A Short Guide to Bischofsheim

A historical summary

Long before Bischofsheim was founded by the Franks (around 500 AD), the region of the present day community had repeatedly been sought out for settlement purposes.

Settlements became popular in the Stone Age (between the Mesolithic c. 8000 - 5500 BC and the Neolithic c. 5500 - 1800 BC) and until the present time this process which transformed nomadic hunters into farmers, who settled down to tend their land and developed the ability of building houses and producing pottery, is considered to be the greatest revolution in the history of humanity.

Fragments of earthen vessels stemming from 5500 - 4800 BC were found in the Weisenauer Gasse, leading to the assumption that a settlement had existed here. A stone axe from this era was also found in the Gutenbergstrasse.

At the end of the Stone Age bronze, a new raw material gained importance giving the following era its name: the Bronze Age (c. 1800 - 750 BC). Three graves from this era were found in the area of field 8, a sand-pit on the road to Ginsheim. The oldest of the graves stems from around 1300 BC, the two others from around 1200 - 900 BC. A second grave-site was discovered in the Rüsselsheimer Strasse in the 1950s consisting of four graves (c. 1200 BC) and a sacrificial grave containing animal bones was also found. These findings can be viewed in the local history museum.

The Bronze Age was followed by the Iron Age. Pottery fragments and skeletal remains probably belonging to the earlier Iron Age (Hallstattzeit) were found in the Weisenauer Gasse, Frankfurter Strasse and Taunusstrasse, leading to the assumption that a small settlement had existed in the town centre around 700 - 500 BC The Celts, whose territory extended from the Seine to Bohemia and from the sub-alpine mountains to the Alpine region, were supporters of the Latène culture (the Latène Age c. 500 BC - 1 AD).

Bischofsheim therefore was a part of the Celtic world. Three graves discovered in the district "Im Schlanken" (nowadays an industrial area) could stem from the beginning of the late Latène Age. One of the graves contained a small dog figurine made of jet, depicting a Celtic moor-dog, an animal indigenous to the Rhein-Main area during this era.

Remains of a small Roman settlement located between the Catholic church and the Spelzengasse were discovered by Georg Mangold in 1929. Graves found in the Bismarckstrasse are surmised to be part of the cemetery belonging to this settlement. Artefacts found in the settlement and in the graves date from the 2nd century and the first half of the 3rd century.

A discovery within the boundaries of Bischofsheim stemming from Roman times had been made long before actual Roman settlement remains were found. A sacred stone, an offering to the gods by the centurion Aelius Demetrius from the 22nd legion of Mainz, was found in 1802. It is assumed, that this stone stood at the intersection Fahrweg and Hainweg on the way to the Weisenauer ferry. A copy of this stone can be found in the local history museum and a second copy has been erected in the Böcklersiedlung.

The Romans were forced from their territories on the right side of the Rhine at the latest in the years 259 - 60 AD when the Alemanni tribe from the Taunus and Wetterau overran the Roman fortifications. No discoveries of the Alemanni period in Bischofsheim have been recorded. Bischofsheim was re-settled when the Alemanni relinquished their territories to the Franks in about 500 AD They settled here and founded a village that was to become the nucleus of the present-day town.

The cemetery of the franks located near the village was partially excavated during the 1920s and 1930s. In the street Am Himmelspfad and in neighbouring properties a total of 70 graves could be excavated. The entire cemetery which is partially located on the field with the impressive name Himmelspfad (path to heaven) most probably extended from the Rheinstrasse to Ginsheimer Strasse. The use of the cemetery began in 500 AD and can be traced to the last quarter of the 7th century. In the 8th century the custom of putting artefacts into the graves of the deceased ended, so that one can only surmise that the graves found in the area of the Ginsheimer Strasse stem from the 8th century or later. The quality and composition of the artefacts give evidence to the fact that the village was a settlement of free farmers.

