Mystery Bridge Nr. 133: A Small “Forgotten” Bridge in a Small Forgotten Village

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BHC Mystery Bridge

LAHR (BW), GERMANY- The next Mystery Bridge takes us to the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg and to the city of Lahr. The community of 44,000 inhabitants is located near the cities of Offenburg and Strassbourg along the River Rhine and is easily accessible by the motorway (A 5), train and boat.  The mystery bridge at hand can be found to the north of the city, near the town Friesenhaim and Heiligenzell, along the creek Leimbach.

Towards the playground in Heilizenzell on a small path running parallel to the main street one will cross the Leimbach. The crossing is full of bushels of reed and poison ivy on each side of the path. One will not notice the historic crossing unless you cut away at the vegetation and see the arch.  Yet one may perceive it as a modern-day culvert. Yet when looking at it more closely……

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……one will see the inscription on the arch and the stone spandrels, making this crossing definitely an arch bridge. Looking more closely, we have the inscriptions of I K 8 8 1 4- the first 8 is larger and resembles a letter S spelled backwards with an I down the middle.

This is our mystery bridge. Its design is just as unique as its history. Its history is linked to the history of Heiligzell and the disappearance of the town’s predecessor. At the site of the crossing was the village known as Leymbach. According to the history books, the village was first mentioned in the first Century, AD. It was large farm and trading post that was owned by the Romans during the time of the Empire. Evidence of that comes from a well that was built five meters deep. This was discovered in 1979 by gardener Klaus Schwendemenn and was restored by the neighboring community Friesenheim.

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The well and the remaining foundations from the Roman times. Photo taken by Andreas Loegler

The village was later mentioned by the Lahr registry books in 1356 but it was last mentioned in 1535. Afterwards, Leymbach disappeared from the map. Historians have speculated that the town’s demise had to do with pests, fire and warfare which led to the residents fleeing to safer places. But more research is needed to confirm. Leymbach had a district of Hovestadt, yet it was only mentioned once in the 1500s. What’s left of Leymbach are two farm field border markings with the names “Auf der Steinmättle” and “Hinterem Steinmättle”

The town of Heiligenzell was first mentioned in the 10th Century AD when the farm/ trading post was given to the Monestary by Emperor Heinrich II. It was christenen Heiligenzell by the 14th Century. It was an important trading post during the Middle Ages. It was destroyed during the Geroldsecker feud during the 15th Century, and it is possible that it was the same feud that devastated Leymbach. Heiligenzell was later rebuilt and it is possible that Leymbach folded into its neighboring post. A castle was built during the 1500s to protect the residents. Two churches were added- a monestary and later a Catholic Church in the late 1800s.  Heiligenzell had a coat of arms that resembled the number 8, which was the same coat of arms found on the keystone of the bridge.

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Coat of Arms of Heiligenzell

The coat of arms and the number is much larger than the other inscriptions, which means the bridge belonged to Heiligenzell. Interestingly enough are the other inscriptions. The first are the initials for the person who built the bridge, which was I. K. The second is the fact that the letter K has the same function as the number 1, according to the history books. Normally a Roman number 1 would have the same function as the letter I. Therefore we can conclude that the bridge was built in 1814 by a person, whose name starts with I for the first name and K for the last. Otherwise it would contradict the history books regarding the founding of Heiligenzell.

The Leimbach was rerouted to run along the path in 2014, and this was when the bridge was discovered. It has received lots of media attention because of its unique design and a history that has a place in the puzzle on the history of Heiligenzell, including its former neighboring village of Leymbach. It is a foregone conclusion that the bridge’s predcessor used to connect the two but we don’t know what it looked like  before this structure was built. We do know that person I.K. built the bridge but we don’t know who that person was and if he had built other arch bridges nearby.

Therefore the search for the history of the bridge and its connection with Heiligenzell’s own history is open to the forum. It is open to locals who have a lot of knowledge of the history of Lahr, its suburb of Friesenheim and Heiligenzell and the Black Forest region of Baden-Wurttemberg. It is also open to those who know a lot about Roman history and the role of the Romans in Baden-Wurttemberg. But it is also open to all who are interested in the research on the bridge, and everything else that goes along with that. The Chronicles did a podcast on this on June 20th. Now come the details and photos.

The rest falls to those who are interested. Good luck and let the author of the Chronicles know what you find. Thanks! 🙂

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Author’s Note: Special thanks to Ekehard Klem for the photos and the background information on the bridge and the surrounding area.

bhc george floyd

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