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Roman open-air museum Hechingen-Stein (Germany, near Stuttgart)

Prieure de Sion

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The Roman Open Air Museum Hechingen-Stein

If you happen to be in Germany and then somewhere near Stuttgart or the Black Forest - I can only recommend a visit to the Roman Villa Rustica. I live relatively close to it, from me it is about 30min comfortable drive. And since we have a holiday today in Germany - I used the free time for a trip. Unfortunately, the time was somewhat limited - therefore only two videos. But I will go there again soon (I'm there several times a year) and will post you detailed pictures of the whole layout here in the thread.

The whole region is very rich in history and the soil is full of legacies of the Romans. We have here two regional province "capitals" with us. One of them is Rottweil (Arae Flaviae) - from its name, as you can see, it was probably founded in the time of the Flavians (it is also called the oldest city in Baden Württemberg). And then also Rottenburg am Neckar (Sumelocenna) - probably a colonization and foundation in the time of Trajan. This area is teeming with Roman estates, streets, stations, cities and thus also with correspondingly many legacies. Just also the Villa Rustica near Hechingen.



According to the latest scientific research, one of the last battles of the Roman Empire (under Valentinian) against the Germanic tribes - more precisely against the Alemanni - should have taken place here. So to speak, opposite the Villa Rustica Hechingen-Stein on the so-called "Beurener Heide". The Battle of Solicinium was fought in 368 AD between Alamanni and the Roman Empire under Emperor Valentinian I, after the Alamanni conquered Mogontiacum the year before. Valentinian I could win the battle only with great losses. Little is known about the battle. The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus reports a concerted offensive by various tribes. With this battle ended this last offensive, which brought the enemies of Rome over the Germanic Limes. Placed for battle, the Alamanni retreated to a mountain. The exact location of the battle is the subject of historical research. According to the latest findings, Beuren near Hechingen is considered a possible location. Archaeological evidence points to a battlefield in the area of the Beurener Heide and the Heufeld above it near Burladingen-Ringingen and Salmendingen. There a massive golden signet ring with the image of Constantine the Great was found in a field. The find seems to be an heirloom and could possibly originate from the imperial environment of Valentian I. Likewise, a golden eagle with outstretched wings, possibly part of a legionary eagle, was discovered on the hayfield. The find has been melted down by the finder.



You see - there would be a lot to discover here. But back to Villa Rustica in Hechingen-Stein, which I visited today, albeit briefly. But I can tell you - it's worth it. Here it goes first of all to the web page of the Villa Rustica. There you can get more impressions and impressions. Here you will also find all the details. By the way - every 2 years a big Roman festival takes place here.


Click here to visit the official website of Villa Rustica


The Roman Open Air Museum Hechingen-Stein houses one of the most important sites from the Roman period in southern Germany. It is located on a forest plot near the small village of Stein, a district of Hechingen in the Zollernalbkreis in Baden-Württemberg. The site was discovered in 1972 by the then mayor of Stein, Gerd Schollian, and was opened up by excavations between 1978 and 1981. It turned out to be the remains of a particularly magnificently developed Roman villa rustica, measuring around five hectares, with residential and farm buildings and a wall closed all around. Excavations have been carried out continuously since 1992. So far, a sacred precinct, a mill building, a granary building, the entrance gate to the complex, as well as a forge, another residential building and a corner tower have been excavated. In 2009, additional buildings were found outside the villa, upgrading the excavation site, initially thought to be only a manor, to a complete Roman settlement.

Me - on site today as emperor



The estate was probably built at the time of Emperor Domitian at the end of the 1st century, when the Romans extended their sphere of influence from the Danube towards the northeast into the Neckar region. In the 2nd century it was greatly expanded. The end came in the middle of the 3rd century, when the Alamanni overcame the Upper Germanic Limes, the Roman border fortification, and occupied the area (Limesfall). Numerous domestic, craft and agricultural implements, furnishings, cult objects and jewelry have been found on the site. Still at the beginning of the 2000s, a new large find was made above the already developed excavation and museum site: a forge house of an unusually large size with two meals. Further upstream, a large building complex has been excavated since 2001, the original purpose of which is not yet known.



Exploratory excavations, which are currently carried out exclusively by volunteers, show that within the walls of the villa rustica a number of other buildings, including a second bath complex, lie underground, so the larger part of the complex has not yet been excavated. In addition, there are other buildings in the vicinity of the complex. This diversity of finds leads increasingly to the question of what function this extensive settlement had in its final development. Since the settlement was abandoned in the Middle Ages and a forest grew over it, it offers a very good quality of finds, which were neither damaged by secondary settlement nor by agricultural activities, especially deep plowing. Also Gerd Schollian dug a small rampart in the forest in winter 2010/2011 and came across wall remains. When these were examined by archaeologists and preservationists, they revealed a formerly 16-meter-high building wall from the Roman period that had been completely toppled in one piece. It proves that Roman architecture outside the cities was much larger than previously assumed. Obviously, even remote country residences were primarily intended to be representative. The wall probably belonged to a storage building 35 meters long, 20 meters wide and even at least 16 meters high.



