The fortified church
A place of worship in Ostheim is first mentioned in the year 1410, when a church in the community was consecrated to the Virgin Mary. The church was erected within a fortification, which took its present shape – a double ring of walls and towers – between 1400 and 1450. Within the protective walls was a considerable number of vaulted cellars with halls built on top of them. These were intended to protect both Ostheim’s harvests and its people. At the time the fortified church was erected, the principal weapon was the crossbow. Later, when wars were waged with guns, the military function of the facility became less important. The mounts were levelled in modern times, walls were built back and two more gates were added. The fortified church was abandoned only once, in 1634, when it was pillaged but not destroyed. The 16th century brought the Reformation to Ostheim, and the community saw its cultural and economic heyday. In 1596, Ostheim was given city rights. By then the population had doubled, so the old church of 1410 was replaced with a larger new one. That structure is still the main church of Ostheim, and most of its 66 vaulted cellars are today used as storage space.
The floor plan of the fortified church of Ostheim is a double ring of walls with towers and bastions:
- The exterior ring wall is up to five metres in height, with tower-like bastions at each corner and a further bastion on each side midway between the corners.
- The interior ring wall is up to eight metres in height; three of the four corner towers reach 25 metres even today.
The large gate in the southeastern corner used to be the only access to the building and linked the fortified church with the old town. On the outside you can see the stone braces for a portcullis. An iron-clad wooden gate is dated 1622 and contains a small door that admitted late arrivals.