Amorbach and its Abbey Church

After having climbed up to see the Castle Wildenberg, we visit Amorbach and its Baroque-Rococo Abbey Church.


Amorbach is a small medieval city in the Sandstone-Odenwald

Known in the 10th century as Amerbach or Amerbach, the settlement evolved around the Benedictine monastery and became a town in 1253. We are in the Sandstone-Odenwald; dark red sandstone bricks characterize the buildings, such as the catholic church St. Gangolf, built in the 18th century. 

The City Hall, covered with slates, is from 1479. I could not find out who the man is that sits on the bench in front of the City Hall.

Next to the City Hall we have lunch in the Ristorante Pizzeria di Marina.

Around us are medieval houses. The Internet contains a long list of notable buildings at Amerbach.

 On the way to the Abbey Church, we come across the former monastery mill (Klostermühle) that was built in 1448 as the inscription above the gate says. It was the mill and bakery for the monastery. Now it is an inviting coffee bar


The Amorbach Abbey Church – have we seen a cock on the belfry?

Abbeys are catholic institutions, and I have never seen a cock on the belfry of a monastery church. I rub my eyes. This IS a cock. Let us look into the history of the abbey to understand, how the cock ended up on this belfry. 

The Abbey of Amorbach is from the 8th century. It was one of four abbeys that were founded in Carolingian times to bring Christianity to the Odenwald. In 1446, the abbey acquired the relics of Saint Amor and Saint Landrada and became a pilgrimage site. In 1740-1744, the Abbey Church was reconstructed, whereby the Romanesque west towers from the 12th century were incorporated. 60 years later, in 1803, the abbey was dissolved and given to the duke of Leiningen as a compensation for the lands left of the Rhine that they had lost to the French. The principality of Leiningen was founded, and the abbey became the residence. The noblemen of Leiningen originated from Palatine near Dürkheim, and they were protestant. They handed the Abbey Church over to the (Protestant) parish of Amorbach. The principality of Leiningen ceased to exist already in 1806. It was passed over to the Grand Duchy of Baden (Grossherzogtum Baden) and in 1816 to the Kingdom of Bavaria. The noblemen of Leiningen still own the abbey today. 

Now, we know, why there is a cock on the belfry of the Abbey Church: The church has become Protestant and many Protestant Churches show the cock on their towers.

This is the bird’s eye view of the abbey that I found, when visiting the church. 

Inside the church, we find an overwhelmingly rich decoration – late Baroque/early Rococo.

Six red marble columns frame the altar picture that shows Mary arriving in heaven. Above the black beams is the Holy Trinity. The statues of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, flank the altar.

The iron screen was made in 1748-50.

The organ was set up in 1782 by members of the organ-building Stumm family; it was at that time the largest organ in the world.

In front of the organ is the plain protestant communion table.

The frescoes mainly tell the story of Saint Benedict.

Impressed by the rich decoration, we leave this place full of history. Our next target is the ivory town Erbach, not far from here.



The Staufian Castle Wildenberg on a hill near Amorbach

In August 2022, we travel back from Berlin to Switzerland, visiting Thüringen and the Odenwald and staying with an old family friend near Heidelberg.

Now, we have walked up a steep path and stand in front of the Staufian Castle Wildenberg (Burg Wildenberg), located on a hill in the middle of the forest.

We are in the Odenwald near Amorbach; the area belongs already to Bavaria. 

Source: Wikipedia entry about the Odenwald (,_Serie_A-de.png).

Above the entry gate, the coat of arms, two wheels with seven spokes and three stars in two fields, welcome us.  

The castle was the seat of the noblemen of Dürn. 

Ruprecht von Dürn founded the castle in 1170. He belonged to the close circle of Friedrich I Barbarossa (1155-1190). Ruprecht was from Dürn, today called Walldürn. The coat of arms of Walldürn contains a wheel with six spokes. Perhaps the wheel above the entry gate (though with seven spokes) is related to the noblemen of Dürn. I could not find anything about the stars.

