Lorsch Abbey was founded in 764 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the gate hall (photo). This gate hall was classified as worthy of protection by UNESCO because it is one of the last completely preserved structures from the Carolingian era.
Just one year after it was founded, the Lorsch Abbey received the vestments of St. Nazarius from Pope Paul I as a gift. The Benedictine monastery of St. Nazarius then developed into a place of pilgrimage and was able to afford considerable buildings. As an imperial monastery, the St. Nazarius Abbey also had political power in the Middle Ages, until it went to the diocese of Mainz in 1232 and was pledged to the Electoral Palatinate in 1461. Lorsch Abbey was dissolved by the Reformation in 1564. During the Thirty Years War the monastery was burned down and the relic of St. Nazarius was lost. After that the monastery was used as a quarry, only the gate hall and part of the monastery church remained.
The gate hall
When and for what purpose the gate hall was built is not known. It is referred to as the "King's Hall" because it was long suspected that it was built for Charlemagne. It is very likely that the structure was erected in the middle of the 9th century. Wall paintings were discovered on the upper floor and the facade was decorated with reddish sandstone. The capitals presumably originate from Roman buildings and were reused here.
At that time, Lorsch Abbey was surrounded by a 3-4 m high wall, large parts of which are still preserved. At the highest point stood the basilica, a fragment of which can still be seen. Today it is the largest structure in the former monastery complex. The fragment consists of the three western bays of the basilica. The nave was originally about three times as long and had an elongated choir in the east. The outlines of the church can be seen as a flat wall on the meadow.
The Altenmünster Monastery, which is located around 600 m to the northeast, is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Lorsch Monastery was founded here on an island in the Weschnitz River. The outlines of this monastery were made recognizable by low walls. Nearby is the Lauresham open-air laboratory, an early medieval model village with buildings, fields and animals.
The city of Lorsch is located between Darmstadt and Mannheim about 50 km south of Frankfurt am Main. The place is very conveniently located between the A5 and A67 autobahns. Lorsch train station is around 600 m north of the monastery zone.
The Messel Pit (Grube Messel) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 due to unique fossil finds. In 2010 the visitor center was opened in a building by the architects Landauer + Kindlbacher. You can explore the Messel Pit on guided tours. For opening times and admission prices, see the link below.
The Messel Pit was created from volcanic explosions around 50 million years ago, which formed a crater lake. Sediments were deposited and formed a bituminous stone. Plants and animals were petrified in this oil shale. The lake disappeared and from 1859 onward mining began with lawn iron stones, which contain a lot of ore. Layers containing lignite and finally the oil shale were discovered underneath.
The State Museum in Darmstadt became aware of the fossils in the Messel Pit as early as 1876. After the end of mining, the Messel pit was to become a landfill in 1974. After objections from the Senckenberg Research Institute and citizens' initiatives, the project was overturned in 1988. The State of Hesse bought the Messel pit in 1991 and the pit became world-famous thanks to further spectacular fossil finds by the Senckenberg Institute.
The most famous fossils can be viewed in the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt and in the Landesmuseum in Darmstadt.
How to get there
The Messel pit is located about 20 km south of Frankfurt. Messel train station is located around 1 km north of the Messel pit. See place marker for details.
The Glauberg is a hill that was populated about 5,000 years ago. On the plateau arose a significant Celtic settlement. Below the Glauberg, several grave mounds were discovered, in 1996 the "Celtic Prince" was found. This is a sandstone statue of a Celtic warrior with a "leaf crown". In 2011 the museum "Keltenwelt am Glauberg" was opened. The archaeological museum was designed by the architects Kada Wittfeld. The monolithic steel construction has won several architectural awards. The exhibition shows the history of the Celts and the settlement of the Glauberg. The main attraction is the "Celtic Prince" with his big ears. The Celtic Museum is located in an archaeological park, where the burial mounds and wooden bars have been reconstructed. From the Glauberg plateau you can see the Frankfurt skyline.
