Restoration of the Mikveh in Worms

Part of the ShUM-world he­ri­ta­ge ap­p­li­ca­ti­on

Res­tor­a­tion of the Worms Mik­vehAccumulation of water
מקוה

For cen­tur­ies, the syn­agogue was the cen­ter of an un­in­ter­rup­ted Jew­ish life in Worms. From the old­est build­ing (1034), the found­a­tion stone tab­let has been pre­served. After the dev­ast­a­tion in the cru­sades of the 11th/12th cen­tury was built in 1174/75 a new build­ing in Romanesque forms. The vaults and columns of the syn­agogue in Worms were trend-set­ting for syn­agogue build­ings in Cen­t­ral and Eastern Europe. In the same way syn­agogues in large Ashkenazi com­munit­ies, among oth­ers, were built in the fol­low­ing cen­tur­ies. in Vi­enna, Prague and Krakow. The con­struc­tion activ­ity of the mu­ni­cip­al­it­ies in ShUM widened. Already in the year 1185/86, ac­cord­ing to an­oth­er, also pre­served con­struc­tion in­scrip­tion was the ritu­al bath, the mik­veh.

The mik­veh's ma­sonry was in a con­di­tion that re­quired in­vest­ig­a­tion and sta­bil­isa­tion, as was es­tab­lished in 2014/15. A stat­ic-con­struct­ive re­port from 2014 poin­ted to dam­ages such as mois­ture pen­et­ra­tion, cracks and de­form­a­tions. Pen­et­rat­ing sur­face water and con­dens­ate form­a­tion caused sur­face dam­age, the earth pres­sure, es­pe­cially on the west side where the stair­case is loc­ated, caused stat­ic dam­age. In ad­di­tion, air­borne germ meas­ure­ments in 2015 showed that the mik­veh is highly con­tam­in­ated with germs in the vari­ous cli­mates. Ini­tial meas­ures were taken in the same year.

Dr. Roswitha Kaiser (Dir­ect­or­ate-Gen­er­al cul­tur­al her­it­age Rhine­land-Palat­in­ate) un­der­lined that first meas­ures have to be taken im­me­di­ately. This in­cludes plan­ning sup­port­ing struc­tures, tool­ing, bra­cing as stat­ic se­cur­ity, res­tor­at­ive se­cur­ity, and in­jec­tions as well as drilling and point­ing work.

»Regard­ing the valu­able sur­face parts we need res­tor­at­ive se­cur­ing soon. In ad­di­tion there will have to be a pro­vi­sion­al safe­guard­ing of the struc­ture as well as first at­tempts at find­ing a meth­od of restor­ing the struc­ture of the ma­sonry as first meas­ures«, ex­plained ar­chi­tect Jür­gen Hamm.

The work will be done step by step in about five seg­ments. At present the ex­perts cal­cu­late a total time of six to ten years – de­pend­ing on fin­an­cing pos­sib­il­it­ies and state of know­ledge.

The ShUM-sites in Spey­er, Worms and Mainz that for the Jew­ish world are still im­port­ant places of Jew­ish eru­di­tion, under the motto »ShUM-sites at the Rhine river – Jew­ish her­it­age for the world« to­geth­er seek re­cog­ni­tion as UNESCO world her­it­age.

The Mik­veh, donated in 1185/86 to­geth­er with the re­con­struc­ted Syn­agogue and the cemetery »Holy Sand« for Worms are quite im­port­ant for the world her­it­age ap­plic­a­tion with UNESCO. For more than 800 years the ritu­al bath has been in­teg­ral part of this Jew­ish epi­centre. Un­for­tu­nately it is in high need of re­hab­il­it­a­tion. – This means we must and will start with this re­hab­il­it­a­tion in the com­ing years. This fas­cin­at­ing build­ing shall be pre­served for many gen­er­a­tions to come and shall bear wit­ness of the im­port­ance of Jewry in Worms.

Lord Mayor Mi­chael Kis­sel, Worms (Mayor up to 07/2019)

OB Mi­cha­el Kis­sel: (About the Pre­ser­va­ti­on) Video in Ger­man Lan­gua­ge.

Former Mayor Mi­chael Kis­sel poin­ted out es­pe­cially the im­port­ance of the Mik­veh and the Jew­ish her­it­age for the UNESCO world her­it­age ap­plic­a­tion. »The Jew­ish ritu­al bath as pre­cious cul­tur­al monu­ment is an es­sen­tial part of the ShUM world her­it­age ap­plic­a­tion«, says the Worms’ Mayor who him­self had sug­ges­ted in 2004 to pur­sue the entry of Spey­er, Worms und Mainz – as ShUM-sites that were im­port­ant for the de­vel­op­ment of the Ashkena­zic Jewry – into the UNESCO list of world her­it­ages.