The Dürn enlarged their Castle Wildenberg in 1220.  In the late 13th century, the noblemen of Dürn sold the castle to the Diocese of Mainz. The Diocese installed the local administration of the territory here. The panel says that the castle was damaged during the earthquake of Basel in 1356. Interesting. Did “our” Basel earthquake reach the Odenwald, about 300km north of Basel? This is new to me – very interesting – and I could not find sources on the internet that would give me more information about that. 

The castle has been a ruin since 1525. At that time the farmers burnt it down in the German Peasant’s War (Deutscher Bauernkrieg). 

We enter the castle. This finely engraved column decorates the entry.

We continue to the inner courtyard separated by this wall that was added in the 15th century.

We approach the entrance to the palace (Palas) in the northern part of the castle.   

The palace (Palas) is 200m2 large. On the ground floor are the winter rooms with the fireplace, about 9m2 large. 

The fireplace is finely decorated.

Historians assume that Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote parts of his medieval romance Parzival here, as he emphasized that the fireplace in the Castle of the Holy Grail is much larger than the fireplace in the Castle of Wildenberg. No one at the Castle of Wildenberg had ever seen a fireplace as large as the one in the Castle of Holy Grail, he wrote in his Parzival.

The second floor of the Palas, added in 1220, is famous for the early Gothic arcade windows. They brought light into the hall that was probably used for festivities in summer.

We did not feel like leaving this beautiful place full of history.

But it is lunch time, and we are getting hungry. We take the steep path down, where our car is waiting for us. Our next target is Amorbach, where we hope to find a restaurant and where we intend to visit the famous Abbey Church of Amorbach.




Lindenfels – the pretty dragon city clustering around the medieval castle

On our way to Switzerland, from Berlin and Thuringia, we spend one night at Lindenfels in the Odenwald.


Some pretty spots in the city of Lindenfels

Lindenfels is located on 360m in the Odenwald north of Heidelberg. It is a spa resort…

… with pretty half-timbered houses …

… and some cosy gardens.

This shingled house has an interesting history that is explained on the panel: It was an inn and a brewery, acquired by Michael Rauch in 1850.

At that time, Lindenfels founded its tourist organization, and Rauch was one of the founding members. Peter, the youngest son of his nine children, took over the inn before the First World War. In 1949, Peter’s son, Heinrich, carried on with the inn. From 1969, Heinrich’s foster daughter Else lead the inn with her husband. The inn was closed in 2003. Recently the great-great-grandson of the original buyer, Michael Rauch, has bought the house back.

By the way, five members of the family Rauch emigrated to America in the 19th century. They have many descendants, and their name is pronounced “Rauk”.

What a tradition!


The castle Lindenfels guards over the village

Above the village are the ruins of the castle Lindenfels.

The castle was founded in the early 12th century by duke Berthold Junior. He was the bailiff of the monastery Lorsch (not far from here). In 1277, the castle was taken over by the Electoral Palatinate (Kurpfalz with the centre Heidelberg).

The nucleus of the original castle from the 12th century has been preserved as a ruin.

In the 14th century, the small city Lindenfels emerged around the castle. Up to the 16th century, the Electors (Kurfürsten) of Heidelberg used the castle as a secondary seat.

As the information panel in the castle shows, it was an impressive castle in 1634.

The Electors enlarged the castle of Heidelberg in the 16th century, lost interest in Lichtenfels, and the castle decayed. The citizens obtained building material here.

As the panel shows, by 1891, the castle had become a ruin.

We climb up to the lower defensive wall and take a photo of the Odenwald hills. We are in the crystalline, western part of the Odenwald (see post scriptum).

Now we are on top of the ruin, again enjoying the view of the Odenwald.

Emperor William First is venerated with this monument.

“To our beloved emperor”, the people of Lindenfels say thankfully. I cannot find out, what he has done for Lindenfels.

In the castle, there is this huge sycamore (Bergahorn), a natural monument. Beware of hornets, the panel on the mighty old tree says!

The foundation of the Savings Bank (Sparkassenstiftung) of Starkenburg is setting up the summer open air cinema which will take place this weekend.

