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