History » 1143 - 1901 » Old Schoenstatt » Vallendar

2. Vallendar

Name and origin - History - Castle - Parish church - Activities - Attractive situation

[...] Just north of Koblenz, where the Rhine frees itself from the narrow embrace if its rocky banks, lies the fruitful island of Niederwerth. In ancient times it was visited by King Edward III of England (1337), and was the seat of knights and cloisters. On the right bank, about an hour north of Ehrenbreitstein, almost hidden by its trees, you will find the beautiful little town of Vallendar. The massive, ancient Romanic tower of the large parish church of St Peter and St Marcellinus, which was rebuilt in 1837, is the first building to capture the eye of the Rhine traveller.

Vallendar (Vallendre, Valender) in the district of Engers means a dwelling in a valley. The name is very ancient, probably originating from the language spoken in Gaul. It has been proven that the present parish church is standing on two former churches, the oldest of which was consecrated on 8 June 836 by Archbishop Hetti (814-847).

Since Vallendar belonged to the Count of Sayn it passed to his heir, the Count of Sponheim. The treaty of 14 April 1294 ended a lengthy quarrel and Vallendar became the property of Count Engelbert, the immediate successor of the counts of Sayn-Wittgenstein. On 23 December 1873 Count Johann III of Sayn ceded his right to Count Salentin of Wittgenstein.

The Counts of Wittgenstein had repeatedly given Vallendar as a pledge, which they each time redeemed until on 18 December 1392 Count Johann entered into a transaction, which later led to disagreements with Trier that lasted almost 300 years until the contract of 18 January 1681 by which the Counts held only a half in vassalage. In November 1767 Johann Ludwig sold his half to Elector Johann Philipp of Trier for 100.000 Gulden. In 1802 Vallendar became the possession of the Duke of Nassau and became part of Prussia in 1815.

The Vallendar castle, built ca. 1240, had become a complete ruin following the Thirty Years' War. In 1770 Archbishop Johann Philipp gave the ruins to the D"Ester family. He built a modern mansion on this site, which now forms part of the wonderfully situated “Marienburg”. Goethe, Archduke Karl of Austria, the French General Bernadotte, and the Russian General Bistram lived here for short periods. It is said that Goethe composed the poem “Heidenroeslein” in Vallendar.

The new parish church has already been mentioned. With the exception of some cathedrals, it is the largest parish church on the Rhine. Eginhard from Seligenstadt, the historian of Charles the Great, gave the relics of St Peter and St Marcellinus. In addition to these treasures, the church possesses a number of valuables and shrines. The towns of Hoehr (until 1688) and Hillscheid (until 1710) also belonged to the parish.

The situation of the little town on the Rhine is most beautiful; and the countryside around delightful. When the weather is clear you can see thirty villages from the Humboldt Heights (136 m) on the Vallendar mountains. It is one of the most beautiful points along the Rhine. Facing it, above the most northerly point of Vallendar, lies the “Ruebel”, a hill planted with vineyards. It also commands an amazing view. “32 villages, among them seven lordly mansions, spread out beneath my feet from the Rhine, and in the background my eyes could see a landscape with the most pleasant mixture of light and shadow enclosed by gentle mountains.” (Greg. Lang, “Rheinreise” (Rhine journey)

The countryside is particularly beautiful in Spring. As the gardens become resplendent with blossoms, the vast forests in the background begin to dress themselves in fresh, new green, and from thousands of feathered throats they re-echo from early morning until late in the evening with a chorus of song. It is wonderful to wander then through fragrant meadows alongside dancing brooks, or along lonely forest paths strewn with leaves or pine needles, and admire festively adorned nature.

Charming valleys open up on all sides. First of all there is the lovely valley between Vallendar and Weiterburg (Wittersberg) through which the Merbach flows. A few minutes behind Vallendar three valley join to form one. The most northerly is the Ferbachtal with a lovely road to Hoehr. At the Lohmuehle (10 minutes) there used to be a hermitage that was occupied for centuries by pious women or hermits. The Hillscheid brook flows through the central valley, and higher up "at the Pedel" it is joined by the Veisternacht brook that drives a number of mills. The southern valley is the Wambachtal. Once the three brooks have united they are called the Leerbach (Loehrbach).

Let us turn our steps to the place where these three beautiful valleys join. Even from quite a distance we can see two ancient towers poking through the green. Surprised we come to a halt. Yes, four hundred years ago there was a wonderful church here, and around it in the solemn silence of God's peace a Convent for women religious. Here the sound of bells combined with the jubilant songs of the birds and the gentle rustle of the leaves in the nearby valleys. As we approach we cannot se a church - only the two towers stand silently as sad witnesses to better times. But is it a dream? Ghostly voices? Does the evening breeze bring us the sound of invisible voices? We are standing on holy ground, it is the ruins of the ancient Schoenstatt Cloister.


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