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May 7, 2021

Germany: Worms

Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch

It is a relatively short 150-kilometer drive from Genenbach to our next stop in Worms.  The short distance gave us time to deviate to see two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch and the Maulbronn Monastery Complex.  In the end it made for a longish, though informative, day.

The first stop was at the Maulbronn Monastery, founded in 1147.  This Cistercian Monastery was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.  It is considered the most complete and best-preserved medieval monastic complex north of the Alps.

Inside the Maulbronn Monastery Complex

The main buildings of the Maulbronn complex were constructed between the 12th and 16th centuries.  Surrounded by turreted walls and a tower gate the monastery complex appears to be as much a military complex as a place of religious study and worship.  Constructed as the Romanesque architectural style transitioned to Gothic, the monastery’s design influenced architecture over much of northern and central Europe.  

As was common with Cistercian monasteries, Maulbronn is supported by a sophisticated water management system.  Wetlands near the monastery were drained by a series of canals allowing the monks to create some 20 ponds and lakes.  The water system complex powered mills, removed the monastery’s sewage, and was used to raise fish and eels for consumption.

Older than the Maulbronn Monastery is the Lorsch Abbey, our next stop.  Though this former Imperial Abbey dates from 764, during the Carolingian times, not much of the original complex remains.  Much of the complex was damaged in 1621, during the Thirty Years War, when Spanish troops pillaged the abbey.  Nevertheless vestiges of the old abbey remain in among the expansive lawn and farmlands.  Enough remains to give visitors a sense of how the place once was during its heyday.

Perhaps the real motivation for a trip to Germany.
The Worms Cathedral

Like the Maulbronn Monastery, Lorsch Abbey’s impact on history has been recognized by a UNESCO World Heritage designation.

At the end of the day we ended up in the small city of Worms.  Worms vies with Trier and Cologne for the title of “Oldest City in Germany.”  Our visit did not resolve whether Worms was established first; we’ll leave that to the historians.  But we did learn that a Roman city was located at this location along the River Rhine in the 1st Century BC.

Worms premier attraction is its famous cathedral, which dates from the 12th Century and nominally justified our stop.  But the truth is we had seen the autobahn sign for the Worms exit as we had passed by on prior trips.  So it is quite possible we were in Worms merely because we found the commune’s German name to be amusing in English.  Nonetheless, as it often happens, we learned some interesting things during our stop whether we had a good reason to layover in the city or not.

The main church in Worms, the Wormser Dom, is considered one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Germany.  Since the church is no longer the seat of a bishop St. Peter’s Cathedral is now technically a mere minor basilica rather than a formal cathedral.  No matter its status demotion, the building remains impressive. 

Historically Worms is famously known for the “Diet of Worms”.  The Diet of Worms is not, as the name now reads, a near certain way to lose weight.  Rather a “diet” in this context is a formal imperial deliberative legislative assembly, in this case for the Holy Roman Empire

In 1521 the Diet of Worms famously produced the Edict of Worms, wherein Martin Luther was declared a heretic.  This act triggered the Protestant Reformation, which ultimately led to loss of 20% of Germany’s population during Europe’s Thirty Years’ War.  Indeed, the edict was a major turning point in European history.  The repercussions of a decision made 500 hundred years ago in Worms are still felt today.

More recently, in early 1945 as the Battle of the Bulge ended, advancing Allied armies approached Worms, then a German strongpoint on the west bank of the Rhine.  Preceding the Allied attack Worms was decimated on February 21 and March 18 by two bombing campaigns carried out by the British Royal Air Force.  The air raids left much of the city in ruins.  Remarkably the cathedral suffered relatively minor damage.  The city was rebuilt but aside from the church much of its historical core and character was lost forever. 

In Germany the scars of a war seventy-five years ago show today not as craters and bombed out buildings.  Instead it is absence of its historical town centers that provides the evidence of the devastation that occurred during the war.  As we visit Germany we often wonder what it would have been like if World War II had not happened.  It would have been amazing.

The choir inside the abbey church at the Maulbronn Monastery

1 Comment »

  1. […] our prior stops in Worms and Kassel Goslar’s mostly intact medieval core was a revelation.  The commune was fortunate […]

    Pingback by Germany:  Golsar | Another Header — May 9, 2021 @ 8:00 pm

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