The Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) is a beautiful half-timbered building with a clock tower in the center of town across the platz from the King’s Hall. Today it is the Tourist Information Office on the ground level so visitors are able to go inside of the building. On the day we were there, the lady at the TI office was ever so helpful, providing us answers to our many question. Inside the office was full of interesting things to look at, including a model of the King’s Hall (which was good for us since the building was wrapped in scaffolding).
The Tourist Information Office is open Monday-Saturday, 1000-1800, and Sunday from 1100-1800.
I visited the Lorsch Museum on my second trip to Lorsch with VTer Trekki, who was so helpful with her knowledge of local history and legends and shared many facts with me about what we were looking at. We did not have time to see the entire museum, so we focused on the first floor which consisted of geological history of the area and the tobacco museum.
The geological part of the museum took us on tour of the history of the land and had some interactive displays that helped us understand what we were looking at. Lorsch through the years and the finds that have been discovered through excavations were explained.
The area of Lorsch has been important in the tobacco industry of Germany and the tobacco museum was a fascinating look at this agricultural product. The displays ranged from drying tobacco and the equipment to crush it, to boxes and papers used to wrap cigars. There were displays of typical rooms in houses of the time and a model of a tobacco barn. Most of the signs were in German, but Trekki was so helpful and patiently explained what I was seeing, as well as sharing some of her childhood memories along the way.
Admission was €3 and they had a small but interesting bookshop at the desk. I would like to return to the museum again to visit the upstairs.
The Lorsch Abbey was founded during the Carolingian period in 764 as a Benedictine abbey. A year later it obtained a relic of Saint Nazarius, which made Lorsch a popular pilgrimage site bringing revenue to the abbey as pilgrims made donations during their visits. The arrival of the relics was cause for a great celebration, so much so that Charlemagne himself visited the abbey for the event.
Lorsch Abbey is recorded in many manuscripts, including the famous Codex Aureus of Lorsch. This is a result of the abbey having a library and scriptorium full of both Christian and secular texts. As a result of the relic, the cultural activity of the scriptorium, and favor of popes and emperors, the abbey became very wealthy and was made into its own principality, reporting directly to the emperor rather than the local governing body. Two kings are buried at the abbey, thus demonstrating how important Lorsch Abbey was during the Carolingian period. However, by the early 13th century, Lorsch’s importance had diminished, its lands given to the bishopric of Mainz and later to Protestant princes. During the Thirty Year’s War, many buildings in Lorsch were destroyed, but the King’s Hall remained standing.
As you pass by the King’s Hall, you approach the abbey, which is the newer of the two (the older abbey is down the road – see my tip on visiting it). Near the King’s Hall is a bronze plaque on the ground that shows the former size and shape of the abbey. In the rear of the church the footprint can be seen. It was really a rather large estate. There are signs around the area in both German and English that give a good description of the site.
To one side of the abbey property is the Krautergarten, an herb garden that still is maintained and is well labeled. On the other side of the property is an open park-like area that had geese and ducks living there on our first visit. The wall surrounds the property and gives you a nice view of the area.
The entrance to the abbey from the town center is the King’s Hall, which I have yet to really have a good look at since it is being renovated and is wrapped in scaffolding. However, I was able to get some peaks through the scaffolding at the exterior of this small two-story building that has three arched passageways on the lower level.
The exterior façade is a colorful blend of red, tan, and white stones with the two longer sides having ten small fake Ionic columns on the second level and four larger fake Corinthian columns on the lower level which appear to be more for decoration than for support. The tall gabled roof has a small bell in a cupola. The two shorter ends of the King’s Hall have rounded extensions, which I must assume at least one of these contains stairs to the second level.
Because of the renovations, we could not go inside the second level, but there were pictures and diagrams to give us an idea of what we might see. It appears to be a hall with frescoed walls, but there is no real understanding about what the hall was actually used for. The frescoes are not specific and not really religious, so the thought is that it was more of a civic hall, perhaps where trials were held, and not a religious hall. I am inclined to agree with that assessment since the King’s Hall is outside the abbey grounds, thus separating the religious and the secular.
The King’s Hall is thought to be one of the oldest structures from the Carolingian period.
According to the Tourist Information Office, the scaffolding is supposed to come down in the spring/summer of 2012. On my second visit in the spring 2012, the scaffolding was still there, so I will keep checking because I would really like to see the King’s Hall uncovered!
On various tourist literature I have read of King's Hall or King's Gate or even The Lorscher Gate the gates origins and purpose seemed to be lost in time. I can only tell you it is a UNESCO building since 1991. The Gate is not mentioned in any early Middle Ages documents, the only mention is of a "ecclesia varia" = a colourful church which was build around 1817 - 1882 as a burial place for Franconian Kings. The colours and geometric designs on this old and silent gate are a stunning sight to behold and the description from history is very accurate in my eyes at least.
King's Hall interior is only open for groups by prior arrangement.
In the early sixties of the eighth century Count Cancor and his mother Williswinda founded the little monastery here in Lorsch. The Monastery was later given to the Count's relative a Chrodegan Archbishop of Metz, he was a great follower of the Carolingian dynasty. The Relics of Saint Nazamus, a gift from the Pope to show the loyalty and ties between the Roman Papacy and the Frankish Kings, were brought to Lorsch. This act led to the rise and growth of the Monastery with thousands of pilgrims visiting to worship the relics.
