UNESCO World Heritage Site #215: Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch

UNESCO World Heritage Site #215: Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch
UNESCO World Heritage Site #215: Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch

From the World Heritage inscription:

The religious complex represented by the former Lorsch Abbey with its 1,200-year-old gatehouse, which is unique and in excellent condition, comprises a rare architectural document of the Carolingian era with impressively preserved sculpture and painting of that period. It gives architectural evidence of the awakening of the West to the spirit of the early and high Middle Ages under the first king and emperor, Charlemagne.

In the small town of Lorsch, between Worms and Darmstadt, is the renowned Torhalle, one of the rare Carolingian buildings that has retained its original appearance. It is a reminder of the past grandeur of an abbey founded around 760-64. The first Abbot was the Bishop of Metz, Chrodegang (died 766). Sometime before 764 he brought monks from Gorze to live there and in 765 he donated the relics of St Nazarius, which he had acquired in Rome.

In 767, Thurincbert, one of the founder’s brothers, donated new land in sand dunes safe from floods about 500 m from the original site. The monastery was placed under the Emperor’s protection in 772. In 774, with Charlemagne in attendance, the Archbishop of Mainz consecrated the new church, dedicated to Saints Peter, Paul and Nazarius.

The Codex Laureshamensis, a chronicle of the abbey, lists the improvements made by three of the most important abbots, Helmerich, Richbod and Adelog, between 778 and 837. The monastery’s zenith was probably in 876 when, on the death of Louis II the German (876) it became the burial place for the Carolingian kings of Germany. To be a worthy resting place for the remains of his father, Louis III the Young (876-82) had a crypt built, an ecclesia varia, where he was also buried, as were his son Hugo and Cunegonde, wife of Conrad I (the Duke of Franconia elected King of Germany at the death of the last of the German Carolingians, Louis IV the Child).

Sometimes you get lucky when visiting world heritage sites and sometimes you don’t. Lorsch was not one of my better visits.

For starters, Lorsch is one of the smallest world heritage sites I’ve ever visited. The site consists of 2 small structures and the foundation stones of a third. That’s it.

Those two structures were both under serious renovation when I arrived (see photo). I couldn’t enter either building and they were both covered with scaffolding so I couldn’t even take a clean photo. They are also redoing all the landscaping around the buildings.

Finally, I showed up on a Monday, the one day of the week when their museum was closed.

The Abbey of Lorsch is very historic and probably worth a short visit if you are traveling south of Frankfurt. However, it wont be worth visiting until 2014 when they have completed their work.

I’m going to create a new list of world heritage sites I intend to revisit and Lorsch is going to be at the top of my list.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.