CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE
Once upon a time, there were two brothers, Wyrich and Emich. They lived in a castle on the top of a cliff, looking over the village of Idar-Oberstein. Both brothers were in love, but the problem was they were both in love with the same princess, Bertha.
One day Wyrich came home from a trip to find that Emich had beat him to the punch and got engaged to beautiful Bertha. He got so mad that he pushed Emich out of the window of the castle where he fell to his death.
Things didn’t go well for Wyrich after that, and like the good catholic he was, he confessed the fratricide to a priest. The priest told Wyrich to amend for what he had done by building a church in the spot where Emich had died.
This was no easy task. Apparently, Emich hadn’t fallen all the way down the cliff, but only part way. So Wyrich’s church was built into the cliff between the village below and his family’s castle above.
During the building of the church Wyrich asked for a sign from God that all was forgiven and a spring sprung inside the church. The church was finished and in a final dramatic flourish, Wyrich too died in the same spot as his brother, falling down dead before the abbott at the dedication of the Felsenkirche.
True story or fanciful tale? No one knows for sure. My guess is that it’s somewhere in-between. But a trip to the church should be top on your list if you visit Idar-Oberstein.
Felsenkirche literally means church of the rock, and was carved into the side of the cliff between 1482 and 1484. To get to the church you will climb through a tunnel blasted into the cliff in 1981 in preparation of the 500th birthday of the church. You can either climb up from the city below or from the castle above. Clear signs mark the path.
Inside you will find a small chapel with windows on only one side and a rock wall on the other. Inside the church you will find a few small artifacts pointing to the town’s history as minors and jewelers of semi-precious gemstones. The spring still bubbles up on the rock wall side and you can climb up to the balcony. From there you can also climb out to the bell tower for views of the village below.
Tips for your trip:
There are paths from the Markplatz, next to the restaurant Zum Alten Goten on Hauptstraße, down from the Altes Schloos and Neues Schloss (the castles on the hill) and from the end of genossenschftsraße to the entrance of the tunnel leading to the church. The tunnel itself has 40 stairs. There is no handicapped accessibility.
We parked at the Festhalle (Wilhelmstraße 22, 55743 Idar-Oberstein) and walked into the downtown area. From there we followed the signs to the Felsenkirche.
15 March – 31 October: Daily 1000-1800
1 – 15 November: Daily 1100-1600
Sightseeing is not permitted during weddings, services or concerts.
Services are held:
June – October: every third Sunday 1000
Christmas Eve: 2300
Students, senior citizens, handicapped (with ID): €1.50
Children 6-16: €0.50