Thomas Metz: Rhineland-Palatinate – The heartland of European history

Villa Ludwigshöhe bei Edenkoben

Villa Ludwigshöhe bei Edenkoben

The face of the Rhineland-Palatinate is characterised by major evidence of a ­turbulent past. Whether Celtic burial grounds, Roman structures, fortresses, castles, churches or imposing monastery complexes: the Rhineland-Palatinate has a rich cultural ­heritage, a treasure of which it is very aware. The General Directorate of Cultural Heritage Rhineland-Palatinate makes this history come alive.

Festung Ehrenbreitstein / Koblenz

Festung Ehrenbreitstein / Koblenz

Hardly any regions in Central Europe are as rich in archaeological relics as those in Rhineland-Palatinate. The extra­ordinarily high number of archaeological finds provides historical evidence of no less than 800,000 years of momentous human history on the Rhine and Moselle. These two rivers have also made the region into a hub, a transit area, in several eras a centre of power and in others a fought-over border region. The location between the cultural areas and the transport arteries of major river systems led to a succession of different and often still visible modern-day cultural influences from frequently distant parts of Europe. In Rhineland-Palatinate, you can discover four UNESCO World Heritage sites at once: the Cathedral Speyer, the Roman Monuments, the cathedral and the Church of Our Lady in Trier; the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and the Upper-German Raetian Limes.

As a higher-ranking state authority, the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage (GDKE) is in charge of not only many cultural heritage monuments but also three excellent state museums in Coblenz, Mainz and Trier together with the State Cultural Heritage Preservation and State Archaeology Directorates. The State Cultural Heritage Preservation Direc­torate is concerned with a broad spectrum of cultural monuments ranging from abbey churches and ruined castles to half-timbered houses and workers’ housing estates. As an authority responsible for monuments, it is directly involved in much repair and restoration work in Rhine­­land-Palatinate and advises contractors, architects and tradespeople. It contributes to the recording, research into and providing information about cultural monuments by investigating historical buildings and restoration work and putting out numerous publications. On “Open Monu­­ment Day” – always on the second Sunday in September – historical buildings and sites not normally open to the public open their doors and invite visitors to have a ramble down the paths of history. Restorers and tradespeople demonstrate their working techniques and direct visitors’ glances to details that would otherwise remain hidden from untrained eyes. Experts use real-life examples to explain the work involved in preserving monuments.

Grabungstechniker bei der Arbeit / Münstermaifeld

Grabungstechniker bei der Arbeit / Münstermaifeld

The working world of the State Archaeology Directorate ranges from life forms in pre-historic oceans through the fragments of a Neanderthal skull to the first works of art of ice age hunters or the mysterious neolithic ritual site in Herxheim. Rich finds of metal from the Bronze Age also characterise the picture, as do the grandiose Celtic gravesites, the first urban centres of Mainz and Trier of Roman times and the remnants of wars along the western border of Germany from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The State Archaeology Directorate is used for researching, securing and preserving all archaeological monuments and historical sources in the Rhineland-Palatinate. With its regional offices in Coblenz, Mainz, Speyer and Trier, it looks after and conducts research in the entire state.

The Fortresses, Castles and Antiquities Directorate looks after and opens about 80 cultural monuments in the Rhineland-Palatinate. These include real treasures such as the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress and Stolzenfels Castle in Coblenz, the majestic Trifels in Annweiler, the Villa Ludwigshöhe in Edenkoben and Roman structures in Trier, such as the Porta Nigra city gate, the Amphitheatre, the Thermal Springs at the Cattle Market and the Imperial Springs. The stately fortresses, castles and antiquities are an expression in stone form of the history of our state. They are also a very important – and hence economic – factor for tourism, especially more exclusive cultural tourism.

Schloss Stolzenfels / Koblenz

Schloss Stolzenfels / Koblenz

The state museums in Mainz, Coblenz and Trier are cultural attractions for everyone. While the Rhine State Museum in Trier presents itself as a “Forum for Finds” in archaeology, the Mainz State Museum contains the state’s most important and oldest collection of objects of art history and culture. The Coblenz State Museum concentrates on regional economic, technological and social history; this is complemented by successful special exhib­itions for the whole family in its prominent location in the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, high above the Rhine and Moselle. For example, topics such as “Haribo”, “Playmobil” and even the world of ice age animals were presented in a modern setting for all ages.

All directorates adhere to the principle that exhibitions, events and educational offers make history come alive and help pass on knowledge of our cultural heritage. The focus is always on the aim of making the great cultural heritage of our state directly accessible to the point of being “right up close” to all interested visitors both from the local region and from all over the world. To accomplish this, we continue to further develop visitor concepts, for example through digital presentations and with audio-visual “walk-round” guide systems for visitors. We also place particular emphasis on barrier-free access in order to better familiarise all those interested in culture and history with the cultural heritage of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Thomas Metz
Thomas Metz was born in 1955. He studied architecture at the university of Karlsruhe. After completing an internship, he worked initially as a section head and then as a permanent representative of the executive board at the Coblenz South City Engineering Office. From 1995 to 1998, he was a project manager at the Coblenz City Engineering Office. In 1998, he took over the management of the Fortresses, Castles, Antiquities Directorate of Rhineland-Palatinate and, from 2001, the management of the Coblenz State Museum. In 2007, Thomas Metz was appointed Director-General of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage of Rhineland-Palatinate (GDKE).