In former times (and still today in observant communities) a ritual bath was a essential facility of the Jewish community. The function of the Mikvah was not the promotion of hygiene, but of ritual purity achieved by total immersion.
The water in the Mikvah has to come from a natural spring or well. For this reason many Mikvot were built at the level of the local water table and are often located at, or just below, ground level. Today rain water is used in many Mikvot.
The Mikvah House
The structure which once housed the Mikvah of the Jewish Community of Halberstadt is now the core of the Berend Lehmann Museum. The Mikvah was in use until 1938. In 1954 it was dismantled. The Mikvah was located in the celler of a sixteenth-century daub and wattle house at 26 Judenstrasse. The Mikvah was enlarged in 1891 by the construction of an arch which rose above street level., thus giving the Mikvah greater height. The ritual bath and its enclosure as well as its architectural features are still evident.
The Ritual Bath
The location of the ritual bath is indicative of its crucial role in Jewish religious observance. Concealed and surrounded by row houses on the Bakenstrasse, the Baroque Syngagogue lay beneath Cathedral Square. Along with the Synagogue and the cemetery , the Mikvah was an essential component of a Jewish community. The Mikveh almost always was positioned near a synagogue, as it was in Halberstadt.