The Stiftskirche or Collegiate Church St. Goar, located between the train station and the market place, is the successor to a church built in the 8th century to honor the local saint and to provide a bigger and more attractive place for the large number of pilgrims who came here to visit.
St. Goar came to the Rhine region about 511AD. He first lived in a cave as a hermit, then built a small church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a cell for himself; later he apparently also built a hospice for the many travelers and pilgrims who came to see him. He was known for his loving hospitality; everyone who came received a place to sleep, a meal, and a glass of wine. St. Goar was a humble man of prayer who prayed the psalms and served mass every day before serving his guests; he converted many or strengthened them in their faith.
It became the custom for those traveling the river to stop and pray before traversing the dangerous Loreley rocks; many were protected from harm or saved from shipwreck, while, according to the stories of miracles recorded at the time, those who did not heed the advice to stop came close to losing their lives until (belatedly) they called upon the saint.
The pilgrimages to the saint continued until they were forbidden during the Reformation (16th century). At this time the relics were also taken out and scattered and the beautiful frescoes in the church were painted over. The frescoes have since been restored and are well worth looking at. The crypt is the most ancient part of the church; here is where the pilgrims came to pray and many miracles are recorded of their healing from physical and mental illnesses.
After the Reformation the Catholics in the region were served in various temporary ways until they built their own church again in the 17th century. This is the church of Sts. Goar and Elisabeth, located a few blocks further south on Heerstrasse. The church was originally built in the Baroque style, but later had to be rebuilt, now in a Gothic Revival style. It contains the oldest remaining depiction of St. Goar (a relief on the bell tower outside, which was formerly on the vault of the south aisle of the Collegiate Church); a lifesize relief of the saint which was formerly on top of his grave in the crypt of the pilgrimage church; and one of the few remaining pieces of the saint's relics. An intimate altar has been created out of the last two items, which you will see just as you enter the church. The church also contains relics of other important early saints on the south side altar.