Kaiserpfalz

The history of research into the Ingelheim palace

The first ground opening in 1888

Unlike many other palatinate sites from Carolingian times, the location of the Ingelheim palatinate was already known in the 19th century. The layout of the site can still be seen in the townscape today. This special aspect led to the first archaeological exploration of the Imperial Palace of Ingelheim in 1888. Paul Clemen, an art historian and monument conservator, had the ground in the Aula regia (King’s Hall) investigated for the first time. This approach was unconventional for the time, but provided the first insights into the architectural details of the building. The results of the excavation led Clemen to the hypothesis that the Aula regia was a three-part complex.

Five campaigns between 1909 and 1914

Around 20 years later, the first systematic excavations were carried out on the so-called „Saalplatz“ (today: Sebastian-Münster-Straße) under the direction of art historian Christian Rauch. Numerous building finds were attributed to the imperial palace, including several apsidal buildings and the „Karlsbad“, whose function as a basin for the long-distance water pipeline was only recognised through more recent research. Five excavation campaigns in the Ingelheim Saal area between 1909 and 1914 made it possible for the first time to understand the size and structural organisation of the Carolingian palace.

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First archaeological excavations in October 1909 under the direction of Dr Christian Rauch

Christian Rauch (right) and the architect Franz Krause in April 1914 at the foundation of the portico

The excavations between 1960 and 1970

The planned renovation and extension of the „Saalkirche“ led to renewed excavations within the Ingelheim Saal area. They took place between 1960 and 1970 under the direction of medieval archaeologist Walter Sage. One of the aims of the campaign was to find out the building history of the „Saalkirche“ before it was altered by the upcoming renovation and extension of the west building. The stratigraphic method was used for the first time during these excavations, making it possible to draw conclusions about a chronological sequence. In this way, a total of four construction periods could be distinguished. Sage dated the „Saalkirche“ to the 10th century, i. e. the Ottonian period. Only later did charcoal analyses from the church’s foundations show that it was only built between 1027 and 1154. Sage also recognised that the Aula Regia and the „Saalkirche“ were single-nave buildings. Based on these new findings, Konrad Weidemann presented a revised reconstruction attempt of the Palatinate in 1975.

First complete investigation of the Aula regia in the 1990s

After an interruption of almost twenty years, research in the „Saalgebiet“ was resumed in 1993 under the direction of Holger Grewe. The focus of this campaign, which continues to this day, essentially pursues three goals: the evaluation and examination of old excavations; the realisation of excavations in previously unexplored areas and a better presentation of the Imperial Palace as a monument.

The purchase of the property at Karolingerstraße 13 made it possible for the first time to explore the site of the Aula Regia. It turned out that the archaeological monument had been largely spared from modern influences. The most significant single find from this excavation in the Aula Regia is a strap-end with so-called „Tassilo chalice decoration“. This style is documented in the art fashion of the late 8th and early 9th centuries.

Between 1996 and 1998, excavations in Ottonenstraße provided evidence of settlement in front of the Palatinate. The discovery of the solidus, a gold coin of Charlemagne, crowned the excavation campaign in Ottonenstraße. The coin, which is still unique today, is certainly the most famous single find from Ingelheim. From 2000 to 2003, archaeologists and building researchers focused on the so-called „Heidesheim Gate“, whose current appearance is characterised by a defensive wall that presumably dates back to the 12th century.

First comprehensive examination of the Throne Hall (Aula regia) in 1995. Image: City of Ingelheim.

After an interruption of almost twenty years, research in the „Saalgebiet“ was resumed in 1993 under the direction of Holger Grewe. The focus of this campaign, which continues to this day, essentially pursues three goals: the evaluation and examination of old excavations; the realisation of excavations in previously unexplored areas and a better presentation of the Imperial Palace as a monument.

The purchase of the property at Karolingerstraße 13 made it possible for the first time to explore the site of the Aula Regia. It turned out that the archaeological monument had been largely spared from modern influences. The most significant single find from this excavation in the Aula Regia is a strap-end with so-called „Tassilo chalice decoration“. This style is documented in the art fashion of the late 8th and early 9th centuries.

Between 1996 and 1998, excavations in Ottonenstraße provided evidence of settlement in front of the Palatinate. The discovery of the solidus, a gold coin of Charlemagne, crowned the excavation campaign in Ottonenstraße. The coin, which is still unique today, is certainly the most famous single find from Ingelheim. From 2000 to 2003, archaeologists and building researchers focused on the so-called „Heidesheim Gate“, whose current appearance is characterised by a defensive wall that presumably dates back to the 12th century.

Excavations at the Merovingian cemetery

Since 2015, the archaeologists have also been researching the prehistory of the Carolingian palace: the previously little-known settlement activity of the Merovingians has since been investigated through finds such as typical grubenhouses (pit houses) from the 7th century at several locations in the city area. Numerous such grubenhouses have also been uncovered on the former site of the Roos plant nursery in the plot „Am gebrannten Hof“. During the campaign there between 2017 and 2020, finds were also unearthed from a cemetery from the late Urnfield period (1200–1000 BC), settlement pits from the Hallstatt period (800–620 BC) and numerous finds and features from the Roman Imperial period (0–350 AD), including a water pipe, burials and a sanctuary.

A research excavation lasting several years began in 2015 at the Merovingian period (500-751 AD) large cemetery (Reihengräberfeld) in Rotweinstraße. To date, almost 300 graves have been analysed there and knowledge about the settlement of Ingelheim between the Roman and Carolingian periods has been significantly expanded.

The Merovingian-era cemetery on Rotweinstraße is one of the largest known cemeteries from the early Middle Ages in Rhineland-Palatinate. Image: City of Ingelheim.

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