Mysterious church remains discovered

Reconstruction of the floor plan of the former church in the Soest district. © LWL/L. Cramer/E. Cichy

An impressive yet forgotten building: Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a once demolished church in rural Westphalia. According to the research results, the 30 meter long stone building was built around 900 and had an unusual floor plan. Further research will now clarify what this remote church was all about and why it apparently disappeared again in the Middle Ages.

The traces in the subsoil could easily have fallen victim to the plow: in an agricultural area near Erwitte-Eikeloh in the Soest district, a local person noticed unusual limestone. He then informed the Westphalia-Lippe Regional Association (LWL), which ultimately sent an investigation team. The experts were surprised to find that these were extensive remains of the foundation. Apparently there was a bac in this remote-looking place

View of the excavation area in rural Westphalia. © LWL/L. Cramer

hes once a larger building. An archaeological project then developed from this mysterious initial finding. As the LWL reports, the excavations of the last two years have now shown that where corn is grown today, there was a surprisingly impressive church in the early Middle Ages.

So far no historical trace

The stone building was 30 meters long and about ten meters wide. Finds of early medieval ceramics and the results of 14C dating of additional finds showed that the sacred building was built around 900 AD. Apparently there were already other buildings at the site: “We were able to prove that the church was rebuilt here after a much older farmstead was demolished,” reports excavation manager Eva Cichy from the LWL. “We also discovered construction pits of post buildings around the church and below the foundations, which indicate settlement at this location since the Roman Empire,” reports the archaeologist.

One might think that there should certainly be historical sources about the place and especially the church building. But so far the research has revealed surprisingly little: the earliest reports that could refer to a settlement in the area only come from the 11th century. But you don't mention any church. Had she perhaps disappeared again by this time? It was apparently completed - this is evidenced by the remains of plaster and the traces of an extension in the south that was added a little later, which the excavation team discovered. The experts say that the church was probably demolished again in the 11th century. Why remains a mystery so far.

Floor plan unique for Westphalia

As the LWL further reports, the find has another interesting aspect: New churches were usually built on top of their previous buildings. This is why the older floor plans are often largely destroyed or can only be seen in parts during excavations. The current find, however, shows something originally early medieval. As it turned out, the floor plan of the church actually had a special structure.

The building consisted of a hall around ten meters wide, to which a rectangular choir was connected to the east. An additional room to the east of the choir, a so-called choir apex building, is also unusual. This room could have been planned as a chapel or burial place, say the experts. “Such a floor plan is so far unique in Westphalia, but comparable church buildings are known, for example from the collegiate churches in Bonn-Vilich and the Niedermünster in Regensburg,” explains LWL archaeologist Michael Rind.

But what could this church have been about and why was it demolished? The experts now hope to be able to solve these mysteries through further investigations, writes the LWL in conclusion.

Source: Westphalia-Lippe Regional Association

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