St. Vitus-Church

St.Vitus Church is the oldest church in Heidelberg and was first mentioned in 774. Its location slightly apart from the centre of the old village indicates that is was probably a private church with grounds and was then donated by its wealthy owner to the Abbey of Lorsch. Originally it was dedicated to Saint Nazarius, but after the Abbey of Lorsch was taken over by the Archbishopric of Mainz in the early 13th century, the church was dedicated to Saint Vitus and Saint George.

St. Vituskirche
St. Vituskirche before 1933 (Foto: Tiefburgarchiv)

The extension of the tower dates back to around 1100 and around 1250 the church was extended to form a triple-naved basilica. Around 1470, the so-called „nun’s choir“ was built for the Augustinian nuns who lived nearby. The western part of the tower was destroyed by an earthquake around 1500.

From 1650 the church was used by both Roman Catholics and Protestants, until the Protestants moved to the newly built Peace Church (Friedenskirche) in 1910.

In 1933-34, thirty years after Handschuhsheim became part of Heidelberg, St. Vitus Church was extended to the north by the architect Franz Sales Kuhn. The Protestant part of the church cemetery was built upon.

St.Vitus Church was the burial place of the Knights of Handschuhsheim. Around thirty gravestones and epitaphs are a reminder of this dynasty of knights that died out with John V in 1600.

Church interior:

The frescoes on the southern side of the church date back to 1450. In two rows, one above the other, they depict the life and suffering of Jesus Christ.

In the two Romanesque window niches to the left and right of the main entrance there are paintings of two male and two female saints:

  • James (Jacob), patron saint of pilgrims and travellers
  • Wendelin, patron saint of farmers and herdsmen
  • Odilie, patron saint of eyesight and
  • Apollonia, patron saint of dentistry and dental problems

High up in the bell tower there are seven bells. The oldest dates back to 1791 and the second oldest to 1921, but the other five had to be replaced after World War Two, as their predecessors had been melted down for the war effort. The youngest bell was installed in 2015 to mark the 1250th anniversary of Handschuhsheim.