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St. Clement's Chapel
The Imprisoned Robber Knight
Nach dem Gemalde von Konrad Weigand
(zur Sage: Die Clemenskapelle)
There is a very melancholy legend connected with the foundation of St. Clement's church, which was built on the banks of the Rhine and which, not long since, was rebuilt and renovated by the generosity of the present great lady of Rheinstein Castle.
Rudolphus of Habsburg, elected emperor after the terrible anarchy which had reigned in Germany when the land was left without a ruler, determined by firm and vigorous government, to put an end to the evil-doings of the robber-knights who held sway along the Rhine.
He had already threatened these much-dreaded nobles who disturbed the peace of the country and the government of its ruler, and now hearing that they still continued their ravages, the emperor appeared himself in the Rhine countries, resolved to annihilate them and to destroy their strongholds.
On his way through the land, Rudolphus set fire to all the strongholds on the upper Rhine. The burning of the castles of Reichenstein, Sooneck, Helmburg and others, was an awful sight to the inhabitants of the valley below. Numerous members of these ancient noble races met the death of felons, and their bodies were hung up on trees as a warning to others.
Through the gates of Mainz many a robber-baron was led as a prisoner by the soldiers of the emperor. Every time that one of these barons and his companions-in-arms were led along with bound hands, towards the imperial tribunal, young and old, rich and poor poured forth from the streets and alleys, and accompanied the highborn malefactors with curses. The windows of the houses around were filled with eager onlookers, admiring the conduct of their emperor.
Moaning and wailing were then heard throughout the land, mothers, wives, and daughters, weeping for their dead. On the other hand the merchants who had endured hardships and sufferings during these years, were now delighted with the stern justice dealt out by the emperor.
Under cover of darkness stealthy forms could be seen creeping to the place of execution, and silently and mournfully taking away the bodies of their relatives to preserve them from ignominious destruction. They then buried the wretched remains in consecrated ground, hoping thus to satisfy the fears which haunted them of future punishment, for many of their dear ones had stained their swords with the blood of their neighbours.
In order to atone for these sins, and in accordance with the wise counsel of a priest, the trees on which the bodies had been hanged were cut down, and the wood used to build a chapel of expiation. Stones were also taken from the smoking ruins of the burning castles and employed for the same purpose. The little church was built on the lonely place of execution on the Rhine near Assmannshausen.
The day arrived – a day of great sorrow and weeping – when all was ready, and the priest was to read prayers from the altar for the first time. Many funeral barges were to be seen on the river, bringing the dead.
The Archbishop of Mayence absolved the bodies from their sins, and afterwards they were all interred together near the little church for the second time.
This occurred towards the end of the thirteenth century. For long years afterwards prayers were offered up in this church in Assrnannshausen for the souls of the dead.
The once proud and mighty races gradually died out, and their strongholds fell into ruins. And time which had demolished the castles on the heights above, began her work of destruction on the little church below; its roof decayed and its walls crumbled.
The ancient little church of St. Clement has since that time been raised again from its ruins, and now the voice of God's priest is heard chanting in it again, as it was heard six hundred years ago.Click to go to the next section of the Legends of the Rhine