The Kalkofen (lime kiln) area got its name from the site where one or more lime furnaces once stood. Until the Early Modern Age, lime was very important to the economy of the village. It was used for rendering walls and ceilings, scattered on stable floors to prevent pests, used to protect against the first frost in gardens and orchards, used for pest control in fruit trees and as a soil improver and fertiliser before the invention of artificial fertilisers. Virtually every village of any decent size had a lime furnace. Lime kilns are generally found on the edge of or completely outside the village. This was not only because of the risk of fire due to the kilns: for the people of the Middle Ages, any craft associated with fire was suspected of associating with the devil and its advocates were seen as ‘dishonest’ and not suitable for inclusion in a guild.
The lime kiln in Umkirch was first recorded in 1635. It is mentioned in a witch trial held at the Offenburg Regional Court. A total of 31 ‘confessions’ were forced out of defendant Maria Biggen from Bräunlingen.
Ms Maria Biggen was also charged alongside Maria Bruckmann and tortured until she became a ‘denunciator’ before being executed in Offenburg in October 1635. They were just two of 60 women tried and executed for witchcraft there between 1632 and 1636.