In au­tumn 2012, at the con­fer­ence of cul­tur­al min­is­ters, the nom­in­a­tion of the ShUM-sites for the list of Ger­man pro­pos­als was ap­plied for. In 2014, the ShUM cit­ies had taken the first hurdle: To­geth­er with eight fur­ther pro­pos­als the land nom­in­ated them for ad­mis­sion onto the UNESCO list of cul­tur­al and nat­ur­al her­it­ages. The ShUM-sites are in fifth place on the list.
Rhine­land-Palat­in­ate will in time hand over the Nom­in­a­tion Dossi­er to UNESCO in Janu­ary 2020. In 2021, UNESCO will de­cide bout the defin­it­ive in­scrip­tion into the World Her­it­age list.

Good pos­sib­il­it­ies to earn a liv­ing alone were not suf­fi­cient for the Jew­ish set­tle­ment in the Ashkena­zic ShUM cit­ies. An im­port­ant pre­con­di­tion for the set­tle­ment was the prom­ise of liv­ing waterWell
מַעֲיָן
– majim chajim – to build a mik­veh at the place. For cen­tur­ies it was held that ›the build­ing of a mik­veh has pri­or­ity over the build­ing of a syn­agogue.‹ (Mai­monides: Mis­chne Tora, vol. 3). Hence, at places where Jews lived a mik­veh often is found. The Worms Mik­veh of 1185/86 for cen­tur­ies offered mem­bers of the ›holy com­munity Worms Kahal Ka­dosch War­maisa‹ the pos­sib­il­ity of ritu­al clean­ing. For Vis­it­ors in re­cent dec­ades the Mik­veh as a place of memory offered the pos­sib­il­ity of sub­mer­ging into their own his­tory till down to the sources of the Torah ›However, a well and a Mik­veh are pure‹ (Third book Moses / Levit­i­c­us 11,36)

Stella Schind­ler-Siegreich, Chair­wo­man of the Jew­ish com­munity Mainz up to 08/2017

The Jew­ish com­munity is owner of the Mik­veh as well as the Syn­agogue com­pound and the cemetery Holy Sand in Worms and of  most of the grounds of the cemetery Jew­ish Sand in Mainz.

Apart from the sec­ond­ary sources of im­ages and writ­ings it is the traces of stone that today con­vey a vivid pic­ture of the rich cul­ture of the Jew­ish past at the Rhine river. The Worms Mik­veh as a me­di­ev­al ritu­al bath is an ex­tremely pre­cious build­ing from this past which as a rare monu­ment has to be re­stored and safe­guarded for the fu­ture with great pro­tect­ive cau­tion.

Dr. Roswitha Kaiser,
Dir­ect­or of Pre­ser­va­tion of His­tor­ic­al Monu­ments in the Gen­er­al Dir­ect­or­ate of Cul­tur­al Her­it­age Rhine­land-Palat­in­ate

In­for­ma­ti­on on re­sto­ra­ti­on

State of the Mik­veh Worms

Numer­ous in­vest­ig­a­tions have pre­ceded the first res­tor­at­ive and stat­ic se­cur­ing meas­ures at the Worms Mik­veh be­fore 2015. Meas­ure­ments, build­ing re­search, stat­ic-con­struct­ive ex­pert­ise, ana­lyses of ma­ter­i­al were im­port­ant parts of the ac­tu­al first meas­ures taken at the Jew­ish ritu­al bath, which as valu­able cul­tur­al monu­ment is an es­sen­tial part of the ShUM world her­it­age ap­plic­a­tion. 

Build­ing his­tory

  • 1185/86 in­scrip­tion of donat­or, fath­er of Judith, the donat­or of the wo­men’s sec­tion of the Syn­agogue
  • 19th cen­tury used as cess­pool
  • 1895 re­open­ing
  • 1938 and 1942 dam­ages
  • 1958 re­con­struc­tion in dif­fer­ent form with new way down and stairs
  • 2007 open roof in­stead of cover for the well shaft

State in 2015

  • Damages: mois­ture pen­et­ra­tion, cracks, de­form­a­tions
  • Ma­ter­i­als: red sand­stone, yel­low sand­stone, free­stone ash­lar, hand cuboid
  • Re­mains of peri­od: lime plaster partly with pig­ment
  • Restor­ing ma­ter­i­als: yel­low brick, con­crete sock­et­ing,ce­ment plaster and mor­tar for mend­ing
  • Sur­face dam­ages
    • by in­gress of sur­face water
    • by form­a­tion of con­dens­ate
  • Stat­ic dam­ages
    • by earth pres­sure, es­pe­cially west­ern part (stairs)
  • The ma­sonry is in an un­stable con­di­tion. The dis­in­teg­ra­tion of the joint sys­tem and struc­tur­al prob­lems im­pair the sta­bil­ity of the con­struc­tion.

