Mithrasgrotte

Heidenkapelle - Pagan Chapel


Useful Information

Location: At the outskirts of Saarbrücken. A620 exit St. Arnual, at roundabout exit towards Ostspange. After 800m turn right onto Mainzer-Straße. After 1km turn right, follow signposts "Halberg/Saarländischer Rundfunk". Parking on visitor parking lot of Saarländischer Rundfunk. 10 minute walk to the cave.
Open: no restrictions.
[2020]
Fee: free.
[2020]
Classification: SubterraneaMithras Grotto
Light: n/a
Dimension:
Guided tours:
Photography:
Accessibility:
Bibliography: Reinhard Schindler (1964): Die Mithrashöhle von Saarbrücken. Neubearb. Auflage, Saarbrücken 1989 Selbstverlag des Staatlichen Konservatoramtes, 26S, 20 Abb., 2 farbige Umschlagabb.
Address: Mithraskapelle am Halberg, Brebacher Landstraße 30, 66121 Saarbrücken, Tel: +49 681 927200
Steffen Conrad, Saarland Medien GmbH, Nell-Breuning-Allee 6, 66115 Saarbrücken, Tel: +49-681-38988-15, Fax: +49-681-38988-20. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History


Description

The Heidenkirche (pagan chapel) or Mithrasgrotte (mithras grotto) at the Halberg is quite famous, as it is one of the few mithras temples where the original cave is more or less undestroyed. Nevertheless 2,000 years of history resulted in numerous alterations. In 391, the edict of the emperor Theodosius prohibited the worship of all pagan gods, thus forbidding the Mithras cult and causing the destruction of Mithras temples throughout Europe. At this point this cave was probably no longer in use and forgotten, otherwise it would have been destroyed. Later, at the beginning of the 7th century, it was converted into a hermitage. Bishop Arnualdus is said to have preached Christianity in this cave, so it became a pilgrim destination. Both is described by an inscription from the 19th century, added by the Stumm family which lived on the Halberg at this time. It describes the romantic story of pagan priests and the legendary missionary Arnualdus without being averted by too much reality. The archaeologic evidence ins unfortunately much less convincing.

The Halberg is a hill at the Saar river near Saarbrücken. Nobody would be astonished about a medieval castle on the plateau, which was later transformed into a chateau. But actually the plateau was not used until Graf Ludwig Kraft von Nassau-Saarbrücken erected a baroque pleasure palace named „Monplaisir“ in 1711. It was destroyed 1793 and the plateau became a public park. In 1875 Carl Ferdinand Stumm, a rich furnace owner from Neunkirchen purchased the hill and erected a neogothic chateau in 1880. The chateau still exists and is used by a French frestaurant. There were actually plans to demolish it for the construction of suburb in 1936. Instead the newly founded Reichssender Saarbrücken (Imperial Broadcast) erected its buildings nearby and started broadcasting in 1939. After the lost war the chateau was used by the French governor for some time. The radio broadcast became a regional broadcast organisation for the Saarland and produces both radio channels and regional tv. It owns the whole area including the chateau and the Mithrasgrotte below. If you visit the grotto you park on the main parking lot for Saarländischer Rundfunk and restaurant. The key for the gate at the cave is available at the gate of the Saarländischer Rundfunk.

The Mithrasgrotte is a huge open chamber in a sandstone cliff. It is surrounded by an iron fence with a gate. If you want to enter the cave you need the key which is available at the SR gate, but actually it is not necessary. The fence of iron bars allows a good view on the cave. Right below the plateau is a long cliff face, which actually looks artificial. Probably the sandstone was quarried here for some reason or the alterations were a result of the use as a pilgrim destination. It shows dead entraces and window like niches. The cave is also artificial, but if the legends are true it was dug around 200, when the Mithras cult spread across the Roman Empire, and was abandoned in 400.

The Mithrasgrotte has the typical structure of a mithraeum. There are actually threr chambers or aisles, two low ones to the left and right, and a huge one in teh center with a barreled vault and a frame at the far side. Here is a replica of the tauroctony, the original is exhibited in the historical museum at the Schloßplatz. The pillars which separate the three aisles today are also much younger. Both are probably a romantic addition of the late 19th century.