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The Dogs of St. Cassius
The majestic Minster of Bonn rises high above the surrounding houses. In olden times, when the tribe of the Ubians was still dwelling in that part of the country, a heathen temple stood on that very site. It had been an important place of worship for the whole Rhine valley. The Ubians offered their numerous human sacrifices there.
Some time ago the big altar of the ancient temple was excavated, and is still preserved under the name of Ara Ubiorum. Many prisoners of war and poor slaves have been slain on this mouldering stone.
When St. Helena, mother of Constantine, came to Bonn, the old heathen temple was burnt to ashes. The pious empress destroyed many sanctuaries of the idolaters, and hewed down the gigantic oaks of the sacred forest near. She built a Christian church in the same place, and dedicated it to St. Cassius.
After some time this church was enlarged and embellished. A high tower with slender spires crowned the lofty fane, and big bells hung in the steeples. For long centuries they rang in good and evil days.
In the lapse of time they saw war and peace, joy and woe passing by. They mingled their deep solemn tones with the joyful cries of the populace, when the German Emperor, Frederick the Beautiful, and Charles, Father of Bohemia, marched in splendid procession to the Minster to be crowned.
Whenever the electors of Cologne, who chose Bonn as their residence, were singing high mass in the church below, the bells joined in the Te Deum with their melodious peals.
But when the French had pitched their tents in Bonn and the brave warrior Brandenburg lay outside its gates, the Minster bells rang in woeful shrill sounds, for their steeple was set on fire.
Often when a thunderstorm threatened to burst the clouds, the bells gave their clear warning, and rang loudly as if they would drown the roaring of the thunder.
At midnight a thunderstorm round the old Minster is an awful thing. The legend records that as soon as the first growling of the thunder is audible, the idolaters who had dominated the minds of the Ubians during long centuries with their grim rites rise from their ancient burial places that surround the Christian church. United with the gods of darkness, they rage with shrill howlings round the grey building, where now the remains of St. Cassius are resting. They hate the pious saint whose martyrdom converted thousands of heathens.
In vindictive anger they fill the air with burning brimstone, thicken the clouds, and direct lightnings towards the quiet Minster, to devour it with fire. But the saint himself watches over his tomb.
All at once the bells ring, though no human hand has touched the ropes, and sound clearly above the infernal noise below. The spirits of the heathens cry out. "Woe to us, the saint watches, the dogs of Cassius announce us. Woe to us, the dogs of Cassius are barking!"
With these cries and with terrible maledictions they vanish into the night. For a little while the thunder is still heard in the distance, but soon a deep stillness envelops the high Minster once more. Undamaged and as serene as ever, it stands pointing majestically towards heaven.
Time however, which has destroyed so many of the old customs, has hushed the dogs of Cassius into silence The bells of the Minster sound no more of their own accord at the approach of a thunderstorm at midnight.
Yet let us hope that in spite of this, the saint watches from heaven over his town, and will preserve his sanctuary for many years to come.Click to go to the next section of the Legends of the Rhine