Carolingian Corvey – Germany’s new UNESCO World Heritage site

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The newly designated UNESCO World Heritage monastery of Carolingian Corvey lies in the middel of nowhere near the small town of Höxter. And yet, when we arrived on a sunny summer Saturday, a plethora of volunteers directed the numerous visitors to makeshift parking lots in the former castle ditch.

„Are all those people interested in the protected carolingean westwork?“ we wonder. But no, they are here for the commercial garden fair taking place in the castle grounds – basically a more exclusive version of a garden center (with a steep 9 Euro entrance fee). Those already returning are clutching purposeless metall balls and other colourful garden decoration.

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The Carolingean westwork

The monastery itself is less visited. Founded by Louis the Pious in 815 and presided over by Abbot Adalhard (we rather liked that name), a close friend of Emperor Charlemagne, the only part of the monastery remaining from the 9th century is a section of the Western facade and the Western tower structure. Because of this original Carolingian Westwork – the oldest westwork in the world – Corvey has been nominated as Germany’s 39th World Heritage site in 2014.

Christ the Salvator and the two spires have later been added to the front. Looking from below in an unfavorable angle, the Salvator looks somewhat chubby.

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A small gallery on the upper floor of the westwork is easily the most interesting part of our visit. From here bishops and emperors could oversee the entire church, some of them have even been enthroned here. On the walls, the remains of old frescoes can be seen.

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Is Carolingian Corvey worth a visit?

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The historical value of Corvey might appeal more to the specialists than to the interested public. The site is difficult to reach by public transport and explanations are so far exclusively in German. Also a day without the garden fair might be a better choice.

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