The 881 m high "Große Feldberg" is the highest peak in the Taunus. With the underground line U3 you can get directly to the foot of the mountain from downtown Frankfurt. If you want, you can change from the final stop "Hohemark" to the bus that goes to the summit of the Great Feldberg. Experienced hikers can climb the path to the summit in a few hours. There is an observation tower and a restaurant on the mountain top. In summer, when the weather is good, you have to expect a lot of motorcyclists who use the tight curves to the summit for rapid maneuvers and cover the forest with noise. Those looking for the silence in the mountains should avoid the Feldberg, it is one of the most popular excursion destinations around Frankfurt. Photo: View from Usingen to the Feldberg.
The 24 m high observation tower (Photo) was built in 1911 on the 591 m high Herzberg (Heart Mountain). The tower was modeled after a Roman Limes watchtower. Below the tower is a mountain restaurant with a panoramic view of the greater Frankfurt area. The Herzberg belongs to the city of Bad Homburg. From the Roman fort "Saalburg" you can walk around 2.5 kilometers to the Herzberg in around 30-40 minutes. The Herzberg is part of the Taunus Mountains.
The Limes was the border between the Roman Empire and free Germania magna. The Limes served as a customs border and to prevent looting of roman territory by the Teutons. The border at the crossings was open for trade. The Limes was built around 120 AD, this was also the time when the Saalburg Castle was built as a wooden fort. About 20 years later, the Saalburg received a stone protective wall and a small settlement was built in front of the Roman barracks. The fort and settlement had around 2,000 residents when it flourished. Around 260 AD the Romans gave up the fort after numerous attacks by the Teutons and withdrew behind the Rhine. The fort fell into disrepair and was excavated in 1894. Kaiser Wilhelm II, who often stayed in Bad Homburg, had the Saalburg rebuilt between 1897-1907. To this day it is the only reconstructed Roman fort on the Limes. In 2005 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the German Limes.
How to get there
The Saalburg is located directly on the B456 between Bad Homburg and Wehrheim. There are parking lots at the Saalburg, but these are insufficient when the weather is good. Public transport: With the S-Bahn S5 from Frankfurt to Bad Homburg Bahnhof, there you change to bus no. 5 in the direction of Saalburg.
A unique Art Nouveau ensemble was created on the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt between 1899 and 1914. The artist colony around the architect Joseph Maria Olbrich created an architectural masterpiece on the hilltop. The Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig von Hessen-Darmstadt sponsored the group of artists and enabled the construction of numerous buildings in the Art Nouveau style. The most famous building is the 48.5 m high Hochzeitsturm (wedding tower), today it is the landmark of Darmstadt. In addition an exhibition hall and the studio building were built, which today serves as the museum of the artists' colony (photo). The houses of the artists and architects were built on the slope of the Mathildenhöhe. Another attraction on Mathildenhöhe is the Russian Chapel from 1897.
The Eschbacher Klippen (Eschbach Cliffs) are a band of quartz rocks in the Taunus which are actually called Buchstein rocks. The jagged cliffs were created by an unfolding of the Taunus, are approx. 15 m high and are ideal for climbing. There are various tours for which rock hooks have been drilled into the stone. There is a public car park coming from Usingen, between Eschbach and Michelbach.
The Felsenmeer (sea of rocks) in the Odenwald looks like a frozen rock avalanche. The countless giant boulders were created by weathering. With this type of weathering, the massive granite rocks are destroyed by chemical processes until individual boulders with rounded surfaces are formed. The "Felsenmeer" is located south of Darmstadt, north of the village of Lautertal.
The Felsenmeer visitor center with information and a shop is located at the car park. From there a footpath leads into the forest in which the Sea of rocks is located. You can climb the rock and slowly work your way up to the top of the hill. On the side of the rocks there are paths that also lead upwards and cross the sea of rocks at several places. There are some restaurants on the hill top.
Excursions around Frankfurt
Day Trips from Frankfurt to the Glauberg, the Großer Feldberg, the Herzberg, the Saalburg Roman fort, the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt and the Felsenmeer in the Odenwald Mountains.