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Ingelheim am Rhein

In Ingelheim Charlemagne built a palace as an important temporary seat of residence and government to kings and emperors mainly of the early Carolingian and Ottonian dynasties. After the recent excavations, a selection of features was preserved in situ, allowing visitors to appreciate them in their historic context.

Places to visit

All relevant places and stations of the Pfalz are connected by a historical circular path aimed at visitors. Information is available at the ‘Besucherzentrum’ (visitors centre) and in the Museum bei der Kaiserpfalz as a free booklet.75 In addition there is an interactive visitor’s guide. This ‘eGuide’ consists of a hand-held computer guiding each visitor individually around the site using GPS navigation. It is possible to retrieve a variety of relevant information, including spoken and written texts as well as pictures at the different historical stations. ‘eGuides’ are available in English and German at the ‘Besucherzentrum’. 76

Pfalz complex

At the turn of the 8th and 9th century, Charlemagne begun building a Pfalz, i.e. a residence in today’s Nieder‐Ingelheim which was used as a temporary seat of power, providing board and lodgings for the traveling king and his entourage in times when no specific capital existed. The representative U‐shaped building complex was only finished in the 10th century during the reign of the Ottonian dynasty. It shares some obvious characteristics with the architecture of Roman villas and palaces, setting a built example of the early medieval reference back to the Imperium Romanum. Charlemagne and his successors held synods, imperial diets and various festivities here. In particularly Otto III used the Pfalz frequently due to its proximity to Mainz, seat of archbishop Willigis, his benefactor.

Museum bei der Kaiserpfalz

The Museum bei der Kaiserpfalz was already established in 1917 and managed for a long time by the Historischer Verein Ingelheim (Historical Society) on a voluntary basis. The museum was re-opened in 1999, under the combined trusteeship of the town council of Ingelheim and the Historischer Verein Ingelheim. Only four years later it was possible to refurbish and extend the museum. It was re-opened again in April 2004 incorporating the ‘Besucherzentrum bei der Kaiserpfalz’ (visitors centre) as well as a branch of the tourist information office Ingelheim. The exhibition in the museum encompasses the entire prehistory of the region, the Roman period as well as the Merovingian’s. The main focus, however, lies on the Pfalz. The exhibition includes building and architectural elements as well as a model of the Pfalz. The unique solidus (gold coin) showing Charlemagne is also part of the exhibition and visitors can use computer terminals to find out more about the history and development of the Pfalz and related buildings. The museum also offers a wide range of educational programs and workshops which are becoming increasingly popular.

Aula regia

A splendid single‐nave apsis hall (40.5 × 16.5 m) in the south‐west of the Pfalz complex was used as royal hall (Aula regia) for meetings, negotiations and lawsuits. It had been equipped with polychrome painted walls and opus sectile floor made with marble and porphyry as well as a representative entrance with three doors. Remains of a wooden scaffold provide evidence for building alterations in the 10th century. Visitors can still see the parts of the original exterior walls with door openings and the original height of the floor. Here, an exhibition presents the history of the Pfalz in Carolingian time.


The so‐called ‘Saalkirche’, today a Protestant church, was constructed on a cross‐shaped floor in the 10th century as a further sacral building in the Ingelheim Pfalz. Thus the imperial palace reached its closed U‐shaped form, which had already been foreseen in the Carolingian building concept. In the following centuries the church was constantly remodelled, mainly in the 12th century. Integrated into a monastery in 1345, the church overcame the resettlement of the former Pfalz area, the so‐called ‘Ingelheimer Saal’ to which the name of the church refers. Given up in course of Reformation the building became dilapidated. In 1965 its reconstruction was completed. A small exhibition on the Ottonian period of the Pfalz was opened inside in 2004.

Heidesheimer Tor – archaeological window and exhibition house and Crescent-shaped building – exterior area 'Am Graben'

The so‐called ‘Heidesheimer Tor’ (gate) formed the eastern main entrance to the Pfalz during the Carolingian and Ottonian period. Its name was given in modern times with reference to Heidesheim, the neighbouring town of Ingelheim. It is located in the apex of the crescent‐shaped east side of the complex which was at least two storeys high, with a porticus façade on the inside and six round towers on the outside. The towers which have a prestigious character rather than that of a stronghold were used for the water supply. At the time of the Hohenstaufens the gate was closed and fortifications were built. After the recent excavations, the street level has been lowered to 1.5 m below the present one, making it possible for visitors to step down onto the historic road level of the year 800. Excavated walls were conserved and partly reconstructed, creating a realistic perception of the area. In 2007, the complex was opened to the public. Besides the Carolingian and Ottonian themed exhibition areas in the Aula regia and the Saalkirche, the ‘Heidesheimer Tor’ is used as a focal point, showcasing the Pfalz complex at the time of the House of Hohenstaufen. In an exhibition house visitors can retrieve historical background information regarding the Pfalz complex in the 12nd/13rd century as well as the ‘Heidesheimer Tor’ and its changes through time.

