Prayers in Mansfeld Mines and Smelteries
The diverse hazards facing those working in mines and smelteries, the severe working conditions and the need to work together gave rise to comradeship on a scale seldom found in other occupations. Furthermore, the work acquired a special nature because of the belief in goblins that still prevailed until recent times and because of the darkness at the workplace due to poor lighting. Devout prayer and joint singing served to ward off any impending disaster and to reflect on the arduousness of their work which, according to old traditions, was God's intention and had to be respectfully accepted. This belief was reinforced by the Latin saying "ora et labora" (pray and work), the motto of the Benedictine monks.
The miners and smelter workers had special books of varying quality containing prayers and songs for all situations. They assembled in suitable rooms of the smelteries, mines or prayer rooms from where they set off to their work fortified after joint prayer or, at the end of the shift, went home after a prayer of thanksgiving. Taking the Mansfeld copper shale mining area as an example, this essay deals with such prayers before and after shifts from the Middle Ages onwards, showing how they gradually disappeared during the Industrial Age.