According to popular legend, a relic still possesses magic to this day and acts as a point of contact between heaven and earth, between the earthly and the supernatural. A path towards comfort and hope in difficult times, easy to understand - and therefore all too alluring. This was especially true in the Middle Ages: at that time, the cult of relics experienced a veritable boom, which sometimes sprouted strange blossoms. Steady streams of pilgrims offered lucrative sources of income, making it little wonder that so many wanted to participate, even if it was with fakes such as “holy” manger straw. But that's a story for another day.
The Matthias Chapel in Kobern-Gondorf was clearly not a destination for streams of pilgrims. The architectural jewel in the heart of the rustic wall ruins of the old upper castle was probably built around 800 years ago as a repository for a head relic of the Apostle Matthias, and is today one of the most ornate works of late Staufer architecture in the Rhineland. A sacred space exuding deep devotion and reverence for the saint.
It is likely that the former lord of the castle, Heinrich II von Isenburg-Kobern, brought the head relic back with him from the Egyptian port city of Damiette. No doubt a spoil of war from that inglorious era during which armed Christian pilgrims travelled to the Holy Land as warriors of God, to liberate the sites of activity of their religion's founder from the “infidels” in the bloodiest way.
This link with the Crusaders explains the similarity between the Matthias Chapel and the old Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
No more can be seen of the relic today, but it isn’t such a great loss. The architecture can go on without it, and the mortal remains have long since been transferred rest with the other bones of the apostle in the Abbey of St. Matthias in Trier; their rightful place, provided the skeletal parts actually go together.
A comprehensive renovation followed in the 19th century in the style of the German Late Romantics, and it has since become a listed building.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this special sacred building!