© spurensucher - 26.09.2020

Bretzenheim: From place of power to dosshouse




As always, you see only a fraction of what you should see. The rock heritage site near Bad Kreuznach, which is also called a rock monastery or place of pilgrimage, implies the clerical fugue of the Middle Ages by its very name. As always, one should be careful on hills and open spaces, where the clergy have been spreading since the so-called Christianisation, as early as the 6th/7th century. The thing about prudence, however, is one thing at this point. If you are willing to visit this exciting and at the same time almost forgotten point in the landscape, you will first cross the Kreuznach Diaconate's homeless aid centre and then take a steep path to reach a plateau that is wildly overgrown at the sides. And that is not all that stands in the way of access and panoramic views. According to the local community of Bretzenheim, it has been the owner of the site since August 2019 and can now take care of securing and maintaining this unique facility. Since then, however, not much has changed, it seems.


Only a section released




After a short ascent - about 80-100 metres to the clearing at the foot of the rock heritage sites - you will see only a section of the rock work - a broad relief with architectural influences. In other words, one has the feeling of catching a glimpse of a tiny section of a rocky outcrop or mountain hill, which continues along the Guldenbach stream in a densely wooded west-east direction at an altitude of 200 metres. After the visit, you are certainly well advised to walk along the so-called Hermit's Trail, which runs for 9.1 km and passes points called "The Force Field" and "Gateway to the World". If you bring enough time with you, it is certainly not impossible to come across other less official traces hidden behind the dense botany.

The Bad Kreuznach Heimatblätter 2014 write: "Now there is actually a place in the Guldental district, situated on the rock face of the forest mountain "Lindel", hidden behind bushes and covered by tendrils hanging from the rock face, which shows all signs of a (note: another) former hermit's hermitage. It is located only about 400 m west of the Bretzenheim rock hermitage, but is not mentioned anywhere in church documents. This refers to the so-called Heddesheim hermitage, where once someone is said to have stayed who literally could no longer stand it in a secular community. We now know that this tourist hotspot of the Bretzenheim Rock Heritage has by no means been the only place where we have seen everything, but that there is much more to be discovered on the rock face if it were not allowed to become completely overgrown. Perhaps the church denied this additional location for the simple reason that the true roots of this rockworking were to be swept under the carpet anyway.


At least not of Christian origin




The grotesque windows in the openings as well as the bricked-up "window sills" stand in my view for the greatest sacrilege in raping such a historical place of power.




Large gaping openings or shelters in the wall with integrated seating steps confront the attentive visitor with new questions concerning the original purpose. The same applies to the unexplained smaller wall openings. However, one has always been able to find a way there via narrow projections.




Here the unidentified building level below the rock dwelling after the 2005 excavations, which existed before the Christian occupation. What it contains is not accessible to the public. Neither do we know whether there are still caves or tunnels under the rock dwelling..






At least some attentive visitors to the Bretzenheim rock heritage sites look a little perplexed when they find the numerous mysterious traces in the masonry. Ever since the church took this place under its wing from the 6th/7th century onwards, there has been talk of clerical master builders who were active in many places. Generations of hermits and monks have since then painstakingly carved each rock structure into the red sandstone rock with hammer and chisel, which is still considered unique north of the Alps..


A relief of a knight, which is not part of the Hermitage, was certainly made much later. Obviously the plaque to a knight's grave near the rock.




The lower relief should have been part of the plant for much longer.







The view into the interior of the so-called "rock chapel". The boulder projecting into the room was added as an altar in 1718 - first as a temporary solution and later, from 1723/24, as the main altar, it is said to have been used in the new church. After the secularisation of the monastery complex, the new owner converted the "rock chapel" into a wine press house and the altar was converted into a "tree press".






The side walls may have been formed into unusual round vaults before Christianisation, the characteristic "scrubbing marks" on the walls can be found on numerous megalithic structures throughout Germany.




The individual pillars have been walled off, for whatever reasons. 




On the side wall there is a bevelled plinth throughout, which was certainly not made for kneeling or sitting purposes. It was certainly not made for Christian rituals.




This right-hand section of the "Felsenkapelle" is also unlikely to have been provided with a side pedestal inviting you to sit down. Equally striking are the small wall indentations.




Here again the alleged altar. According to copper engraving of an unknown. Artist from 1839 this front part of the altar was mostly walled up for a long time. Today it is not better there, because these areas are barred for alleged security reasons. At least one can take rudimentary photos through the bars. A view into the alleged altar would have interested me very much. For me it looks more like a basin that was used for cult purposes.






To the right above the "Felsenkapelle" are steps that end practically in nothing. For me this speaks more for a symbolic than for a functional character.






This information/statement can, however, be put into perspective, as according to official statements, "traces of construction in the rock face" and a "rock room proven to exist under the present site" also indicate pre-Christian use. Although no one knows or wants to say anything more precise about this, the terms "Celts" and "Romans" are used, which are supposed to have been responsible for this.
During an excavation in 2005 below the rock dwelling (on the ground floor, so to speak), it turned out that another building level dating back to the pre-Christian period can be proven.
Overall, traces of four different buildings from different eras could be found in the excavation area. More detailed explanations, traces or evidence are not publicly accessible.




Numerous wall traces, niches and shelters do not exclusively indicate a functional use of the rock face, but could well be symbolic. This large niche (next picture) is said to have served a confessional.










Wall like a computer punched card: The notches or recesses do not provide any explanation of their meaning or purpose. However, such occurrences are also known to occur in numerous other megalithic structures.








These niches are unlikely to have fulfilled any functionality, but are rather symbolic in nature. The slanted ledge of the window does not offer any storage space. It is unlikely that this was the work of Christians. So far my assessment.













Power as a church magnet


It is said to have been really lively there from the 16th century onwards. Since the early Middle Ages, Christian churches have gradually been built on the open space in front of the rock face. The last one is said to have been demolished as early as 1819 due to its dilapidation. Over the centuries, the rock face became the new home for a total of 23 hermits. Up to four hermits lived there at the same time at the most, to look after pilgrims and other visitors and to extend and maintain the buildings. One of them fell from the rock at the age of 82 (in 1827).
When someone died in a hermitage in the rock face, the church proverb of the 18th century read: He died "in Petra", which means that he decided to live "in the rock". Learn something new again.




You can also find hidden steps, ledges or edges if you push the weeds aside. It is likely that the euphoria is particularly high to keep this place in good condition by the authorities more than just superficially.




A total of two rock clauses are said to have been carved into the sandstone wall. In addition, a 90 square metre flat was built for the convent. Two further hermitages in the "immediate vicinity" are also part of the facility. It is said that a real monastery was built here due to the immigration of hermits.












Numerous niches and "window" parts were apparently walled up a long time ago. Whether the interest in uncovering them is fundamental or whether one thinks that everything is already known, it remains to be seen.






There are three anchor shafts above the rock formation, which allow constant control of the rock movements, and other existing shafts have been walled up. Further safety and protective measures (roof over the rock tomb and the statue of the knight, access barrier to the "rock chapel" because of the danger of falling rocks inside and mortar cover over the "rock chapel" to protect against water penetration) prevent the view into the interior rooms, which are not allowed to be entered.



On the basis of the floor plan you can see what you are unfortunately missing. So the traces inside the 90 sqm rock dwelling remain completely hidden. The basement explored in 2005 is not part of the ground plan below.
(Illustration: floor plan of the interior from 1993, display board)




Coloured copper engraving of an unknown. Artist 1839.




So sah es