When, in the 13th century, the Dominicans settled in Rottweil, the order also erected the church belonging to the monastery, in Gothic style. In keeping with their rules, there was a ridge turret on top, as the mendicant order was not allowed to build a tower. Thus, the “Predigerkirche” or “Preachers’ Church” is the oldest Gothic church in town. The scholar and bishop Albertus Magnus is said to have been present when the foundation stone was laid in 1268. Only a few decades later, the order had become a respected institution in this town. After all, the Dominicans took care of the citizens’ education, looked after the poorer social class and had fantastic preachers among them. In the 16th century, one of them was prior Heinrich Person, a quarrelsome clergyman who was always ready to cause a stir. For example, when he decided to leave the monastery in civilian clothes, for a couple of days, just to enjoy himself in the countryside. Also, there were rumours that people indulged in gambling in the sacristy, an activity that was forbidden. The order satisfied its need for wine from its own vineyard near Schaffhausen.
In 1643, towards the end of the Thirty Years’ War, French troops besieged Rottweil so massively that the Dominicans and the guilds held perpetual adoration hours, begging the “Virgin Mary of the Rosary Altar” to help and protect Rottweil. During these hours of adoration, the Virgin Mary was said to have changed the colour of her skin, by becoming pale and turning her eyes towards the heavens. There were witness who testified to this incident.
Rottweil surrendered to the French and capitulated. The French marched in and occupied the town. A few days later, the surrounding troups left Rottweil and moved on towards Tuttlingen to set up an army camp there. A fortnight after the first “miracle of the eyes looking upwards” happened, Bavarian and Imperial troops took the French by surprise in their army camp at night and routed them.
When that happened, the second part of the miracle of the “eyes looking upwards” took place. The Virgin Mary in the Dominican church is said to have regained her complexion and looked towards Tuttlingen several times. In the 100 years that followed, this miracle inspired more and more people to go on a pilgrimage to Rottweil.
Starting in 1753, the Dominicans refurbished the plain church of their mendicant order. Entering the portal today, you are welcomed by the joyfulness and splendour of the early Rococo style. Expressive paintings on the ceiling, angels playing music and scenic historic illustrations fascinate the observer.
In 1802, secularisation put an end to this devout cheerfulness. The monastery and its cloisters were dissolved, the Dominican church was locked. The property went to the duke of Wurttemberg and thus came into the hands of the Protestants, the followers of the Reformers. The “Virgin Mary of the eyes looking upwards” was taken to the local Heilig-Kreuz Kirche and has been there ever since.
With the new Wurttemberg rulers came Protestant Christians, and they also needed a church. In 1806, the Dominican church became a garrison church; and since 1818 it has been the Protestant parish church.
Years ago, Marcus Keinath, the Protestant pastor in Rottweil, remarked: “My Protestant church is more Catholic than the Heilig Kreuz Catholic church. In my opinion, this church is the most beautiful Protestant church in the whole of Baden-Wurttemberg.”