Obernburg is located at the mouth of the Mümling and Elsava rivers into the Main in the beautiful region of Churfranken. This exposed location attracted the Romans as early as about 107 AD, who built a fort here.
The Obernburg fort was an outpost to secure the Limes (Wet Limes), which is defined here by the course of the Main River and existed from about 107-267 AD. To this day, you can go on a discovery tour in the city and will always come across Roman traces.
The Roman fort of Obernburg
In the middle of today’s old town of Obernburg there was once a Roman cohort fort. Today it is completely overbuilt and many a homeowner finds treasures from Roman times hidden not deep underground during work, which contribute a lot to being able to reconstruct the structure of a Roman garrison station.
The fort belonged to the Upper Germanic Limes, which is formed here by the Main line. It was located above the Main River and thus, at a possible ford across the river, formed a guard post of the border.
What did the fort look like?
If you walk through the city today, you can only discover a few traces of the fort above ground. On a map, however, you can see that some of the street courses still characterize the city layout today. On the former Via praetoria, for example, the location of the main gate Porta praetoria has been marked by laying different colored paving stones.
The fort in Obernburg was a stone fort of almost 3 hectares in size and with its dimensions of 188 meters x 166 meters almost rectangular in shape. The corners of the camp were rounded, as was the case with almost all Roman forts known today, and the internal structure was also largely “standardized”. This had the great advantage that new legionaries immediately found their way around and had the feeling of “being at home” everywhere.
The main side of the fort, which usually always faced the enemy, here faced the Main River. The protective defensive walls were over 2 meters wide, plastered and painted white. On three sides, double gates, each with 2 towers, led into the fort. A fourth gate was present, but here we are not quite sure how it was constructed. In addition, a ditch protected the fort. Open meadows offered a good view of the surroundings.
In front of the fort were also the camp village and the necropolis.
In the Roman fort
Exactly how the interior structure of the Obernburg fort was laid out has not been conclusively clarified to this day, as a town has grown up on top of the town over the years.
The location of the staff building (principia) has been proven beyond doubt in rough structures. This was located directly at the intersection of the via principalis and the via praetoria in the center of the Roman fort. This was an administrative building of the beneficiarii. Individual offices were grouped around an inner courtyard. In the rear part of the building (here the remains of walls have been found) there was the sanctuary of the flag with the cult image of the emperor. Adjacent to it were the offices.
Other buildings, such as the bath, have not yet been precisely located.
Who was stationed in Obernburg am Main?
There is evidence of the stationing of an auxiliary force (unit of the Roman army made up of allied peoples or free inhabitants) of the Cohors I Germanorum. Four brick stamps have been found that prove this.
Later, a unit called Cohors IIII Aquitanorum was stationed in Obernburg. A dedication altar for a commander of the Aquitanians, the praefectus cohortis (cohort prefect) Lucius Petronius Florentinus has been discovered. Part of it can be seen today walled into a wall of a house, the altar is in Aschaffenburg. I find it very exciting that the Romans used only quite incomplete words, almost like a kind of shorthand. Sometimes there are only single letters on the tablet, which result in the following text:
I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo)Apollini et Aesculapio SalutiFortunae sacr(um)pro salute L(uci) Petroni Florentini praef(ecti) coh(ortis) IIIIAq(uitanorum) eq(uitatae) c(ivium) R(omanorum) M(arcus) Rubrius Zosimusmedicus coh(ortis) s(upra) s(criptae)domu Ostiav(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) l(aetus) m(erito)
Translating this a little more freely, it would read as follows:
Jupiter, the best and greatest, dedicated to Apollo and Aesculapius, to Salus, to Fortuna. For the health of Lucius Petronius Florentinus, commander of the 4th partially mounted cohort of the Aquitanians of Roman law, Marcus Rubrius Zosimus, physician of the above-mentioned cohort, coming from Ostia, gladly, joyfully and duly redeemed his vow.
Roman find – Jupiter giant column
One of the few existing in the streetscape and for everyone recognizable evidence of the Roman period is the Jupiter’s Giant Column. This column was discovered in 2015 in an excavation pit. It is said to be the first completely preserved column in Bavaria and was probably erected in a temple.
The column consists of a base plate, a four-god stone, a scaled column, a capital and Jupiter as a top. In total, the column is almost 4 meters high.The four-god stone shows the gods Hercules, Juno, Mercury and Minerva. The faces of the deities have been deliberately damaged.
St. Anna Chapel in Obernburg am Main
Even if it is hard to believe, where today stands the really beautiful St. Anne’s Chapel of the city, there was once the Roman cult place of Mithras Sol invictur. It was not until the 13th century that the chapel was built.
Set into the wall of the choir are some stones found during restoration work. They are broken inscription stones that refer to the pagan god Mithras.
Visit to the Roman Museum Obernburg am Main
One can discover only some of the finds from the Roman period in the cityscape. Many finds are in museums. Part of the finds can be seen in the Roman Museum of the city.
I found the large city model exciting, with which you can see the topographical location of the place very well. So it is also well understandable why the Romans chose this place as the location for their fort.
On the first floor of the museum there are many different stones made of gray and red sandstone with various inscriptions. For example, you can discover fragments of other Juptite giant columns, gravestones (which were placed along the roadside) and the building inscription from the staff building of the cohort fort. “Some of the stones come to life when you scan the QR code on some of the exhibits and listen to the text.
On the second floor you can see numerous smaller finds from Obernburg. From Roman coins to the most diverse vessels, many a digging operation in the gardens of the town has brought a lot to light.
I can highly recommend a visit to the museum, preferably with a small guided tour. Information can be found on the city’s website .
Untere Wallstraße 29a,
Thursday – Sunday, public holidays: 14-17 h
Adults: 1,50 €
The visit to Obernburg am Main took place as part of a press trip.