(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
Legends of the Rhine
Click Here to return to
the previous section
Ancient Bacharach was once a famous place, and long before the fiery wine that grows there became famous throughout the world – "it was in the good old times as .our grandmothers say" – it was the delight of many a connoisseur abroad. About that time its grateful lovers erected an altar to Bacchus who provided them so liberally with wine. The place of sacrifice was on a huge rock projecting out of the Rhine, between an island and the right bank of the river, and in honour of the god they gave the town the name it still bears.
The inscriptions on the altar-stone have become unintelligible, but the Bacharach folk know well to the present day the original meaning of them.
Fishermen still keep up the old custom but now more as an amusement; they dress up a straw-man as Bacchus, place him on the altar, and surround him singing.
The ruins of the castle of Stahleck are situated on the Rhine, above the wild, romantic country of Bacharach.
About the time of Conrad III. the first Emperor of the House of Hohenstaufen, a young ambitious knight, Palatinate Count Hermann, inhabited this castle. Being a nephew of the emperor, this aspiring knight considered his high and mighty relationship as a sufficient reason for enlarging his dominions.
He conceived no less a plan than that of taking possession of part of the property which bordered on his land, belonging to the Archbishops of Mayence and Treves, supporting his claim by declaring that for more than one reason he had a right of possession. The jealousy which at that time existed between the clerical and the secular powers, brought a number of neighbouring knights to his side as allies, and the count began his unprovoked quarrel by taking a castle at Treves on the Moselle by storm. This castle belonged to the diocese of that town.
Adalbert of Monstereil, a man of an undaunted character, was then Bishop both of Treves and Metz.
He at once collected his warriors to drive the bold robber from the conquered castle. The temerity of the count and his superior forces dismayed Adelbert, giving him grounds for sober reflections. But the good bishop was a clever man and, not believing himself sufficiently strong to resist the count, he sought refuge in spiritual weapons.
When his people were about to assault the stronghold, he made a most enthusiastic speech to his troops.
Holding up a crucifix in his right hand, he told to them that in the silent hours of the previous night the Archangel Michael had appeared to him, and had given him this crucifix, at the same time promising him certain victory if each of his warriors attacked the enemy in the firm belief that an invincible Higher Power was near to help them.
The bishop's words inspired his men with a great courage. Led on by the holy man carrying the crucifix in his raised hand, they marched on to the assault, stormed the castle, and made Herman's troops flee in great confusion. The ambitious count, now finding himself deserted by his troops, was forced to renounce the feud which he had hoped to carry on against the bishop.
The disgraceful defeat the count had suffered was most humiliating to him, but it had not killed his ambition.
He now directed his thoughts to his other ecclesiastical neighbour.
Having searched through some ancient documents, he thought he had found full right to a strip of land which Arnold of Solnhofen, Bishop of Mayence, then held in possession. He at once sent in his claim to this mighty prince of the church, who received it with a scornful laugh. "Oh!" said the bishop, tearing up the written complaint, "I shall be able to manage this little count as well as I have all along managed the stubborn people of Mayence, some of whom have bitterly repented of having rebelled against their bishop."
Hermann was told how Solnhofen had treated his claim. In great wrath he swore to take vengeance on the man who had dared to tear up his complaint so contumeliously. His young wife implored him with rears in her eyes not to raise his hand against a servant of the Lord again. But he turned contemptuously away.
Hermann was well aware that, through the influence of the bishop's companions-in-arms, he was now hated by the citizens of Mayence. This circumstance made him determine to rob Arnold of land and dignity, as he ascribed the cause of this deadly dissension to the power the bishop exerted over the people of his diocese.
The count, now joined by several daring knights, again prepared to make war against the representative of the church, and marched to attack the bishop in his stronghold.
Arnold was enraged at this persistent strive against the dominions of the church, and his dark soul conceived a dastardly plan to rid them of their enemy. He hired two villains who treacherously put the count to death.
Soon afterwards the rebellious citizens of Mayence successfully stormed the bishop's palace and turned the cruel prelate out of his episcopal seat, whereupon he was obliged to flee for his life. But Arnold was not so easily subdued and he soon returned, breathing vengeance. His friends warned him in vain, and even the famous prophetess, Hildegarde of Rupertusberg, sent a messenger to him with the words, "Turn to the Lord whom you have forsaken, your tour is near at hand."
But he heeded not this admonition, and at last he was killed by the rebels in the Abbey of Jacobsberg, some distance from the town where he had taken up his residence.Click to go to the next section of the Legends of the Rhine