Restoration of the Mikveh in Worms

Part of the ShUM-world he­ri­ta­ge ap­p­li­ca­ti­on

Res­tor­a­tion of the Worms Mik­vehAccumulation of water

Thoughout cen­tur­ies the Syn­agogue formed the centre of an in­cess­ant Jew­ish life in Worms. From the old­est build­ing (1034) only the stone dona­tion plaque has been pre­served. After the rav­ages dur­ing the Cru­sades of the 11th/12th cen­tur­ies a new build­ing in the romanesque style of the ar­chi­tec­tur­al school of the cathed­ral was erec­ted in 1174/75. Already in 1185/86 the ritu­al bath, the Mik­veh, was built ac­cord­ing to an in­scrip­tion that has also been pre­served.

As sev­er­al ex­pert­ises prove, the ma­sonry of the Mik­veh is in an un­stable state. A stat­ic-con­struct­ive ex­pert­ise from 2014 hints at dam­ages like mois­ture pen­et­ra­tion, cracks and de­form­a­tions. In­tru­sion of sur­face water and the form­a­tion of con­dens­ate cause sur­face dam­ages. Earth pres­sure par­tic­u­larly at the west side where the stairs are causes stat­ic dam­ages. Moreover, meas­ur­ing of air­borne germs in 2015 have shown that dur­ing the dif­fer­ent cli­mates there is a high pol­lu­tion with germs in the Mik­veh. 

Dr. Roswitha Kaiser of GDKE makes it clear 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.« ex­plains 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-cit­ies Spey­er, Worms and Mainz that for the Jew­ish world are still im­port­ant places of Jew­ish eru­di­tion, under the motto »ShUM-cit­ies 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

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

Mayor Mi­chael Kis­sel points 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-cit­ies 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-pro­ject 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 cit­ies are in fifth place on the list. Rhine­land-Palat­in­ate (Rhein­land-Pfalz) now has to pre­pare a co­pi­ous ap­plic­a­tion for the world her­it­age com­mit­tee till 2020. Pre­sum­ably UNESCO will de­cide one year later about the defin­it­ive ad­mis­sion onto the 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
– 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
The Jew­ish com­munity is owner of the Mik­veh as well as the Syn­agogue and the cemetery Holy Sand in Worms and 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. Re­fer­ences to the ex­tremely bad state of the loosened ma­sonry are well known, meas­ures there­fore ur­gent.

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