What it lacks in size, the mysterious Torhalle at the former Benedictine abbey of Lorsch – another UNESCO World Heritage Site – more than makes up for in beauty and historical significance. The royal abbey was built between 767 and 880 AD, and the Torhalle dates from the latter part of this period. With its well-preserved, festive red-and-white stone facade rising above three very Roman-looking arches, it certainly looks like a gatehouse, hence its popular name, but it’s actually not at all certain what the original function of the little building was. Archeological investigation suggests, however, that it stood within the main gate of the abbey, whose precincts covered a much greater area than that which you now see. The hall upstairs is a palimpsest of wall paintings, from two layers of Carolingian origin to traces of Romanesque and more substantial, Later Gothic work.

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