Historisches Lahnstein

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Church Square Niederlahnstein

Church Square Niederlahnstein

The Heart of the town

For centuries the Kirchplatz or ‘Church Square’ near the Lahn bridge is the centre of the town. The Lahn riverside with its important boat landing stage and toll tower is not far away, but the river’s floodwaters seldom reach this slightly elevated location. This is the site of the “praetorium”, Niederlahnstein’s first town hall. The ground floor of the building is adorned by a loggia, the upper floor is taken up by the Great Hall where the councillors gather for their meetings.

In the year 1358 a chapel is erected in the immediate vicinity of the town hall and dedicated to Saint Barbara. It is the preferred place of worship when flooding prevents the congregation from attending St. John’s Church which stands outside the town at the mouth of the Lahn. The area in front of the chapel serves as a prayer station during the Rogation processions.

As St. Barbara’s Chapel eventually becomes too small for the growing population, the people of Niederlahnstein erect a larger Baroque church on the same site between the years 1712 and 1720. The town hall – already altered in about 1650 – is now replaced by an impressive new building. With its archway, the new combined town hall and school house building straddles the riverside road which leads from the Kirchplatz to St. John’s Church.

In the 19th century Niederlahnstein undergoes a period of rapid growth. Growing numbers of schoolchildren mean that the great chamber above the town hall’s archway is needed as a classroom. The town’s administrative seat moves away from the Kirchplatz. The church has also become too confined and is now integrated into an even larger church building built in the popular Gothic Revival style. With its slender tower it dominates the town scene from 1889 onwards. A prestigious new rectory is built beside it.

Shortly afterwards, the role of the Kirchplatz as the centre of town becomes even more significant: in 1902 the Koblenz tramway network is extended as far as here. The plan to continue the line across the Lahn is delayed as the existing bridge is not designed to withstand the additional weight of the rails and Niederlahnstein’s town council is unwilling to share the cost of a travel link which primarily benefits Oberlahnstein. And so for the time being the Kirchplatz is the end of the line. The heart of Niederlahnstein beats here and all the shops and inns around the square are full of life. This remains the case even after the new bridge is built, the financial differences have been resolved and the tram line is extended across the Lahn to Oberlahnstein in 1933.

Due to the lack of space on the Kirchplatz, it is impossible to extend St. Barbara’s Church - which has again become too small - any further. Plans drawn up for an extension would require the demolition of the buildings on the Kirchplatz, and they are abandoned. Instead, the people of Niederlahnstein decide to erect a new, larger, more modern church at another location: the Johann-Baptist-Ludwig-Strasse. The groundbreaking ceremony takes place on St. Barbara’s Day, December 4th 1937. The church on the Kirchplatz – extended only 50 years previously – is demolished and the resulting material and some of the fixtures are reused in the new building. The demolition of the church means that the Kirchplatz is restored to its original size. This is a  positive development in view of the increasing volume of traffic.

After World War Two the scene on the square changes. In 1956 the tram service ceases and is replaced by buses. The Kirchplatz remains a central square by the Lahn bridge. The protestant kindergarten moves into the former rectory of the Roman Catholic parish of St. Barbara. In 2009 the square is brightened up by the addition of a fountain of diabase, a green stone from the Westerwald.

Today only historic photographs bear witness to the Church of St. Barbara which once dominated the townscape.