The religious complex represented by the former Lorsch Abbey with its 1,200-year-old gatehouse, which is unique and in excellent condition, comprises a rare architectural document of the Carolingian era with impressively preserved sculpture and painting of that period. It gives architectural evidence of the awakening of the West to the spirit of the early and high Middle Ages under the first king and emperor, Charlemagne.
In the small town of Lorsch, between Worms and Darmstadt, is the renowned Torhalle, one of the rare Carolingian buildings that has retained its original appearance. It is a reminder of the past grandeur of an abbey founded around 760-64. The first Abbot was the Bishop of Metz, Chrodegang (died 766). Sometime before 764 he brought monks from Gorze to live there and in 765 he donated the relics of St Nazarius, which he had acquired in Rome.
In 767, Thurincbert, one of the founder's brothers, donated new land in sand dunes safe from floods about 500 m from the original site. The monastery was placed under the Emperor's protection in 772. In 774, with Charlemagne in attendance, the Archbishop of Mainz consecrated the new church, dedicated to Saints Peter, Paul and Nazarius.The Codex Laureshamensis, a chronicle of the abbey, lists the improvements made by three of the most important abbots, Helmerich, Richbod and Adelog, between 778 and 837. The monastery's zenith was probably in 876 when, on the death of Louis II the German (876) it became the burial place for the Carolingian kings of Germany. To be a worthy resting place for the remains of his father, Louis III the Young (876-82) had a crypt built, an ecclesia varia, where he was also buried, as were his son Hugo and Cunegonde, wife of Conrad I (the Duke of Franconia elected King of Germany at the death of the last of the German Carolingians, Louis IV the Child).
The monastery flourished throughout the 10th century, but in 1090 was ravaged by fire. In the 12th century a first reconstruction was carried out. In the 13th century, after Lorsch had been incorporated in the Electorate of Mainz (1232), it lost a large part of its privileges.
The Benedictines were replaced first by Cistercians and later by Premonstratensians. Moreover, the church had to be restored and reconstructed after yet another fire. The glorious Carolingian establishment slowly deteriorated under the impact of the vagaries of politics and war: Lorsch was attached to the Palatinate in 1461, returned to the Electorate of Mainz in 1623, and incorporated in the Electorate of Hesse in 1803. During the Thirty Years' War in 1620-21, the Spanish armies pillaged the monastic buildings, which had been in a state of abandon since the Reformation.
Only the Torhalle, part of the Romanesque church, insignificant vestiges of the medieval monastery, and classical buildings dating from the period when the Electors of Mainz administered the town still survive within its boundaries.
In 1991 the ruined abbey was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.References:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.
According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.
The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.
The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.
With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.