Main building
At the end of the 1st century a wooden building was probably erected. With the beginning of the 2nd century the wooden building was replaced by a porticus villa built of stone. The building, with its portico open to the front and its two corner risalites, was about 32 meters long and 23 meters wide. The 3.2 meter wide western entrance of the building consisted of a two-winged gate. Towards the end of the 2nd century, in order to extend the open portico to a length of 32 meters, the two corner risalites were demolished. With two new and larger corner risalites, the length of the building grew to 48 meters. Six new rooms were added to the northern wall. This increased the living space to over 500 m².

Residential house and northwest tower
In the period from 2002 to 2004, another house 16.4 meters long and 15.6 meters wide was excavated only a few meters away from the forge. The interior had no stone extension, but was probably divided by a wooden construction. It is remarkable that no fireplace was found. Presumably the fireplace in the northwest tower, which was excavated in 2006, was used as a kitchen. The found objects, the remains of painted wall plaster and the found window glass suggest the use as a residential house. The house had a gable roof covered with tiles. Due to the strong slope pressure, part of the walls was displaced by about 40 cm. The northwest tower was square and had a height of about 5 meters. Due to the massive foundation and the mighty layer of lintels, the building must have been several stories high. The tower had a floor of mortar screed and was covered with roof tiles.

Temple district
From 1992 to 1995 a 34 meter long and wide temple district was excavated. In this sacred district, located outside the enclosing wall, the extraordinarily high number of ten small chapels could be proven. After almost six years of voluntary work by members of the sponsoring association, this could be reconstructed in its almost original form. The opening of the complex with its colorful buildings, a columned hall as well as a Jupiter giant column took place in September 2021.

Enclosing wall
A plastered wall about 2 meters high and 0.6 meters wide protected the approximately five-hectare complex. On the west side, the entrance gate was discovered in 1999 and today it is completely reconstructed.

Mill and storehouse
A mill building 25 meters long and 18 meters wide was excavated from 1995 to 1999. A kiln was also found in this building. Burn marks indicate that this building burned down and then was rebuilt somewhat larger. Another building 20 meters long and 14 meters wide was also found near the mill. Since no special fixtures or finds were excavated, it is assumed that this was a storehouse for the mill.

During the excavation and conservation 2004
North of the entrance gate, a forge was excavated from 2000. The open forge had two forging furnaces separated by a wall.


I filmed a short panorama shot of the main area for you today:


And from a part of the perimeter wall with tower:




I will go there again the next time and upload some detailed shots and info here in this thread. But again - if someone of you is in the area - the trip is worth it. Visit the Villa Rustica in "Hechingen-Stein" and afterwards you can visit the Roman Museum in Rottweil.


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8 minutes ago, expat said:

Nice info piece. My Wife and I are going to Germany in a few weeks and she knows that area very well. She lived in Herrenberg for a number of years. Will try to find time for a visit.

That's cool - that's "my" area... 😄 

If you find the time - visit it - it's very interesting and the place is very fascinating. Well done from the people of the museum.


If someone is in the vicinity and would like to have a beer - or if I happen to be in Hechingen - feel free to contact me.




Edited by Prieure de Sion
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That's fascinating, @Prieure de Sion! I'd love to go there someday. I'm probably one of the few members here who had previously heard of Hechingen (specifically, as the ancestral home of the Hohenzollern dynasty of Brandenburg-Prussia). Also, one of my 5th-great-grandfathers, Veit Samuel (ca. 1710-1774) was actually born in Hechingen, and lived there until he moved to Emmendingen in 1735 to get married. So this just adds to my interest in the place.

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23 minutes ago, DonnaML said:

I'm probably one of the few members here who had previously heard of Hechingen (specifically, as the ancestral home of the Hohenzollern dynasty of Brandenburg-Prussia).

Yes... you can see the Castle Hohenzollern at the other side of the Roman Villa Rustica on the hill..



25 minutes ago, DonnaML said:

Also, one of my 5th-great-grandfathers, Veit Samuel (ca. 1710-1774) was actually born in Hechingen, and lived there until he moved to Emmendingen in 1735 to get married. So this just adds to my interest in the place.

Wow...! That's very fascinating! 

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