The registration of a church under the patronage of Saint Martin gives proof to the continued existence of this Franconian village during the 8th century. After that archaeological as well as historical sources are missing and the further development of the village remains unclear until it is mentioned in official documents in the 11th century. It is in a Codex of Mainz from the 11th century that the name Bischofsheim is revealed for the first time: BISSESCHEIM CIRCA MENUM.

Around the year 1200 Bischofsheim was a part of the "Megunzer Mark". During the Middle Ages the St. Viktorstift Mainz as well as the Domstift Mainz collected tithes in Bischofsheim. The village was subordinate to the Lords of Hagen-Münzenberg until 1225, after which the Lords of Hohenfels had command over Bischofsheim for near to a century. On June 4, 1331 the brothers Hohenfels sold their Bischofsheim property to Earl Rudolf of Wertheim and Gottfried the Younger of Eppstein. Now Bischofsheim had two worldly lords. The division of the village lasted until 1579.

In 1478 the Eppstein property passed from the Lords of Erlenbach to Earl Philipp von Katzenelnbogen and a year later, after the marriage of his daughter Anna to Count Heinrich III, to Hesse. The Wertheim property of 1331 was sold to the archbishopric Mainz and in 1471 by mortgage to Erlenbach. Through the marriage of Margarethe von Erlenbach this half of the village ended up in Hattstein possession. In 1579 Count Georg I of Hesse bought the mainzisch-hattstein property. Since then all of Bischofsheim has been hessian, the other property having become a part of Hesse in 1479. As of 1579 Bischofsheim was now a part of the shire Katzenelnbogen and fell under the jurisdiction of Rüsselsheim, whose administration was located in Darmstadt. In the 16th century the administrative structure involving Bischofsheim appeared as follows: Community Bischofsheim - Shire Katzenelnbogen - County Hesse-Darmstadt.

The entanglements of the Thirty Years' War brought great distress to the inhabitants of Bischofsheim. Pillaging and devastation by passing armies as well as the outbreak of the bubonic plague led to a radical decimation of the population. According to statistics the Katzenelnbogen districts Dornberg and Rüsselsheim numbered 455 inhabitants in 1629, which were reduced to 63 in 1641. Bischofsheim was near to empty for a while, its habitants having either fled or having sought refuge in the Rüsselsheim fortress. The school, the Town Hall, the Protestant church and the gatehouse were badly damaged by fire.

During the State War (1672 - 1678), the Seven Years' War (1756 - 1763), after the French Revolution and after Hesse became a part of the Rhine Alliance in 1806, French troops marched into Bischofsheim leaving a trail of destruction and plundering behind them.

Bischofsheim was primarily a farm community until the middle of the 19th century. The building of the railroad brought about a decisive change. The railway between Darmstadt and Mainz, which at that time terminated in Gustavsburg, was dedicated by the Hessian Ludwigsbahn Association on August 1, 1858. Because the Main had not yet been canalised, the railroad was important for industrial development. When the Südbrücke (south bridge) in Mainz was completed in 1862/63 and the new section of railway line Mainz - Frankfurt set in operation, Bischofsheim became one of the most important junctions for freight and passenger traffic in southern Germany.

Although the indigenous farmers were rather sceptical, many of Although the indigenous farmers were rather sceptical, many of them dared to take the step into modern times by giving up their farms and switching over to the railroad. Labourers who found jobs with the railroad, with Opel or with MAN caused the population to increase to 2,300 by 1895. With families from all over Germany finding a new home here, new houses, streets, schools, businesses and industries were needed. Bischofsheim quickly outgrew its dam boundaries, first in the direction of the railway station, Bismarckstrasse and Rheinstrasse and then to neighbouring Gustavsburg. During the term of Mayor Wiesenecker (1870 - 1911) the population tripled to almost 4,500. Because of the increasing school population the school on the Schulplatz (1873), the Spelzengass-Schule (1896) and the Gutenberg-Schule (1926) were built. Due to the initiative of the tradesmen's union a trade school was established in the Mainzer Strasse in 1908.

