Abbey. Landscape planners have helped by creating the base outline, as you can see below. Merovingian graves are thought to be underneath here.

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Wandering the grounds, we pass by a herb garden, based on the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia, a UNESCO World Heritage document. There are also farm houses, showing life in the Middle Ages.

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Lorsch Abbey practicals

  • Lorsch Abbey is a great family outing. School classes come by, workshops are organised, and festivals and various celebrations take place throughout the year.
  • You’re free to wander around as you like, though I recommenend a guided tour.
  • There are no hotels in Lorsch, but small B&Bs and guest houses.
  • Lorsch Abbey is about 35 minutes by car from Frankfurt airport, or a 10-minute walk from Lorsch railway station.

From Lorsch, we’ll travel even further back in time. So far back, in fact, these 1300 years will seem like 10 minutes ago. Watch this space.

 

unesco logo

The Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here are other heritage sites I’ve visited around the world.

Disclosure: On this journey through German history, I was a guest of UNESCO Germany and the German National Tourist Organisation. Of course, anything I write is entirely up to me. Goes without saying, really.

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20 Comments

  1. Marcia 25 October 2015 at 1719 - Reply

    But I guess we can create all kinds of stories around the King’s Hall. I bet he used to have secret meetings here or maybe this was where he came to get away from… whatever. The interior invokes a feeling of reverence, like it could have been a place of worship. I love the patchwork-looking floor and mosaic tiles on the outside. Lovely find, Sophie!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 November 2015 at 2202 - Reply

      I really liked the interior, too. Can easily imagine say, intimate little parties there.

  2. Rachel Heller 29 October 2015 at 1802 - Reply

    That looks fascinating … perhaps a banquet hall, lending the king legitimacy because it was in a monastery? Somehow the farmhouses in your last picture lose their romance because of the satellite dish! Oh well.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 November 2015 at 2203 - Reply

      Haha, yes, modern times do tend to impose on the romance of yore.

  3. budget jan 30 October 2015 at 0813 - Reply

    I like that no-one knows for sure the use of the building. Nothing like a bit of mystery in life!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 November 2015 at 2203 - Reply

      It certainly adds to the charm.

  4. Amila @ Leisure and Me 30 October 2015 at 0819 - Reply

    I really like the architecture of these buildings.Thanks for sharing the historical data also in this post.Interesting post…..

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 November 2015 at 2205 - Reply

      Thanks 🙂

  5. Jackie Smith 31 October 2015 at 0544 - Reply

    I continue to be amazed at how close things are in Europe – your comment about the autobahn re-enforced that again~ love this time travel into history that you provided!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 November 2015 at 2206 - Reply

      Very close. An hour this way or that and you might be in a different country.

  6. Shobha 31 October 2015 at 1352 - Reply

    Cool! The King’s Hall is a beautiful building so it must have been something special even if no one knows what it was used for.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 November 2015 at 2206 - Reply

      Beautiful and mysterious. Can’t beat that.

  7. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} 31 October 2015 at 1749 - Reply

    What a fascinating history. Too bad more of the structures are no longer standing. That King’s Hall is indeed magnificent. It seems like it would be a good writing prompt after a school field trip. Write a story with Kings Hall as the setting.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 November 2015 at 2208 - Reply

      Ooh yes, good idea. I’d like to write that story myself.

  8. Nancie 1 November 2015 at 0008 - Reply

    Maybe this is where he housed his mistress! Then again, probably not! 🙂 Love the history, and perfect for a day trip. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 November 2015 at 2210 - Reply

      🙂

  9. Cathy Sweeney 1 November 2015 at 0456 - Reply

    I’m definitely watching this space for more of your time travels. You’ve got me intrigued. Lorsch Abbey is super interesting and I appreciate all of the historical background. I want to visit as many UNESCO sites as I can and it appears that Germany has so many wonderful ones.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 19 November 2015 at 2210 - Reply

      About 40 WHS in Germany alone.

  10. Lisa 20 September 2016 at 2249 - Reply

    Is there any way to see gravesites there? Or tombs? I have many old old relatives there but want to see their spots and see no mention of it on anything I read…

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 September 2016 at 2054 - Reply

      Hi Lisa, I didn’t see any grave sites or tombs, I’m afraid (apart from the possibility of the ancient Merovingian ones).

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