Lohra Castle is situated in the heart of Germany in Northern Thuringia. The castle, which is surrounded by a scenic hilly landscape, is located on the edge of a natural reserve area. Being one of the largest castles in Thuringia, the history of castle Lohra begins in the Middle Ages. Its architectural styles which have been preserved in the structures of the ensemble attest to a prolonged period of occupation and historical evolution up until today.
The castle is more than thousand years old, and it is a relic of German medieval past that is still standing at the heart of a region through which the story of the German nation has been written. Today, it includes twenty buildings from different time periods, showcasing this historical evolution to the enchantment of visitors and heritage enthusiasts: medieval fortifications, remnants of a tower from the 11th century, a Romanesque double-floored chapel, a manor house from the Renaissance period as well as stables and granaries from the 19th and the early 20th centuries.
The ensemble is situated in the centre of a beautiful forest. For years Lohra Castle was vacant. In the 1990s an association started to rescue the castle and to revitalise it through cultural activities. This process of rehabilitation of cultural heritage not only brought new life and use to an otherwise forgotten monument, but it also provided with a new space where young people could reconnect with tangible heritage while valorising the relevance of preserving a historical monument. Since then, a large number of international workcamps, heritage volunteers projects, heritage training courses, seminars, exhibitions, concerts and other activities with international participants have been taking place every year in the castle.
Medieval constructions and architectural relics from the Middle Ages and the following centuries are still standing tall overlooking the Thuringian landscape. However some of the structures are in need of conservation work, especially the former manor house originally dating back to the 13th century. The project participants will have the chance to contribute to the preservation of these historical structures working on the wooden roof framing structures and the roofs.
When restoring historical wooden constructions in line with accepted conservation practices European Heritage Volunteers is usually concerned with slow, careful repairs using suitable materials and considers carefully the original structures even when this entails more work. For example, historic timber joints are preferred over the use of metal connecting elements and the works are carried out with great care down to the smallest details so that a repaired roof construction loses none of its original constructive and aesthetic quality.
However, when dealing with the outer parts of a roof structure the priority is how best to protect the original substance against climatic influences and to avoid damages. The exteriors of a historical structure sustain the battering of the weather with frontal bouts of wind, rain and snow. In the case of Lohra Castle, the structures are more directly hit due to its elevated location above a hill, a situation which has increased during the last years due to the influence of Climate Change. Its geographical situation places the Lohra Castle in the line of stronger storms which have been rampaging over Germany in the past recent years dropping copious amounts of water and blowing powerful gusts of wind. Understandably, even the robust structures of these medieval edifices were not built to withstand such an aggressive onslaught by nature. Facing this increasingly unstable climate hazards posed to the historical structures, solutions are being thought to adapt conservation strategies into disaster risk planning. Preserving historic legacy for future generations is an important way to consolidate heritage conservation resilience.
The work will concentrate on several structures in the complex’ roof constructions and roofs: components dating back to the 13th century, the 15th century gatehouse and the above mentioned 16th century manor as well as a 19th century barn house. The handling of the roof tiles must follow a planning that preserves as much of the original elements as possible, while preparing the structure for the next storm to hit. For this reason whenever a tile is not recoverable, a different recycled historical tile rescued from a ruined structure in the region would be used instead in order to preserve the authenticity in the process of heritage conservation. In addition, wise carpentry solutions have to be applied in order to protect the most vulnerable parts of the roofs – mainly the eaves and corners – in the best possible way against storms, while at the same time adhering to traditional handicraft techniques.
The works will be led by a master of carpentry who has additional education as “Restorer in Handicraft”.
Within the framework of the educational part other historic roof constructions in the villages nearby and the region will be studied and discussed.
The project will take place from August, 16th, till August, 29th, 2020 and is organised by European Heritage Volunteers.