After World War I, during which time Bischofsheim had served as an important re-loading point for troops and war materials, the railroad community again came under French occupation. The formation of a Rhine Republic and the resulting separation from the German Empire in the year 1923 was rejected by the railroad workers of Bischofsheim. In spite of the extradition of 108 families by the occupation forces, they continued their passive resistance and through acts of sabotage brought the entire railroad junction to a standstill.

An international trade crisis, years of inflation, a high rate of unemployment, as well as the necessity for the laying of water and gas pipes at the end of the 1920s exceeded the financial capabilities of the community and resulted in Bischofsheim being incorporated as a part of the city of Mainz on January 1, 1930. Up to the present the promised structural improvements have not been undertaken nor has the jurisdiction over streets and public buildings been returned to the community.

Ginsheim, Gustavsburg and Bischofsheim were consolidated during the era of National Socialism.

As an important railroad junction Bischofsheim was often a target of bomb attacks by the allied powers during World War II and suffered heavy damages. On January 13, 1945 the heaviest attack claimed over 100 lives. With the arrival of the American troops on March 25, 1945 the war came to an end. For Bischofsheim this war resulted in 120 dead, 60 totally destroyed, 65 badly damaged and over 400 lightly damaged houses, bombarded streets and railway lines.

After the war the Rhine became the natural boundary between the American and French occupation zones. Through administrative annexation to the district Gross-Gerau, Bischofsheim again attained its communal independence. The local government and the town councillors, the majority of which were social-democrats, moved their offices into the schoolhouse in 1948 and under the leadership of Mayor Graf took over the responsibility of reconstruction.


Through the absorption of refugees and banished peoples, as well as the booming economic development in the Rhine-Main area the growth of the community continued. The "Dr.-Hans-Böckler-Siedlung", "Ringstrasse", "Am Bauschheimer Weg", "Im Attich" and "Im Klinker" created new residential areas. The construction of the Theodor-Heuss and the Georg-Mangold schools, sport and civic centres, kindergartens, playgrounds and a fire-house, the designation of industrial areas and the development of a modern traffic network for buses, trains and cars provided for the satisfactory maintenance of the community.

A stroll through Bischofsheim

Let us begin our tour on the forecourt of the Protestant church, the oldest part of Bischofsheim. Because of its slight elevation it had served as a place of refuge to men and animals in times of flooding. Until 1839 this forecourt was used as a cemetery and later as the site for the veterans' war memorials, which now can be found in the Bischofsheim cemetery. The forecourt underwent alterations several times, but up to the present has remained a representative court in front of the Protestant church from which one has a nice view of the old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus)and the oldest inn in Bischofsheim, namely the "Krone" (the Crown).

The present day parking lot next to the church was once the St. Viktorhof, colloquially known as "Faselstall" (farrow stable), because it was there that the village bull was kept. Until the new fire department building was erected, its equipment was also stored there.

It is likely that a church founded in the 8th century and dedicated to St. Martin stood on the site of the present day Protestant church (1). The first community church under the patronage of St. Aegidius was built there in the 13th century. Ever since then the annual church festival has been held on this saint's feast day. Bischofsheim became Protestant in the middle of the 16th century at the time of the Reformation. During the chaos of the Thirty Years' War the village was plundered and the church set on fire (probably burnt down in 1635). In 1650 rebuilding was begun. In 1747/48, at which time hardly more than 370 people lived in Bischofsheim, the building was enlarged in the baroque style as it can be seen today. The painted ceiling by Seekatz, an artist from Darmstadt, is of particular interest in the interior of the church. The original bell tower was renovated in 1935. So that the tolling of the church bells could be heard farther away, a higher tower was built and the bells were electrically operated. In 1957 the bell tower was altered once again to match the baroque style of the church.

Formerly it was the privilege of the men to go to the local inn for a morning pint after Sunday services. Well, the "Krone" (2) was not far away! This building, erected in 1612, celebrated its 350th anniversary in 1962. A family named Wiesenecker were the proprietors of the inn for over a 100 years, 45 of which the honorary mayor Philipp Jakob Wiesenecker himself managed the "Krone". The site of the inn is almost self-explanatory. Located on the main street of the town is has always been the meeting place for strangers and natives.

