(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
Legends of the Rhine
Click Here to return to
the previous section
Nach dem Gemalde von W. Menzler
(zur Sage: Die Bromserburg)
In the lofty cathedral of Spires stood a great assemblage of knights, and on the throne near the altar sat Conrad der Staufe with his hands resting on the hilt of his sword. All were listening intently to the burning words of Bernard of Clairvaux who was describing the ruthless manner in which the holy places of Palestine had been laid waste. As the saintly preacher ended with a thrilling appeal to the religious feelings of his audience, a great shout, "On, to Jerusalem!" rang through the sacred edifice. Most of the knights offered to bring as many followers as possible to aid their pious Emperor. Among those present was Hans Brömser, the lord of the Niederburg at Rüdesheim. This noble knight, the last of his race, was not detained at home by family cares. His wife had early been taken from him by death, and Mechtildis, the only offspring of their marriage, was left under the protection of the neighbouring Falkenstein family.
So the pious warriors marched by devious and dangerous routes to that land where Our Lord lived and suffered. In fierce battle with the Saracens many a noble knight closed his eyes forever. Many met a harder fate – a living death in the noisome prisons of the unbelievers. After a lost battle Sir Brömser fell into the hands of the Turks, and in a dungeon had to suffer shameful imprisonment. Sometimes they would force their knightly foe to turn a millstone, while the crowd jeered. Then, in the hour of deepest misery the knight made a vow to God. "Give me my freedom again, and I vow that my child Mechtildis shall devote her life to the Church." And he repeated the solemn words again, and yet a third time.
Then happened what none of his companions-in-arms had ever hoped for. The brave crusaders stormed this Turkish stronghold in the Syrian desert, and liberated their fellow-crusaders from captivity. Full of gratitude to God, Hans Brömser again fought valiantly in the holy cause.
Meanwhile at home in the hospitable keep above the Rhine a maiden awaited with anxiety the return of her father. Often in the silent hours, with sweetness and sunshine around her, without and within, she stood on the castle-wall and she saw in reverie that blue Eastern land, whilst she listened, to the wild throbbing of her young heart in which the blossoms of first-love were bursting.
Then one night her father returned to the Rhineland.
In the moss-covered courtyard of the castle Mechtildis embraced her father long and silently. Beside the maiden, now in her seventeenth year, stood the young lord of Falkenstein. The youth bowed deeply to the lord of the Brömserburg, and greeted him kindly with the words, "Welcome home, father!" Then the vow made in the Syrian prison rose like a spectre to pall the joy of the crusader's return.
In the banqueting-hall of the castle a large company had assembled to celebrate the happy return of Hans Brömser and his faithful companions. The praise of the crusaders resounded and many stories were told of the dangers the heroes had encountered. With stirring words the knight related to his listening guests how he himself had fought in the sacred cause, and how he had suffered imprisonment among the heathen. Then in a lower tone, and with solemn words, he told his friends of the vow he had made in his hour of deep despair in the Syrian dungeon.
The painful silence which followed was broken by a stifled cry, and the knight's daughter, pale as the covering on the festive board, sank unconscious to the floor. With burning cheek and flashing eye the young lord of Falkenstein rose, and with a firm voice exclaimed, "Mechtildis belongs to me; she has solemnly given herself to me forever". The murmur soon subsided before the stern countenance of the lord of the castle. "Mechtildis has been dedicated to heaven, not to you, boy. The last of the Brömser race has sworn it, and abides by it". The knight said this with suppressed fury, and soon his guests departed in silence.
Mechtildis lay in her chamber in wild grief. The flickering lamp beside the crucifix threw an unsteady light on the extended form of the maiden who was measuring the tedious night hours in the love-anguish of her young heart. To the distracted maid her chamber seemed to be transformed to an oppressive dungeon. Seizing the lamp with a trembling hand she hurried up the narrow winding stair on to the roof of the castle, and there committed her great grief to the listening ear of night. Leaning on the wall, she looked away towards the castle where lived the noble young lord to whom she had dedicated her life. "I am thine, my beloved,'' she sobbed. No star was visible in the sky. A wild autumn wind shrieked and swirled round the keep in accompaniment to the storm in the maiden's breast. A short piercing cry echoed in the darkness. Was it the bride of the winds or a human cry? The night swallowed it. From the parapet of the Brömserburg a female form had been hurled down into the dark floods of the Rhine below,
A bright harvest morning followed a stormy night. In the Brömserburg they were searching everywhere in vain for their lord's daughter. Soon however a mournful procession approached bearing the mortal remains of Mechtildis. In the early dawn a young woman had rescued the body from the waters of the river. Now the walls of the Brömserburg echoed with sounds of woe over the early death of this last fair young flower of the Brömser race. Hans Brömser threw himself on the body and buried his stern features in the snowy linen. Not a tear bedewed his eyelids.
As a propitiatory offering for the rest of the soul of the maiden who had thus avoided the monastic life, the knight in his deep, sorrow vowed to build a chapel on the hill opposite his castle. Then Hans Brömser shut himself up in his chamber, and passed the following days in silent grief, while the grave closed over his wretched child.
Many months passed, but still not a stone of the promised chapel had been set up. In the bitterness of his sorrow the grief-stricken father had separated himself more and more from the world, and now brooded in gloomy isolation. One day a servant came before him with a likeness of the Mother of God which an ox had scraped up while ploughing a field on the hill opposite the castle, and three times the ,servant declared he had heard the "Not Gottes" (Suffering of God) called out. Then Hans Brömser remembered his vow, and the chapel for the peace of the soul of Mechtildis was erected. "Not Gottes" it is called to this day.Click to go to the next section of the Legends of the Rhine