History of the Sontheim Cave
It was not until 1977 that it was discovered through bone finds that the Sontheim Cave was already known in the Celtic period (approx. 800 years before Christ). In 1976, a burial site from the 3rd – 4th century AD, i.e. from the Alemannic period, had already been found (see: An Early Alemannic Burial Site). The Sontheim cave was first mentioned in writing in 1488 by the Ulm Dominican priest Felix Fabri, who described the cave.
In 1530, the humanist Nikolaus Weinmann from Tübingen wrote in a letter about a visit to a cave in the Swabian Jura and indicated that Duke Ulrich of Württemberg had also visited this cave. However, there is no exact information about this; it is possible that the year was 1516.
Fig: 10 Duke Ulrich of Württemberg
The book „Die Neckarseite der Schwäbischen Alb“ (The Neckar Side of the Swabian Alb) by Gustav Schwab from 1823 mentions the tradition of cave festivals for the first time: „Until around the year 1790, the farmers of Sontheim held annual feasts and dances in this cave on Whit Monday.
At a festival in those days, the focus is not only on celebrating, but above all on illuminating the cave. This is only practised at cave festivals and attracts visitors from far and wide. On the occasion of the cave festival on 29 June 1857, a cave guide is published especially for the occasion. In this festive publication it says: „In former times it [the cave] was very often illuminated, on which occasion innumerable visitors from near and far came; by popular request, after the lapse of nearly 16 years, a brilliant illumination of the cave will take place next 29 June 1857, that is, on the Peter and Paul holiday, and good hospitality and service will be provided.“
Between the two world wars and after 1945, the cave was leased by the municipality to various tenants. From 1951, Helmut Frank again carried out research in the cave. In 1956, the Sontheim Caving Association was founded, see: History of the Caving Association.
Fig. 13: Cave map by Diezel 1825
Barbara Kreuzer (abridged)
Further information in the brochure on Sontheim Cave, available at the cave ticket office.