Let us now turn our attention to the Old Town Hall (3) (Altes Rathaus). In 1649, one year after the end of the Thirty Years' War, Walther Schildge the village mayor, beer brewer and innkeeper put a piece of his property at the disposal of the community with the request that the town counsellors build a town hall containing a classroom there. After the completion of the house in 1652 the town counsellors met there for the first time on March 1st of the same year. At that time Bischofsheim had 200 inhabitants. From 1652 until 1874 this building continually served as school-house and Town Hall and as a residence for the local school teacher. Its function as Town Hall lasted until the year 1948.

The houses in the old town centre were all Tudor-style constructions. The first stone house, the Zehnthof St. Viktor (4) was built in 1740. The farmers in Bischofsheim, subjected to tax by the religious establishments in Mainz, paid their tithe at this Zehnthof from where it was sent on to Mainz. The St. Viktorhof, administered by a courtier, was considered to be the biggest and nicest farmhouse in the village. Only the original gateway arch, erected as a monument at the end of the Weisenauer Gasse, reminds us of the St. Viktorhof today.

We have now reached the town dam (5) and turning left we can see the fire department (6) built in 1960 on our right. The town dam was probably built in the 16th century as a protection against danger from without, such as flooding and attacks. Any kind of building outside the town dam had been impossible before the Main and Rhine dikes were built around 1800. The village moat with its bushes and hedges offered additional protection. Walking along the dam and going down the steps to the Darmstädter Strasse we can see two rills etched into the stone on the right-hand-side. It was here in the event of flooding that heavy planks were inserted and the space between filled with sand and earth to protect the village from the water masses. The village entrance and main thoroughfare were originally much narrower, having been made wider in recent years as a result of reconstruction measures.

Glancing in the direction of the town centre we can see a copy of the inn "Backhaus" (7), the site where the former village bakery stood and where earlier the Darmstädter Strasse had a so-called S-curve. Before crossing the Darmstädter Strasse to continue our stroll on the dam let us cast an eye on the nice Tudor-style house (8) on the right-hand-side leading up to the dam. It was originally located at the hunting lodge Mönchbruch and was rebuilt on its present site in 1840. Continuing along the dam we can see the rear view of the old town centre with its typical narrow Franconian buildings. The village canal known as the Dohl (or also Dol) formerly flowed at the foot of the dam.

A few steps farther on, the clock tower of the present day Town Hall (9) comes into sight. This building was originally constructed as a school in 1874 after the classrooms in the Old Town Hall, opposite the Protestant church, no longer provided sufficient space. In 1873 the pupil enrolment had grown to 275, in a time where Bischofsheim already had 1,400 inhabitants and 190 houses. The building served as a school until 1948. During the term of Mayor Karl Graf it was renovated to serve as the Town Hall and was dedicated as such on March 7, 1948. The population of Bischofsheim continued to grow steadily and by 1895 had c. 3,000 inhabitants of which more than 400 were school children. Meanwhile the Old Town Hall had completely been taken over as administrative seat of the community. On July 30, 1895 the town counsellors had approved the plan to build a school house in the Spelzengasse (10) - today Town Hall II - and dedicated it on August 9, 1896. The population continued to increase so that the school facilities were soon bursting at the seams. For this reason the Gutenbergschule in the Schulstrasse was built in 1910, the Theodor-Heuss-Schule in 1956 and the Georg-Mangold-Schule in 1969. It might be of interest here to mention the former trade school which was, where the police station (Mainzer Strasse) now is located. The tradesmen's union founded in 1899 established this school in 1908. With the continuing development of trade and industry the demands on and for apprentices rose. To meet this demand the local tradesmen's union offered a comprehensive programme of technical courses, drawing courses and courses for advanced studies.

