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Rhenish Massif

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Title: Rhenish Massif  
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Subject: Aachen, Giessen nappe, Central Uplands, Natural regions of Germany, Geology of Belgium
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Rhenish Massif

Rhenish Massif
Highest point
Peak Großer Feldberg
Elevation 2,881 ft (878 m)
Countries Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and France
States/Provinces North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse
Parent range Central Uplands
Orogeny Variscan (Hercynian)
Period Devonian
Type of rock metamorphic rock

The Rhenish Massif (German: Rheinisches Schiefergebirge: Rhenish Slate Mountains) is a geologic massif in western Germany, eastern Belgium, Luxembourg and northeastern France.

The Rhenish Massif consists of the Belgian and French UNESCO World Heritage site.


Geological sketch of the Rhenish Massif

Geologically the Rhenish Massif consists of metamorphic rocks, mostly slates (hence its German name), deformed and metamorphosed during the Hercynian orogeny (around 300 million years ago). Most of the massif is part of the Rhenohercynian zone of this orogeny, that also encompasses the Harz further east and Devonian rocks of Cornwall (southwestern England).

Most rocks in the Rhenish Massif were originally sediments, mostly deposited during the Devonian and Carboniferous in a back-arc basin called the Rhenohercynian basin. In some places in the Ardennes, even older rocks of Cambrian to Silurian age crop out as massifs overlain by Devonian slates. These older rocks form smaller massifs of their own (Stavelot, Rocroi, Givonne and Serpont). In the eastern Rhenish Massif some very limited outcrops in the Sauerland show rocks of Ordovician and lower Siliurian age. Further Ordovician rock exposures are part of the southern Taunus.

The second rock type are Tertiary and Quaternary igneous rocks, which most prominently occur in the Vulkaneifel, the Westerwald and the Vogelsberg.

Mountain and hill ranges

The mountain and hill ranges within the Rhenish Massif - some with maximum height in metres above sea level (NN)) are given below:

West of the Rhine from north(west) to south(east)

East of the Rhine from nort(west) to south(east)


  • Walter, R. et al.: Geologie von Mitteleuropa. 5. Auflage, Schweizerbarth’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart 1992. ISBN 3-510-65149-9 (German)

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