Traces of Goethe

In September 1814 the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) visited the Pfalz and described it with the following words: “This site, situated on a gentle hillock, belongs to the district known as the valley of the Holy Roman Empire. We found the palace of Charlemagne half destroyed, fragmented, parcelled out; the area can still be recognized by the high walls which might be of later date. A piece of a white marble column can be seen build into the gate”. Unfortunately, this column on which an inscription dating from the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) reads the history of the Pfalz is lost today.

Ottonenstraße / settlement

In the south‐western periphery of the Pfalz a common settlement existed in Carolingian‐Ottonian time. In 1994 to 1998 contemporary post in ground houses as well as pit houses (Grubenhäuser) were excavated. In a levelling layer of a pit house which had recently been reconstructed a gold coin was found, showing Charlemagne in the style of a Roman emperor with a paludamentum (the emperor’s cape) and a laurel wreath. It is so far the only known gold coin depicting Charlemagne.

Church of St Remigius

The Catholic parish church of St Remigius, the bishop who baptised king Clovis I in 496, was firstly mentioned in 822 in a document confirming its donation already in the early 740s to the diocese of Würzburg. Archaeological evidence, such as a baptismal font from the 6th/7th century and at least one burial from the second half of the 7th century, proofs a Christian church already existed in the Merovingian period. Lying in a distance of ca 400 m, the church has to be considered in relation to the Pfalz complex. The large imperial synod of 948 for example took place here, and was attended by the kings Otto I and Louis IV, a papal legate and 32 bishops. The oldest part of the building in existence, the tower, dates back to Romanesque period, the nave was constructed in 1739.
In the Merovingian period several settlements and farmsteads existed in the area of today’s Ingelheim, each having its own grave‐field. Following the Christian burial rites, in Carolingian time it was common practice to bury the dead next to their churches without grave goods. Close to St Remigius church we know later sarcophagus graves from the 11th century. According to written sources, there is no evidence for royal burials in Ingelheim. When Louis I (born 778) died on an island in the river Rhine in 840, his dead body was brought to Metz to be buried in the Abbey of Saint‐Arnould.

Nearby locations

'Burgkirche' in Ober‐Ingelheim

The today’s Protestant ‘Burgkirche’ in Ober‐Ingelheim is a Late Gothic fortified church situated within the picturesque former ramparts of Ober‐Ingelheim, which can be explored by foot. The church and its processor buildings were formerly known as the church of St Wigbert which had already been mentioned around 775 in a deed of donation. The history of construction spans several centuries, which is visible in the distinctive architecture. A richly coloured stained glass window showing the Virgin Mary as well as the magnificent decoration of the late gothic ribbed and reticulated vaulting with notable keystones and floral ornaments are particularly worthwhile seeing. A number of epitaphs of members of the former local nobility have also survived, including that of Wilhelm of Ockenheim (born 1465), Philipp of Ingelheim (born 1431) and Meygen of Wehrberg (born 1442). Delightful is also the surrounding area of the church with the cemetery.
In the ‘Burgkirche’, an 8th century relief representation showing a winged mare, her suckling foal, a jumping lion and parts of a further lion, all framed by vine tendrils was used as a spolia. The piece which is thought to stem from Lombard craftsmanship originally belonged to the Pfalz. Today it is exhibited in the Landesmuseum in Mainz, a copy can be seen in the Museum bei der Kaiserpfalz.


75 ‘Denkmaltourismus. Kaiserpfalz. Historischer Rundweg’, http://www.kaiserpfalz-ingelheim.de/denkmaltourismus_kaiserpfalz_07.php, accessed 6 June 2013

76 Grewe, Holger, and Schulze-Böhm, Britta, ‘eGuide – ein mobiles Informationssystem mit GPS-Navigation zur Präsentation von Denkmälern. Bericht über die Systementwicklung am Beispiel der Kaiserpfalz Ingelheim’, in Mangold, Michael, Weibel, Peter and Woletz, Julie (eds), Vom Betrachter zum Gestalter. Neue Medien in Museen – Strategien, Beispiele und Perspektiven für die Bildung, Baden-Baden, 2007, pp. 133-145

Places to visit Nearby locations

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