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The Three Towers

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The Three Towers are a stop on the Five Chateaux Route and comprise the three castles of Dagsbourg, Wahlenbourg, and Weckmund, grouped together in the same location on a hill above the small village of Husseren-les-Chateaux, near the town of Eguisheim, southwest of Colmar. The castles are well worth a visit if for no other reason than you get a medieval three for one deal.

Schisms Great and Small

Entrance to the site, with Weckmund Castle waiting to greet the visitorThe oldest of the three castles is Wahlenbourg, first constructed by Count Hugh (Hugo) IV of Eguisheim in 1006 and located on the highest ground, becoming in due course the middle castle of the three. It was built to defend the Benedictine monastery of Woffenheim that Hugo founded, but quickly became the administrative centre and primary residence of the powerful family of Counts who controlled Lower Alsace into the 13th century. The most notable resident was Hugo IV's son Bruno, who became Pope Leo IX from 1049 until his death in 1054. His insistence, just before his death, that Rome was the head of the Catholic Church led directly to the Great Schism that split the Catholic Church into the Latin (western) Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Eastern Orthodox Church, kind of like the much smaller scale schism that was soon to be played out closer to his home castle not so very long after his death.

Duelling Towers

Dagsbourg seen through Wahlenbourg arches

The Weckmund and Dagsbourg castles were later constructions, although sources disagree on exactly when and in what order. Dagsbourg is the largest of the three, located alongside Wahlenbourg in the main moated compound, whilst Weckmund was an outpost, located outside the moat with access to the main compound via drawbridge. Some sources put the construction of both sometime in the last half of the 12th century, with Dagsbourg being the last to be built. Other sources date Dagsbourg to 1144, with Weckmund being built in 1226/7 as a siege tower designed to block the existing castles during the (armed) squabble over ownership that broke out at the time.

Falling Towers

Dagsbourg TowerThe site was in fact subjected to a number of conflicts during its history, the first of which, in 1026, brought devastation down on Whalenbourg when it was attacked by Duke Ernest of Swabia. Then, when Hugo IV's grandson Henry I died in 1065 the estate was divided across three heirs, which also divided the family until Pope Gregory was brought in to arbitrate in 1074. The line of inheritance was further complicated by marriages that introduced more families to the mix, including in the late 12th century the Counts of Ferrette. They'll be popping up again in a short while. When the great great grandson of Henry I, Albert II, joined the revolt against the election of Philip of Swabia to King of Germany, Philip's early successes in the ensuing war at the end of the 12th century included the destruction of Dagsbourg.

Tithed Towers

On the long trekWhen Albert's daughter died childless in 1225 the resulting dispute over the inheritance of the estate involved some 10 competing claims. By 1226 the Bishop of Strasbourg was in possession of Dagsbourg, with the Counts of Ferrette owning the remainder of the estate. The Ferrettes sought to remove the Bishop's claim by granting the entire estate to King Henry VII of Germany, who would then grant it back as a feudal property to the Ferrettes. As seemed quite common in those days, the argument was settled on the field of battle, in 1228 at Blodelsheim where victory, and consequently Dagsbourg, went to the Bishop.

Here Come the Hapsburgs

dagsbourg-residence-ruins.jpg

In 1324 the Ferrettes departed the scene, and possession of the Wahlenbourg and Weckmund castles passed through marriage to the Austrian Hapsburgs. In 1466, the city of Mulhouse, threatened by the Hapsburgs with losing its independence, allied itself with several Swiss cities. In the ensuing conflict all three castles were destroyed, never to be restored again.

Getting There

The 'three towers' can be reached by following the signposts on the 'Route des 5 Chateaux' from Eguisheim through Husseren-les-Chateaux up into the forest and on to the car park, followed by a 10 minute walk to the site. Alternatively, if like Mrs Alamanicus you think your significant other could stand to lose a few kilos, you can park in the small car park behind the church in Husseren-les-Chateaux and walk the steep forest trail past the Hotel Husseren-les-Chateaux to the summit (30 lung-busting minutes, more if you miss the minimalist sign-posting, but very scenic).

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Alamanicus is wandering his old Alemanni haunts, revisiting the places where once he used to drink, carouse, and beat up the odd Roman legionnaire or two. Things have moved on since his day, and the old Alemanni country now lies across south west Germany, French Alsace, and northern Switzerland. Cut through by the mighty Rhine, it is an area of great beauty, and a lot has happened there since Alamanicus last walked this land.

Comments

  • alamanicus
    alamanicus Tuesday, 17 July 2012

    Photos

    Alamanicus was being foolish on the day of his visit, and was dissuaded by the grey skies from taking his camera. Of course, almost as soon as he arrived, the skies cleared and everything looked brighter, leaving only a smartphone camera on which to snap the occasion.

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