… has true treasures hidden in darkness, as some might say. And indeed, if you travel to southern Hesse to visit Lorsch Abbey you might at first be disappointed: You will find no cloistered courtyard and no refectory. But after just a few moments, you will already become aware that there is indeed something very special about this place.
The history of the abbey goes all the way back to the early Middle Ages, into Carolingian times to be precise. The Franconian Count Cancor founded the abbey in 764 and then gave it to Chrodegang, the influential archbishop of Metz, who not only sent the first Benedictine monks but also the relics of the Roman martyr Nazarius to Lorsch. This was a godsend, since in the times to come believers came in flocks to Lorsch as pilgrims and the abbey received gifts in unprecedented dimensions.
In 771, Charlemagne took the abbey under his protection. Lorsch evolved into one of the wealthiest and most influential monastic centres north of the Alps. The library alone comprised more than 600 volumes, amongst them such epochal works as the “Lorsch Pharmacopoeia,” the oldest preserved book about monastic medicine in the German-speaking world (included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2013). At the end of the 9th century, the abbey became burial ground for the kings of the Eastern Carolinian Empire. This is also the time from which the emblem of the abbey derives: the “Königshalle” (“King’s Hall”), a unique testimonial to pre-Romanesque architecture and UNESCO World heritage site for that reason.
When it became incorporated into the archdiocese of Mainz in the 13th century, the abbey lost significant influence. During the Reformation period, monastic life eventually came to an end. 1,250 years after being founded, the “Königshalle” as well as a Romanesque church fragment and the surrounding walls bear witness to the “lost abbey’s” former importance. Recently, the abbey premises were given a new appearance for more than EUR 12 million. You can now explore this exceptional place on a three kilometer walk.