Today the monastery stands a few metres away from its original site. In 1995 scientific research began using radar to gather information on its long gone past. At present the work is in progress using computer aided design technology to help with future reconstruction. I hope it doesn't take a life time or I may never know the secrets of this fascinating place.
I spotted this Protestant Church = the Evangelische Kirche on the way back to the car and heading for Schwetzingen. I didn't go in = I would never have found a way through the thick forrestation surrounding the Church but to my surprise it was open. The Church stands on Wingertsber the northern cloister area, these grounds were a former vine yard. It seemed to me that these leafy trees and shrubs grow in very fertile soil = ah the beauty of nature.
The Evangelische Kirche was constructed between 1895 - 96 A Neo Romanesque red sandstone building formed mostly by square blocks. The Church is built on a high location so is visible from a long way off.
The Benediktin Plaz is a pedestrian area which included the Cloister and Market Place. I was surprised to learn it was included as a tourist attraction as recently as 1982 when on the 18th. September of that year Dr. A. Ohlemeyer, the Abbot of Neuburg, which is the only Daughter Cloister of Lorsch, officially opend the Market Place. I loved the statue of the girl with the tobacco leaf symbolising Lorsch's link with the tobacco manufacturing industry.
The King's Hall Museum has three departments which individually trace the history of Lorsch. This is the tobacco museum - a bright modern building. The museum has so many artistically displayed tobacco items from highly decorative clay and wooden pipes, pretty hand painted snuff boxes, the huge cigars which were manufactured here in Lorsch and my favourite - the wooden cigar boxes. Lorsch's links to tobacco and the men, women and children who worked in the tobacco industry are explained very well here - all in all a very interesting and informative museum.
The museum is open Tuesday - Sunday 10.00 - 17.00 closed Monday
Price Adult 3e Student 2e child 1e family 6e
The old town hall of Lorsch is a pretty half-timbered building, dated 1715. The ground floor is massive, the upper floors were built in timberwork with elaborate patterns. The gable front is directed towards the square and the monastery at the far end of the main street. Two oriels on the corners contain the staircases. The front gable is topped by a little tower.
The town hall hosts the local tourist information office, which might be useful to visit.
The old town centre looks like a quaint place for a little stroll and a rest. I did not have time for more than a quick glance, unfortunately. Around the main square you will find a number of restaurants, pubs and cafes with outdoor seating that look very pleasant. The square is surrounded by several 18th century half-timbered houses.
A modern statue in the main street, not far from the Gate Hall and the museum centre, represent Saint Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine order.
Obviously people in Lorsch have faith in Saint Benedict. Somebody entrusted him his bike to watch...
The museum centre is located in a modern building next to the Gate Hall and the abbey grounds. It unites three museums under one roof:
1. the exhibition about history of the monastery, owned by department of the administration of palaces and gardens of Hessen,
2. the folklore department of the Landesmuseum Darmstadt,
3. the tobacco museum and municipal collections of Lorsch.
Of course the history of the abbey is a main topic of the collection and the presentation. Facsimiles show the most famous books written and painted in Lorsch. One corner shows the scriptorium: the writing monk at his desk, parchment production, the tools, and an unwanted pet digging its teeth into a roll of parchment…
A mystic treasure of the museum is the so-called coffin of Siegfried, a stone sarcophagus. According to le legend of the Nibelungs, the corpse of Siegfried was buried in Lorsch abbey. However, in reality this sarcophagus originates from elsewhere and its connection to Siegfried is a myth.
Tobacco production and cigarette making were a major factor in the economy of the town and the region. Tobacco has been planted in this area during the last at least 150 years. Only recently farmers are restraining from planting tobacco because it does not pay off any more.
The ornaments of the facades cannot deny their ancient Roman origins. However, the Carolingian master builders developed their own way of dealing with the rules of ancient architecture.
The surface is covered in a pattern of hexagonal red and yellowish stones, alternating with white stones in between. This derives from an ancient Roman technique of brickwork, which was, however, not used for visible surfaces but only underneath a coating with marble slabs. Here the old walling technique was turned into a system of decoration.
The columns of the ground floor carry composite capitals in white marble which are Roman originals and have been taken from ancient ruins, maybe in Ladenburg or Worms.
The upper floor has a row of smaller pilasters with capitals that look as if someone has never seen an ionic capital and tried to design one from a description. The triangles instead of arches above the pilasters are also an idiosyncratic interpretation of Roman architecture.
Nobody knows when exactly the gate hall has been erected, probably around 790/800. Nobody knows its original purpose, apart from being a representative entrance to the church and abbey grounds. The hall on the first floor indicates there was more to it. The building is also known as Königshalle (King’s Hall) – it may have been used by kings and emperors for audiences and meetings, but this is pure guessing. In later times the hall was turned into a chapel. Thanks to this the building was maintained even after the destructions of the 30 Year War, unlike the rest of the abbey.
There are larger and more impressive buildings of Carolingian origins than this. Aachen cathedral, for example, However, most of the others have been refurbished and renovated later on. This one has not. About 80% of the substance of the original building has been preserved. A model in the museum shows the original shape: the roof was lower, otherwise it was not much different from what it looks like now.
The interior can be visited only with guided tours which are offered by the museum centre every hour in the afternoon. The tour is included in the entrance fee of the museum.
The rectangular hall used to have a flat ceiling which was later substituted by a timber vault. It is empty except some traces of frescoes on the walls.