Ques­tions and his­tor­ic con­text

  • His­tor­ic ap­proach to the me­di­ev­al build­ing?
    • In a draw­ing from 1854 the ac­cess to the Mik­veh in its po­s­i­tion cor­res­ponds con­spicu­ously with the rect­an­gu­lar set-off of the sup­port­ing wall ad­join­ing the east front of the me­di­ev­al build­ing.
    • Find­ings con­cern­ing way down and ac­cess = present day ac­cess to Mik­veh via yard of Syn­agogue arte­fact from the second half of the 20th cen­tury without find­ings.
  • Find­ings con­cern­ing ves­ti­bule: es­sen­tially handed down in the state of con­struc­tion peri­od ex­cept parts of the ar­chi­tec­tur­al sculp­ture.
  • Find­ings con­cern­ing stairs: ori­gin­al plans for the geo­metry of the stairs given up dur­ing con­struc­tion peri­od.
  • Al­ter­a­tions dur­ing con­struc­tion peri­od: re­plan­ning of stairs

Res­tor­a­tion re­quire­ments

  • Work­ing out of meth­ods for re­pair­ing the struc­ture of the ma­sonry
  • Work­ing out meth­ods for deal­ing with the or­gan­ic lay­ers
  • Work­ing out meth­ods for se­cur­ing the bear­ing struc­ture
  • Work­ing out concept for res­tor­a­tion
  • Work­ing out concept for the over­haul­ing of the peri­phery of the Mik­veh
  • Im­ple­ment­a­tion of the worked out meth­ods and con­cepts step by step
  • Vari­ants of safe­guard­ing meas­ures are dis­cussed, among oth­ers grouted an­chor, ground an­chor, ground sta­bil­iz­a­tion, in­ser­tion of con­crete pre­form in ground out­side, steel frame in­side, wa­ter­proof­ing, cli­mate mon­it­or­ing, crack in­jec­tions

First meas­ures

  • Res­tor­at­ive safe­guard­ing of valu­able sur­face parts with­in the struc­tur­al safe­guard­ing
  • Pro­vi­sion­al safe­guard­ing of struc­ture
  • First tests to veri­fy meth­ods of re­pair­ing the ma­sonry
  • The work will be car­ried out step by step in about five sec­tions. As it is not ne­ces­sary to com­plete work in a sec­tion in one go and as the work will not ne­ces­sar­ily cover one year, we cal­cu­late with a total of sev­er­al years for the work at present.

Dr. Roswitha Kaiser (GDKE)
Jür­gen Hamm (Hamm Ar­chitek­tur + Den­k­malp­flege)

Febru­ary 2017

First Me­s­u­re­ments: De­cem­ber 2019

The res­tor­a­tion of the mik­veh Worms is a pro­ject with many levels to be con­sidered, which do not only touch on sci­entif­ic and con­ser­va­tion is­sues. Also re­li­gious legal re­quire­ments for the pre­ser­va­tion of a basic func­tion­al­ity, the de­sired ap­pear­ance, au­then­ti­city and in­teg­rity are to be con­sidered. 
At a spe­cial­ist sym­posi­um in Worms on 10 Decem­ber 2019, the In­sti­tute for Stone Con­ser­va­tion e.V. in Mainz (IfS) presen­ted the first res­ults of the in­vest­ig­a­tions and meas­ures car­ried out since 2016. 
The final res­ult will have to be fur­ther dis­cussed and weighed up.
In­ter­ested parties can order the con­fer­ence pro­ceed­ings from IfS: https://www.ifs-mainz.de/ver­oef­fent­lichun­gen/ifs-berichte
One thing is for sure: the mik­veh Worms will be pro­fes­sion­ally se­cured and these meas­ures can be­come trend-set­ting for fu­ture pro­jects at ritu­al baths. The World Her­it­age ap­plic­a­tion will not be en­dangered be­cause an in­ter­dis­cip­lin­ary team has taken care of this won­der­ful and out­stand­ing build­ing with great care, cul­tur­al sens­it­iv­ity and ex­pert­ise.