History » 1143 - 1901 » Old Schoenstatt » Survey

12. The Surrounding Countryside

Niederwerth. – Weitersburg. – Höhr. – Hillscheid. – Besselich. – Rübel. – Bolusgipfel. – Bembermühle. – Wambachtal.

It would be impossible to close our little description without taking a look round the beautiful countryside surrounding the cloisters. It is only possible to pick out certain outstanding parts.

1. Niederwerth

This is the name of the long island in the Rhine opposite Vallendar, in contrast to the island of Oberwerth near Koblenz. The word “Werth” (Werder, Woerder, Woerth, Woehrd) is a general concept for an island in a river. The Island of Niederwerth, which is part of the Vallednar parish, was at first the property of the Lords of Isenburg, from whom the Knights of Braunsberg received it in vassalage. Even in early times there had been a farm and a chapel of St Gangolf there. Another chapel, was dedicated to St George, and next to it was built a cloister for pious women. In 1338 the Emperor Ludwig of Bavaria met with King Edward III of England in opposition to King Philip of France. In 1428 Archbishop Otto von Ziegenhayn settled the Augustinian choir monks on Niederwerth after they had been driven from Zwolle, and later entrusted them with the administration of the Schoenstatt convent. However, the community only existed until 1580. That year Archbishop Jakob III of Elz transferred the Cistercian Sisters from Leer in Koblenz there, because they had suffered greatly in the turmoil of the Thirty Years War. Also this convent was closed in 181, and many important monuments, including the Chapel of St Gangolf, were destroyed. The beautiful church from the time of Archbishop Johann of Baden (1456-1503) remains. The population of the fertile island rose to over 800. Formerly there were four islands: Niederwerth, Hopfenwerth, Langewerth and Luetzelwerth. Of these only the smaller one further downstream, the island Graswerth, remains.

2. Weitersburg

Down stream from Valledar and towering above it you come to the Wuestenhof (200 meters) on a plateau with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. On the furtherst edge of the plateau, parallel to the Rhine, you come to the little town of Weitersburg. The whole area is very fruitful. The village has 920 inhabitants. According to records dated 21 March 1264, a knight, Heinrich von Wittersberg, was one of the court officials at Vallendar. Sir Johann von Wittersberg was notorious as a robber from his nearby castle. At the end of the 14th century this was captured and destroyed. On 8 April 1700 Archbishop Johann Hugo (1676-1711) alowed the people of Weitersburg to build their own chapel. Since 1901 the Pallottine Fathers resident in Schoenstatt have celebrated Sunday Mass there.

3. Höhr

There are two roads leading from Vallendar to Hoehr (268 meters above sea level), which is the main centre for the ceramic work done in the area. Either you travel through the beautiful Fehrbachtal (7 kilometers) or over the heights of the Wandhof (6,9 kilomenters). Both roads cross the Roemerwall - the main road leading into the Rhine valley. Hoehr, called Hurle in the most ancient documents, became the property of Sayn-Wittgenstein in 1294, 9n 1363 it passed partly, from 1767 completely, to Trier, and in 1803 to Nassau. In 1688 Hoehr became a separate parish. Formerly it had been part of Vallendar. There are 3000 inhabitants and is known worldwide for its ceramics. About 50 factories employ over 800 workers.

4. Hillscheid

The Fehrbach's (Bach means brook) neighbour, the Hillscheiderbach, emerges from the Montabauer Forest somewhat above Hillscheid and flows through the Hillscheid valley. Hillscheid itself is a busy little town with about 1500 inhabitants. It lies just 6.6 kilometers from Vallendar and is also known for its ceramic industry. Being part of Vallendar, it also formed part of its parish. In 1081 the people were granted the right to build their own chapel, and since 1683 a Franciscan came from Montabaur on Sundays and Holydays to celebrate Holy Mass. The present church was built in 1756, and in 1812 it became an independent parish.

5. Besselich

Very little is known of this ancient convent on the Mallendarer Mountain, but it deserves mention because of its relationship to the Convent in Schoenstatt. It was situated on the site of the present Besselich, and in ancient times it was a well-known place of pilgrimage. According to the legend, King Klorian, his consort Engelinde, his daughters Anidebe and Enidebe and their retinue were on their way to Cologne to visit the shrine of the eleven thousand virgins in Holy Week of the year 500 when they were fallen upon by the heathen Huns who were hiding in the Westerwald. They were willed for their faith.

When their bodies were found, a Lord von Helfenstein erected a chapel there in 1204, which Archbishop Johann consecrated in 1204. In 1300 a nobleman, Harmann from Koblenz, brought valuable indulgences and privileges from a pilgrimage to Rome. In an ancient chronicle the relics are described in detail and various miracles were reported.

As early as the 13th century a convent was founded on the “holy mountain” of Besselich. In 1428 Franciscan Sisters were transferred there from the hermitage in Niederwerth, and in 1440 a number of the same Sisters came from the Convent of Mary in Muehlheim, about which has already been reported.

Under the first outstanding superior, Mother Elisabeth von Weiss, already mentioned, the convent and religious life flourished. In 1476 a house was founded in Carden on the Mosel and in St Martin at Boppard.

The storms of the Thirty Years' War caused havoc to the convent, but the zeal of the Sisters healed all wounds again. However, the convent was another victim of the general secularization.

The property passed to Duke von Bassenheim, then to the French General Guerin, who had the old church completely destroyed. Later other owners too over, and today there is nothing to be seen of the ancient cloisters. Some of the relics found their way to the parish church of Niederberg.

Another attractive outing could take you over Mallendr and the Holderbergerhof to Arenberg (6.5 kilometers). Shorter walks would take to the Ruebel above Vallendar, Bolus peak, Bembermuehle in Feisternachstal, the Wambachtal to the Humboldt heights, etc.

With this we close our short account in the hope that it will be a welcome guide to all who visit the valley and a treasured memento of the ancient Schoenstatt Convent.


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