Jardin de Stanislas is a shop selling arts and crafts. It is situated at the back of a well-kept garden in baroque style with boxwood hedges and old fruit trees. Enter the garden through the gate in the wall opposite the entrance of the abbey church. The garden is worth a look and (photographers!) provides a pleasant foreground for the southern façade of the church.
Keep in mind that this is someone’s private garden and not a public park. Stay on the path that leads to the shop, and keep your hands off the fruit, no matter how yummy it looks… I admit it took me a lot of self-restraint not to steal from the Mirabelle tree but I succeeded…
While the cloister and convent have been demolished, other buildings in the abbey grounds are still standing. They have been dedicated to new purposes. The present sous-prefecture may have been the abbot’s or guests’ quarter. The row of barns round the corner rue Stanislas/place de Saumon is easily recognizable from the big gates and high roofs.
The gothic cloister has been demolished after the closing of the monastery in the French Revolution. Only one and a half wings are preserved at all, and these are lacking their gothic vaults and the tracery is damaged. Tombstones of abbots and monks have been lined up against the wall.
The Benedictine Abbey of Wissembourg, or Weißenburg, used to be one of the wealthiest and most influential monasteries in the middle ages. Its status was that of a free imperial abbey. The gothic abbey church still tells of its great past. Later Weißenburg became property of the Bishops of Speyer, who included the Weißenburg crest, the golden gate on red ground, in theirs. In the French Revolution the abbey was secularized, the convent buildings partly demolished, most of the church furnishing taken away. The church became the parish church of the town in the 19th century.
Most of the present furnishing like altars, pulpit etc. is not medieval but 19th century historism. Among the church’s art treasures are to be mentioned: the gothic Sepulchre of Christ in the southern side nave, and the 13th/14th century stained glass windows in the choir.
The great organ on the gallery in the west is in a miserable state and has not been played for at least 40 years. Donations are being collected for its restoration.
The First Battle of Wissembourg went well for the French side. Here on 26 December 1793, an Austrian unit was forced out of the Alsace and back across the Rhine following an attack on the Geisberg by soldiers under the command of General Lazere Hoche. The Second Battle of Wissembourg did not go so well. On 4 August 1870, outnumbered 60,000 to 8,000, the French 2nd Division under General Abel Douay was caught in an isolated position holding the border at Wissembourg. They were sited so far forward of other units because of the awful prewar supply situation of the French army. Douay didn't think the Germans were advancing in strength, so was caught by surprise when he found himself up against the entire German 3rd Army. Most of the French defenses were sited here on the Geisberg - they left only a single battalion to hold onto the town. Douay was killed early in the battle complicating a bad situation for the French.
Alsace was a borderland for religion as well as cultures. The Protestant Reformation took hold here as early as 1520. One of the early figures of the Reformation, Martin Bucer, came to Wissembourg to preach in 1522. His preaching was construed as a direct threat to the town's monasteries. This and events beyond Wissembourg left Bucer vulnerable and the town council, while still supporting him, urged him to flee to Strasbourg, which he did 13 May 1523. It was in Strasbourg where Bucer worked hard to organize the Reformation with other reformers. Eventually exiled to England where he died in 1549, Bucer remains one of the giants of the Reformation and it was here at the Eglise St Jean that he spread his early message.
The Lauterbach arises in the Pfalzland of Germany and heads southeast across the northern Alsace towards the Rhine. The waters of the small river are diverted through and around the old town adding greatly to the ambiance and charm. Nothing like a flower pot and rushing water to make a picture that much better.
Dating back to the 13th century - the eastern tower is of more recent vintage - the church served as an abbey church in those earlier days. Inside the church, one finds quite a bit of drama for a mere parish church and that is even after most of the treasures of the church were ransacked by French Revolutionaries at which time the abbey was closed. On the north side of the church you can find more about the history of the abbey that used to be found here.
Close to the church is a bridge over the river Lauter from which you can see the Bruche Quarter, a colorful collection of medieval homes and workshops. Actually the "quarter" is just a street, so do take your time and walk up the street on the one side and down again on the other side, so that you can fully enjoy all the houses! The Bruche was inhabited mainly by wine makers, which still can be seen by various sculptures on the entrances of the houses.
This tower was erected in 1420 and has ever since guarded the entrance gate that led into the city of Wissembourg. It took us several visits to "discover" it, because we usually only walked halfway up the Bruche quarters and never bothered to walk all the way up to the end of the street!
The sign gives you some details about the quarter and some of the buildings (in French, English and German).
The Wissembourg townhall is just a landmark for me. All I know is that it is from the 18th century and other than that I think, it looks nice.
From the square in front of the townhall there is the shopping street leading towards the huge parking lot.
The Salt House is the building with the most fascinating roof in all Wissembourg. It is a very old half-timbered house, which used to be a hospital, then was converted to a butchery and only later was used to store salt. Under the roof was the space to store hop!
At the end of the Cloister you will find the entrance to the small St. Peter and Paul Chapel, which dates back to the 12th century. The Romanesque church was the first church building before the cathedral was later built in its place. The only remaining parts are the chapel and the bell tower.
In Wissembourg, just as in the entire Alsace and neighboring German regions, there are lots of half-timbered houses. They are beautiful and such a joy to look at! They usually date back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
St. Pierre-et-St. Paul Church from the 13./14. century is the second largest Gothic church in Alsace after Strasbourg catherdral. Among the important features of the church are its great central tower, its fine windows and the wonderful arches of the cloisters.