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Historical overview


Early Middle Ages - Historical

The building of the Pfalz (imperial palace) “… iuxta villam … Ingilenhaim“ is regarded as one of the most important constructions described by Einhard, as was the palace building in Nijmegen, the most important buildings commissioned by Charlemagne.1 His expression “Inchoavit ... palatia operis egregii ...“ indicates that the building work was planned, but not completed before 814. Charlemagne chose Ingelheim in 787 as the location for his winter quarters, arriving there before Christmas and remaining there without interruption until the middle of 788. During that period there was an assembly which deposed Tassilo III of Bavaria. The historical sources describe the venue as a “villa“, whereas the document from 807 confirmed the status as “... Inghilinhaim palatio nostro“. The itinerary of Louis the Pious shows that he stayed there ten times between 817 and 840, including five imperial assemblies and four receptions for envoys. On the occasion of the baptism of the Danish king Hariold in the church of St Alban in Mainz, Ermoldus Nigellus wrote 826 an idealistic description of the Pfalz in Ingelheim. The description focuses on a cycle of frescos in the Regia domus and an Aula dei.3 Louis the Pious died in 840 on an island in the Rhine near Ingelheim. It is known from evidence that the later Carolingians stayed at the Pfalz in Ingelheim only seven times. During the reign of Louis the Pious there is an original document which names Agano as the “exactor palatii Ingilenhaim“, the person responsible for administering the Pfalz.

Early Middle Ages - Archaeological

Aula regia Aula regia | © 

The core area of the Pfalz, measuring 145 by 110 metres, was constructed on a slope three kilometres from the southern bank of the Rhine. The general layout is typified by a semicircular building and a royal hall built on the model of antique basilicas. The semicircular building had at least two stories and six round towers on the outside, some of which contained an elaborate system for transporting water. Current excavations are trying to find out whether a 7-kilometre-long water channel built in the Roman style served to supply the water and also whether the main gate of the Pfalz buildings was at the apex of the semicircular building. To the west there was an adjoining hall and a long northern wing. It was in the centre of the main building that the Carolingian Pfalz church was discovered to the north of the Saalkirche during excavations in 2004. To the east of the Aula there was a significantly smaller apse-shaped building. The architecture and architectural sculpture show the influence of antique predecessors. The general layout in accordance with the ideal plan and the juxtaposition of the buildings are similar to the Roman villa and palace architecture. The first building period of the Pfalz in Ingelheim is a part of a building programme which visibly expresses the Carolingian concept of renovation. Nevertheless, the first building of the Saalkirche and other building works in the 10th century completed the construction, whereas the Carolingian Pfalz with its ancient influences remained a torso.

High Middle Ages - Historical

During the Ottonian reign Ingelheim was again a favourite location. Otto I stayed there ten times. From a historical-building aspect the synod in 948 should be underlined, which was held “in aecclesia beati Remigii“ outside the confined Pfalz. A church in Ingelheim was described as “capella imperialis“ and was first mentioned in 997. The imperial synods were also convened in Ingelheim in 958, 972, 980, 993 and 996. At the same time the Pfalz in Ingelheim was a popular Easter Pfalz in the Rhine-Main region, a custom which lasted into the Sallier days. The most frequent evidence in Ingelheim is of stays by Otto III. During his unconfirmed regency it was used as the base for counselling the empress Theophanu with Archbishop Willigis from Mainz.5 During the 11th and the first half of the 12th centuries, written records only refer to occasional visits by the rulers, e.g. the marriage between Henry III and Agnes of Poitou and finally the arrest of Henry IV in 1105.

High Middle Ages - Archaeological

Numerous findings indicate renovation to and extension of the Pfalz buildings in the 10th century. Dendochronical tests show that the felling date of the wooden scaffolding in the king’s hall was in the second half of the 10th century, probably 986.6 To the east of the king‘s hall a single-nave church was built – now the Saalkirche – whose construction cannot archeologically be dated before 900. The completed layout of the Pfalz in Ingelheim first ended with the newly built church. The reinforced walls and the digging of a moat indicate that there were elements of fortification. The structure and extent of the Carolingian Pfalz buildings have remained complete to this day.

Late Middle Ages - Historical

According to historical evidence, the Staufer emperors were in the Pfalz in Ingelheim for a total of only four times. None of the stays had any substantial political or administrative significance. In the latter part of the dynastic reign, other neighbouring royal locations, such as those in Oppenheim, Boppard and Oberwesel, were preferred.7 Restoration to its former significance was done by Frederick I Barbarossa, referred to in the “gesta Friderici Imperatoris“ in the time around 1160.8 Rahewin quoted the description by Einhard of Charlemagne‘s Pfalz building and added that the place had been neglected for a longtime and had decayed. The meeting with Hildegard of Bingen in 1163 is almost certainly the only evidence that Frederick I Barbarossa stayed in Ingelheim. The Pfalz lost its importance as a centre of imperial administration in the 11th century. After its restoration and fortification it served primarily as a centre of territorial politics and defence in the region. After a period of which there are no records, the last imperial stay in Ingelheim was by Karl IV in 1354. The recorded foundation of an Augustinian canon “in aula nostra imperiali“, proves that the Pfalz was taken over by the canons. In 1375 Karl IV pledged the whole imperial region of Ingelheim to the Kurpfalz.

Late Middle Ages - Archaeological

The fortified development of the Pfalz and its significant enlargement has been dated at the time of Frederick I Barbarossa, based on literary recordings from Rahewin. Excavations or investigations in connection with this have not yet been made. The original constellation of the buildings remained essentially the same. Extensive renovation work can be seen in the church, which was given Romanesque architectural decoration in the choir, the intersection of the nave and the outer structure. To the south the surface area was doubled and surrounded by a defensive wall. Whether within this fortification further representative buildings were built or other fortifications in the settlement area were made cannot be seen at the present stage of research.

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