I do wish you good weather for the weekend! I would have liked to watch the film of Monsieur Claude with his sons-in-law from all nations and all religions.


Lindenfels – the dragon city

Lindenfels is located on the Nibelungen hike (Nibelungensteig commemorating the Song of the Nibelungs). In the song, the dragon Fafnir was killed by Siegfried.

In 2010, the city named this lump of rock “dragon rock” (Drachenfels). On 25th of November 2009, it had broken off under the castle, slid down, destroyed two castle walls and stopped here above the spa gardens.

A dragon guards the “dragon rock”.

In 2010, Lindenfels participated in the competition “ab in die Mitte” of Hessen and won the first prize for their project “Lindenfels – the town of dragons”. The city opened the dragon museum (Drachenmuseum) and organized a parade of colourful dragons. The dragons of the parade now decorate the city and the hiking paths around Lindenfels.

We come across this dragon the colour of which may have faded in the meantime.

Under the castle, Siegfried fights the dragon Fafnir. It is a rather abstract interpretation of Fafnir and Siegfried.

We leave the dragon city Lindenfels with its castle, gorgeously located in the hills of the Odenwald.


Post Scriptum: Short insight into the geology of the Odenwald

This is the morphological map of the Odenwald, north of Heidelberg and with the small Odenwald (Kleiner Odenwald) in the south around the river Neckar.


Source: Wikipedia entry about the Odenwald (,_Serie_A-de.png)

In the Lindenfels castle, a panel divides the Odenwald into the “crystalline” (western) and into the “sandstone” (eastern and southern “small”) Odenwald.

In Lindenfels, we are in the crystalline Odenwald. Here, the Odenwald is like a window giving insight into lower levels of the earth crust, as Peter Rothe, p. 77, writes. What we see, is crystalline bedrock (kristallines Grundgestein), mostly various kinds of granite.

This is, in a nutshell, what happened: About 300 million years ago (late Palaeozoic), the Variscan mountains evolved here. The rocks were transformed both by pressure and temperature becoming what we call crystalline bedrock. The bedrock was covered by sediments. About 50 million years ago, the area was lifted which caused it to break apart. Part of the “broken” area dropped down by 3000 meters and formed the Rhine valley rift. The western Odenwald mountains “lost” their sediments; they were eroded and deposited in the Rhine valley. The crystalline bedrock, uncovered from the sediments, provides insight into lower levels of the earth crust. The bedrock consists of various kinds of granite (magmatic rocks) that invaded the existing metamorphic rocks from below. Geologists observe the stripes of the “original” metamorphic rocks (gneiss and mica slate or Gneis and Glimmerschiefer) amidst the prevailing granite rocks (map in Rothe, p. 78). The more resistant granite rocks remained as mountains.

The soil is rich in nutrients. Broad-leaved forests and agriculture dominate the landscape.

The eastern and southern Odenwald is different. It is dominated by sand- and claystone (Sand- und Tonsteine). They are sediments deposited, when, in the Mesozoic, the area was covered by lakes and traversed by rivers (about 240 million years ago). I came across this sandstone rock at Neckargmünd on the river Neckar.

The sandstone Odenwald is low in nutrients and covered by conifers. The landscape is dominated by table mountains.

Later in the Mesozoic, the eastern Odenwald was a seashore, as shell limestone (Muschelkalk) and sea fossils tell the geologists.

This post scriptum is a short insight into the geology of the Odenwald. Not being a geologist, I tried to understand the overall picture that Peter Rothe gives about the Odenwald in his book “die Geologie Deutschlands”. It was the old family friend that we visited south of Heidelberg who gave me this book. Her mother was a geologist and so was my mother. Thank you so much. My mother would be happy, could she watch me diving into this well written book. I admire, how geologists can read the landscape and some vertical sections to derive the history of the earth from them.

We will next explore some cultural sights at the Odenwald with the old family friend.




Steinau an der Strasse – the city of the Brothers Grimm

In August 2022, we are on our way back to Switzerland, coming from Berlin and Thuringia. On the way, we stay one night at Steinau an der Strasse.


