Ruins of the Collegiate Church of Bad Hersfeld
Anyone standing within the high walls of the ruins of the Bad Hersfeld collegiate church can appreciate how fascinating the church building, which reaches for the heavens, must have been to the pilgrims of the Middle Ages. Today, the largest Romanesque church ruin north of the Alps is particularly well known as the venue for the Bad Hersfeld Festival.
Every year between July and September, theatre enthusiasts make a pilgrimage to the Abbey Ruins in Bad Hersfeld, where a unique cultural experience awaits them between the venerable walls of the former monastery church. Since 1951, the Bad Hersfeld Festival has attracted actors and guests of distinction. But the mighty building was already a popular destination almost 1000 years ago: At that time, pilgrims came to Hersfeld to pray at the - now lost - relics of Wigbert and Lullus. Both names are closely connected with the beginnings of Bad Hersfeld: Lullus, Archbishop of Mainz, founded a Benedictine abbey here in 769, where the Irish missionary Boniface had already established a hermitage. He entrusted this to the direct protection of the Frankish king and later emperor Charlemagne and made it a high-ranking mission centre through the relics of the supposedly miracle-working Wigbert, a friend of Boniface.
The Cross in the Language of Architecture
The first church building was followed by three more, each surpassing the previous one in size. The last of them, in its time one of the largest churches north of the Alps, was built from 1038 under Abbot Meginher. At that time, the Romanesque architectural style was just developing, characterised by simple yet articulated façades with semicircular arches for windows, doors and masonry openings. The ground plan of the nave, transept and choir transferred the Christian cross into the language of architecture. The nave had the shape of a three-nave columned basilica - a form of construction in which the side aisles are lower than the central nave. The building was dominated by the south tower, but a north tower was never completed. Even though only some of the column bases remain of the central nave today, the mighty architecture of the 11th century, reaching for the sky, can still be experienced authentically.
Fire during the Seven Years’ War
After the collegiate church was abandoned as a Catholic church building in 1525, it continued to exist without significant changes until the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). The conflict between Prussia and Great Britain/the Electorate of Hanover on the one side and the Habsburg monarchy, France and Russia on the other also took place in Hesse. In Hersfeld, French troops set fire to their supplies stored in the collegiate church as the Prussian-Hessian opponents advanced. The fire spread to the building and severely damaged it. For decades, the ruins served as a quarry and were not maintained as a listed building until the 19th century.
Catherine Tower and Lullus Bell
The only remnant of the former monastery on the site of the abbey ruins is the Catharine Tower. In it hangs the famous Lullus Bell, cast in 1038, which commemorates the above-mentioned archbishop of Mainz. It is the oldest dated bell in Germany, which is also in continuous use and rings today on high church festivals, at the turn of the year and on the anniversary of Lullus’ death, 16 October.
In the vicinity
Fürsteneck CastleMeetings & celebrations possible
Cornberg MonasteryMuseum on siteGuided toursMeetings & celebrations possible
Spangenberg CastleMuseum on siteEventsMeetings & celebrations possibleGastronomy on site
Ruins of Felsberg CastleGuided toursMeetings & celebrations possible