How was the early Christian church

Boppard on the Middle Rhine

Boppard (Rhein-Hunsrück district

To visit: St. Severus Church with the foundations of an early Christian baptismal font


Boppard market square, St. Severuskirche.

Among the cities along the Rhine and Moselle, not a few can be traced back to Roman foundations, in whose cityscape imposing remains of Roman stone buildings can still be found in some cases. Some of the massive Roman stone buildings were repaired, rebuilt and used for new purposes in the early Middle Ages, including the Roman fort bath of Boppard, which was converted into an early Christian church.


and fort bath

The Roman in Boppard was built in the first half of the fourth century AD. Milites balistarii - a kind of fortress artillery - were stationed here.

Around 406/407 Germanic tribes invade again and again, on the Middle Rhine the Franks, across the Rhine into Belgium and Western Gaul. However, those on the Middle Rhine, including Bodobrica, were hardly affected by these raids. Therefore, their crews were incorporated into the mobile Roman field army, and the Bodobrica was from then on without adequate military protection.

In 406, the Roman troop garrison also left Boppard, and the facility became a purely civilian settlement. In Boppard the early Christian church was only built after the withdrawal of the military unit.

There are references to Christian communities from a surprising number of forts. The Christians in the fortified settlements are likely to have been officials of the military administration, officers and soldiers who lived with their families under the protection of the walls. The early Christian churches were within the ancient fortress walls, but they are not "garrison churches". Within the erected, the buildings fulfilled, at least temporarily, military functions and served to look after the fort's residents in terms of religious services.

During the excavations within the Boppard St. Severus Church in the 1960s, the foundations of a Roman fort bath and an early Christian church were uncovered. In the middle of the 4th century, a 50x35 m military bath was built on the inside of the northern fortress wall.

The extensive fort bath was examined in the years 1963-1966. The excavation areas extended to the area of ​​today's market square in front of and to the side of St. Severus and almost in the entire interior of the church. The bath was built onto the fort wall facing the Rhine. The mighty building, made of schisty greywacke, had brownish-red plastering on its outside, the windows were glazed and the roof covered with the usual Roman tiles. The front of the building was oriented south towards the sun.

Numerous rooms with changing room, warm bath (tepidarium), heated tubs of the hot bath (caldarium) and cold bath (frigidarium) provide insights into the Roman bathing process. Underfloor heating (hypocaust) ensured comfortable room temperatures in all weathers. The complex shows the usual layout of the fort baths. Nothing can be seen of the bathrooms on site today. In the Boppard Museum, however, there is a model of the entire bathing complex.

The bath is dated by 4 Roman bronze coins which were minted between 341 and 346 AD (Constantinus II.). The coins were found on the floor of the changing room and indicate the earliest construction of the bath. Brick stamps of the 22nd Legion allow the start of construction to be dated to AD 352/355 at the latest. The series of coins from the interior of the fort ends with Honorius (393-395), the thermal baths, on the other hand, were used until the end of Roman rule on the Middle Rhine d. H. used until the beginning of the 5th century.

Early Christian

After the withdrawal of the military units after 406, the fort area was used by the civilian population and converted for their purposes. As the largest enclosed space within the fort, it was certainly still reasonably usable due to its extremely massive construction. A meeting room was initially built in it. An early Christian parish church was created through leveling and conversion during the second half of the 5th century, which was used until the 8th century and then replaced by a successor building.

The large sports hall of the thermal baths was converted into a single-nave hall church 32 m long and 9 m wide by pulling down a partition between two rooms. The semicircular wall on the east of the bath was cleverly converted into the semicircular wall of the church choir. The north side of the church building formed the fort wall. On the south side of the church building there were four rooms of the former thermal baths, which were included in the church building. The room closest to this could have served as a kind of sacristy, the other rooms perhaps as a storage room.

The apsidal was one step higher than the rest. A 6 m long and 1.4 m wide enclosed corridor, also known as an ambo or bema, led from the slightly elevated one, which ended in a round, pulpit-shaped extension. The pulpit was not only used for preaching, but also for introducing the newly baptized to the congregation. Such an ambo, also called a bema, is a special feature of great architectural and church historical importance for the Rhineland. The separation of the choir area shows the separation between the congregation and the congregation.

Another small room was partitioned off in the western part of the church. The function of the room is made clear by a baptismal font. Steps led down into the 1.3 m large and 0.6 m deep pool. In the seven projections of a circular wall around the baptismal font were wooden posts that supported a kind of baptismal font. The small depth of the baptismal font speaks for a donation of baptism by pouring over (aspersion). Comparable systems can be found in the previous buildings of the Liebfrauenkirche in Trier or the Episcopal Church of St. Ursula in Cologne.

The determination of the building as a Christian cult building results from the interior layout, the, the ambo and the baptismal font. Due to the baptismal font, the building can also be clearly explained as a baptistery.

The time when the church was built in the interior of the Roman fortress on the site of the fort bath, in the 2nd half of the 5th century or in the 6th century, is disputed. Christianization progressed on the Rhine and Moselle as early as the 4th century.

Some of the original archaeological findings can still be seen in the Church of St. Severus. The position of the anvil is reproduced there in the floor of the central nave, the original baptismal font is found in a lower room under the floor of the church.

M. Thoma


H. Cüppers, The Romans in Rhineland-Palatinate (Stuttgart 1990) 250-253, 344-346.

H. Eiden, Excavations on the Rhine and Moselle 1963-1976, table volume, 1982, 215 ff. Ders. In: J. Werner, E. Ewing (Ed.), From Spätantike zum Früh Mittelalter, 1979, 317 ff.

H. Fehr. Archälogisches Korrespondenzblatt 9, 1979, 355 ff.

R. Friedrich, settlement studies on a group of castle hills in the Hunsrück. In: Festschrift H. W. Böhme, Interdisciplinary Studies on European Castle Research. Part II, publ. Deutsche Burgenvereinigung e. V. Row A: Research. Vol. 9 (Koblenz 2005) 55-74.