If we follow the now no longer existing dam past the Rosengarten (11) (rose garden), we will come to the Frankfurter Strasse. The historic inn "Zur alten Schmiede" (12) (The Old Smithy) built in 1858 stood at the intersection Schulstrasse/Frankfurter Strasse until 1973. Today in an age where city planners are making an effort to keep the traffic flow in residential areas at a minimum, the Alte Schmiede could have served as an effective natural obstruction in the Schulstrasse.

Leaving the former dam and turning left into the Frankfurter Strasse we now come to our next point of interest, the Domstiftshof (13) (Cathedral chapter house). On the way there it might be interesting to glance to the other side of the street where a nice Tudor-style house (14), can be seen. The Domstiftshof was first mentioned in chronicles in the year 1278 and belonged to the Cathedral chapter of Mainz. It was here that courtiers from Mainz supervised the payments of tithes. In 1779 it became part of the estate of Mayor Johann Michael Hassemer and his son-in-law Philipp Wiesenecker. Since 1854 it is the property of the family Schneider. The Cathedral chapter's coat of arms is still preserved over the entrance gate.

On the other side of the street we come to the Dreihäusergasse. Mill-stones from the oil-mill (15) of the Cathedral chapter house have been erected at the end of this lane. These mill-stones were used for the production of rape-oil. The chapter's oil-mill, in use until the beginning of this century, was pulled down in 1972. A footpath brings us back to the dam. If we turn right and follow it to the ramp and then turn left into the Dammstrasse, we will come to the Marienplatz.

A memorial tablet on the Marienplatz (16) commemorates the fact that former Jewish fellow citizens were transported from here to concentration camps on March 20 and September 21, 1942. Our next point of interest is the Catholic church (17) which can be seen after we have gone through the over-pass. Due to the increase in population, mainly railroad workers including many Catholics, the construction of a Catholic church became necessary. The first church in Neo-Romanesque architecture was built in 1902, but had to be torn down in 1926 because it was in a state of decay. In the same year a new church Christ-Königs-Kirche (Church of Christ the King) was built in the at that time popular Art-Deco style, under the direction of Prof. Dominikus Böhm - a breakthrough in modern church architecture in Germany.

Continuing along the Hochheimer Strasse and turning left into the Frankfurter Strasse we will, after a few yards, reach a building that served the former Jewish community as a synagogue (18). Opposite this house, which today is an inn, a memorial plaque reminds us of its original function. Continuing on our way which leads us from the Taunusstrasse to the Bahnhofstrasse, we will walk through an area where in the 1920s Georg Mangold discovered the remains of a Roman village. Turning left into the Bahnhofstrasse we see the Saalbau (19) on our left, which served the community as cultural centre before the construction of the present day Civic Centre. At the end of the street, on the right-hand-side is the former Saalbau Schad (20), which was often frequented by members of the Opel family.

Directly in front of us we can see the old railway station (21) and the water tower (22), the landmark of Bischofsheim, which once had supplied the water needed for the steam engines. It was built in 1929/30 in addition to an already existing water tower (pulled down in 1972) and shows features of art-deco design.

Prosperity came to Bischofsheim through the railroad. In 1858 as the Hessian Ludwigsbahn took up the route Darmstadt - Gustavsburg, Bischofsheim was one of the stations at which the trains stopped. As the Südbrücke (South Bridge) in Mainz was completed and the railway connection to Frankfurt taken up, Bischofsheim became an important marshalling yard. Within half a century Bischofsheim's population had doubled to 2,300 inhabitants and Bischofsheim became known, and not without reason, as the railroad community. The present day station (23) was built in 1902 after alterations and expansion of the entire station had become necessary. The old station at the end of the Bahnhofstrasse was turned into offices. The dedication of the at that time biggest marshalling yard in southern Germany, together with the bridge across the Main, took place on May 1, 1904 in the presence of Emperor Wilhelm II and the Grand Duke of Hesse. During both World Wars the railroad station was the show place of many troop movements. In 1923 it was the site of passive resistance against the French occupation forces.


In recent years railway employment in Bischofsheim has been greatly reduced, but the station non-the-less remains of interest for the future for the so-called combination traffic of road and rail.