The ecclesiastical centre of the Rode Estate

Fontes kaart 1723

Picture map from 1723, area of the church from Kerkrade to the Wurm (ARAB / Stichting Fontes Rodenses)

The Catholic Church was anchored in the reclaimed Rode Estate for an extensive period. The Archbishop of Cologne ruled to the east of the River Wurm, while the Bishop of Liege ruled to the west.

The parish church of Eygelshoven and Kerkrade was to the left of the Wurm, while the parish church of Merkstein and Afden was to the right. Shortly before 1100, the dukes of Limburg obtained possession of the area to the east of the Wurm. The dukes had patronage rights over the church in Afden, and gave ‘s-Hertogenrode/Rade, today’s Herzogenrath, its name.

The church in Kerkrade was founded by the Saffenberg family, who acquired the area of Rode on the west side of the Wurm in around 1060. In 1120, this church was transferred to the Klosterrath Abbey as its own church, and eventually gave the surrounding settlement (Kirchrode/Kirchrath/Kerkrade) its name. Today, it’s an independent parish church.

Such was the ecclesiastical and political situation in this area until 1104, when priest Ailbertus van Antoing arrived at the Rode Estate to found a monastic community.

On 13 December 1108, Bishop Otbert of Liège inaugurated the crypt, the lower church of what later became Rolduc Abbey. The day after the consecration (14 December 1108), Bishop Otbert also consecrated the rebuilt Lambertus Church in Kerkrade, following an arson attack by Hendrik of Limburg at the end of the 11th century.

From the documents available, it isn’t possible to determine when the first church in Herzogenrath was built. What we do know is that there was probably already a sacred building on the site of the current St. Mariä Himmelfahrt Church in the 13th century.

The Lambertus Church in Kerkrade was at the time the parish church for the Herzogenrath area. The residents of Herzogenrath had to go to Kerkrade for mass on Sundays and public holidays.  In 1423, Abbot Berensberg of Kloosterrade erected the “Auf der Hoven” chapel, which made life much easier for the inhabitants of the city of Herzogenrath.

It was not until 1564 that Herzogenrath became an independent parish under Abbot Worms,  by which time the abbot had also acquired the rights to the Auf der Hoven chapel. As a result, he separated his parish from the mother parish of St Lambertus. Both church parishes were independent parishes by then, managing their own property. Extensions were added to the church building in Herzogenrath over the years, and it had to be rebuilt in 1781. When the old church was demolished in 1780, a vault was discovered with an underground passage that led towards the castle. The Mariä Himmelfahrt Church on the site today was built in 1913/15, during the First World War.


Catharina Scholtens

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