Steinau an der Strasse – is this a noisy place? No, “Strasse” commemorates the medieval Via Regia

First, I frowned at “Steinau an der Strasse“. Why “an der Strasse” (“on the road”)?  Is it a noisy place with the houses lined up along a busy road? No, not at all. It was one of the cities on the medieval trade route Via Regia (from Frankfurt to Leipzig and beyond), and this is why it has the attribute “an der Strasse”.

These are some meters of the original cobble stones; it must be a bumpy experience to travel on such a road.

The cobblestones, retrieved nearby (between Salmünster and Steinau), were installed in the city in 2006, as the panel says.

In 2007, Steinau opened a museum about the Via Regia, the trade route between Frankfurt and Leipzig, as the Stadtchronik (town chronicle) on the Steinau homesite says.

Twinkling with an eye in 2007, Steinach installed the milestone that welcomes travellers (Reysende) and invites them to spend some Euros in the shops, inns and restaurants (läden, herbergen und tavernen) so that these will not be in need henceforth (auf dass diese fürderhin nit noth leyden).

We conform to this wish. We spend one night in the friendly B&B Burgmannenhaus on the Market Square (called am Kumpen).

On the ground floor, the shop “Wilde Speisekammer” sells local specialties, including venison products, as the owner is a hunter. The owner tells me that the guards of the nearby castle once stayed in this house (“Burgmannen” can be translated as “castle men”).


The Brothers Grimm lived at Steinau

In the Amtshaus (administration building), the bailiff (Amtmann) Philipp Wilhelm Grimm lived with his family from 1791-96. His sons Jakob und Wilhelm Grimm later became world-famous as linguists and fairy tale collectors. The Amtshaus was built in 1562. It is a museum today.

Fairy tales are present all over at Steinach. This house has been painted with fairy tale scenes, such as Hänsel and Gretel, Snow White, Red Riding Hood (Rotkäppchen), the Wolf and the seven little Goats or Gänseliesel (Liesel with the geese).

On the Market Square, the fountain tells more fairy tales, such as Frau Holle (Mother Holle).

Dragons also belong to the world of fairy tales and legends.

In 2006, Steinau received the official attribute Brüder-Grimm-Stadt or city of the Brothers Grimm.


The city centre has been well preserved with medieval half-timbered houses

We stroll along the streets of the city centre and find well preserved medieval half-timbered houses. This is the view of the main street.

The “Kemenate derer von Hutten” (bower of the von Hutten family) was built in 1557. It was reconstructed in 1732 to serve as the Lutheran parochial house, as the plate on the house explains.


Market Square with City Hall and Saint Catherine Church

The City Hall was built in 1561.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria is the city saint. The first church was built here in the 9th century. What we can see today is mainly late Gothic from 1481-1511. I find the two naves interesting, as seen from the castle.


The Renaissance Castle

The Renaissance castle of Steinau was built in 1528-55. It was a representative building for the duchy of Hanau (Obergrafschaft Hanau). Temporarily it served as residence of the duke, later it became the seat of the duke widows. Steinau was the centre of the duchy of Hanau.

I like the staircase in the castle.

Today the castle is a museum. It makes the life of the former dukes of Hanau-Münzenberg revive. In addition, it hosts another exhibition about the Brothers Grimm, besides the museum of the Brothers Grimm in the house, where they once lived.


Our culinary experience at Steinau

We have dinner at Ali Baba. It is a small Turkish restaurant, well liked and visited by the people from Steinau. I do not remember, what I have ordered. But I remember, I enjoyed the meal, and I enjoyed the service provided by the extremely friendly and hard-working wife of the house.

Our breakfast was served in this cosy small dining room in the Burgmannenhaus. It was a delicious small breakfast with fresh fruit and yogurt.

After one night, we leave the welcoming small city Steinau and der Strasse; our next destination is the Odenwald.

Perhaps I will return one day to explore the museum of the Brothers Grimm (in the house, where they lived), the Museum Steinau (about the Via Regia) and the Renaissance castle (about the life of the dukes and again about the Brothers Grimm).