Chapelle des Païens

Useful Information

Location: Dalem, 300 m east on D55F.
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaMithras Grotto
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=5 m, W=3.4 m.
Guided tours: n/a
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Nicolas Baroth: Heidenkapelle, Friends of Mosella Archaeology.
Address: Heidenkapelle, Mairie, Rue de l'école, 57550 Dalem, Tel: +33-38790-2612. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Near the small village Dalem, a sandstone cliff overlooks the valley. Into this cliff a natural cavern was enlarged and is called Heidenkapelle, a result of the fact that this part of the Lorraine is German speaking. The French translation is Chapelle des Païens (chapel of the pagans). It is said to be the oldest church of the village, almost 2,000 years old. The original cave was a result of a spring, which emerges here from the sandstone and eroded the rock around. The spring still exists, but it emerges now from the artificially enlarged cave. Actually, there are three parallel chambers.

The leftmost is a Christian oratory from the Roman era. The room is 5 m deep and 3.4 m wide and ends with a polygonal apse and a small altar, 1.2 m wide and chiseled from the natural sandstone. The choir is arched and has a fishbone cross. The front of the chamber is missing.

All three chambers are connected by doors at the end. The middle and right chamber are not open to the front, except for a window in the wall of the middle chamber. The two chambers were obviously used as a hermitage, the small cupboard formed the pantry, the holes for the wooden floor are still visible in the wall. There are no obvious remains of a mithraeum, but there are several reasons which make the Medieval chapel of the pagans denomonation more likely.

Nearby, in the town Merten, was a Roman settlement, this would explain the origin. Also, there is an engraving in the wall of the right chamber which shows two heads which seem to kiss each other. The one on the right is wearing a headgear similar to the ones used by Mithras priests, called a Phrygian cap. And finally, the name Heidenkapelle was typically given to places, where the Christian church was built on top of a previous pagan temple. Also, there are many parallels to the other Heidenkapelle which is located at Saarbrücken on the German side. Unfortunately, the long use for other purposes destroyed all other remains of the mithraeum.