At Oberwesel there are many beautiful, ancient buildings. And one of the most amazing can be found next to St. Martin’s church. This lovely half-timbered house looks like it belongs right into one of the fairy-tales of the brothers Grimm. The house was built in 1625 and in 1650 the sacristan of St. Martin’s church was granted this little building and a garden close to the church. In 1838 the building became municipal property and served as the home of St. Martin’s ringer. In process of time the old sacristan’s house has repeatedly been renovated and modified. In the 1980’s the half-timbered construction was uncovered and slightly extended and dormers were added to the roof.
I think it’s an absolutely adorable little place but, to be honest, I would not like to live in there. Just have a look at the tiny windows- it must be pretty dark inside. Still I would love to take a quick glance at the interior! Unfortunately the old sacristan’s house can not be visited.
Schönburg castle is perched on a narrow rocky ridge with a truly massive shield wall, one of the most impressive of its kind. From the castle hill you’ll have fabulous views of the Rhine valley and nearby castles (such as Castle Gutenfels at the opposite riverbank).
It is documented that the massive complex of Schönburg Castle was owned by Hermann von Stahleck in 1149. But already in 1166 the castle as well as the whole village of Oberwesel was acquired by Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa. Later it passed to the Archbishop of Magdeburg, whose bailiffs and castle lords were called the Imperial Ministerial Officials of Schönburg (which was the 1st citation of the noble family of Schönburg). By 1266 no fewer than 5 families of the Lords of Schönburg were living within the castle’s walls, and it became a so called Ganerbenburg – a castle owned jointly by several families. Schönburg Castle was destroyed by the troops of French „Sun King“ Louis XIV in 1689 and afterwards lay in ruins for more than 200 years. French writer Victor Hugo who visited Oberwesel in 19th century called Schönburg castle „Europe’s most admirable pile of rubble“! ; )
In 1885 the ruin was purchased by the New York banker J.J. Oakley Rhinelander, whose forebears originated from the Rhineland. He renovated parts of the castle in the period until 1920. In 1950 the castle was bought by the Oberwesel city council, which initiated further construction work. Today Schönburg Castle houses a romantic hotel with a restaurant and a private gallery. A youth hostel has been built next door.
This is an interesting remain of the old townwall and at each side there is another sculpture of a holy saint:
Holy Nikolaus is facing the river Rhine, he is the patron for rafters, sailors and fishermen.
Holy Nepomuk is facing the village,he is considdered the patron for all bridges.
b.t.w. Nikolaus is also the first name of Nikki Lauda - (3 times Formula I world-champion from Austria)
Just some more of the old towers that you will find, when walking through Oberwesel. All of them have names like Ochsenturm (oxtower) , Katzenturm (cattower) etc. and in some of them people have built their home or at least a place to spend their free time. To own such a tower had always been in my dreams since my childhood.
Roter Turm (red tower) is also called Haagsturm because the painter Carl Haag had bought it and had rebuilt that medieval tower in neo-gothic style between 1864 and 1866. This tower still has many paintings of Carl Haag inside, but it is privately owned now and cannot be visited by tourists.
Take a walk through the village of Oberwesel and you will see a lot of lovely halftimbered houses all over the town. You will also pass by the hotel "Zum goldenen Zapfenzieher" (the golden corkscrew), where in 1843 Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben sang for the first time the so-called "Deutschlandlied" - a part of that text is still the german national anthem. See a picture of that hotel as my 5th photograph !
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
für das deutsche Vaterland!
Danach lasst uns alle streben
brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
sind des Glückes Unterpfand;
Blüh im Glanze dieses Glückes,
blühe, deutsches Vaterland
Schoenburg castle is not only a luxury hotel but also an interesting castle, where you can take a walk through some remaining innercourts and see some great buidings of the castle dating back to the 11th century.
There is also a Kolpingheim, a cheap hotel, that is not open for tourists and the Luxury-hotel Schoenburg - read more about it in my hotel-tips !
In Oberwesel you will still see almost the complete medieval townwalls, dating back to the year 1220 and there is a total of 16 of the formerly 21 towers, that are still there to be seen , some of them are privately owned nowadays, but on most of them you may even step up and enjoy the perfect panorama-view of the Rhine-valley. You may still also walk at many places of the city of Oberwesel on top of these medieval walls.
Dont miss to get inside of Liebfrauenkirche, because that interior is really full of great and interesting details in architecture. You will find a great mixture of gothic, baroque and neo-gothic ornaments, paintings and sculptures there.
My favorite was the main altar, made of beautiful woodcarvings, covered with gold.
This church will be open for visiters during the day, and there are no restrictions regarding photography !
The remains of the medieval townwall of Oberwesel are still standing at many places of the village, including a total of 16 wall-towers and at some places you can even step up and take a walk on top of the walls.
At the riverside the townwall is still part of the town's protection against the regular floods of the river Rhine.
In case that you like the paintings of Salvadore Dali this house in Oberwesel will be interesting for you. I found it accidentally, when walking the main road through the village. Obviously an excellent painter made these wonderful reproductions of works by Salvadore Dali in order to decorate an ordinary house.
Liebfrauenkirche is the name of this church that looks a bit oversized for a small town like Oberwesel. The church dates back to the year 1308 and it is considdered to be one of the most beautiful gothic churches along the river Rhine.
From outside it does not really look very special, but the interior is really worth seeing !
One of the main attractions of Oberwesel are the many towers of the town walls, the best preserved at the Middle Rhine. There originally used to be 21 towers and today 16 of them can still be seen, some of them can even be climbed. You will have a very nice view of the town, the river and the vineyards from these towers, but it's only recommendable for people free from giddiness. There also are almost 3 km of town walls remaining and you can partly walk on them.
In 1838 Victor Hugo wrote about Oberwesel: "The town seems to me like an old warrior who decided to become a wine-grower!". Hugo was allusive of the many holes that cannons and guns have left at the surface of the town walls. And also on the fact that the area of Oberwesel is very famous for wine growing. Approximately 350,000 litres of grape juice a year are squeezed from the grapes which abound on the steep vineyards which form the large vinery of "Schloß Schönburg".
The 1st church built at this spot was an 8th century royal chapel. The church as it appears today was built in the early 14th century. The most exceptional part of the building is the massive bell tower which is a very impressive example of sacral defensive constructions. The belfry does appear as if it was part of a castle, not of a church. And, in fact, during the 1390/ 1391 war called Weseler Krieg the bell tower was affiliated to the town walls and therefore served defensive purposes. St. Martin's church was extended at that time and a wall-walk, embrasures and battlements were added.
Inside the church you will find extensive mural paintings dating from the Middle Ages (15th - 17th century), medieval wood carvings as well as a Baroque high altar (from 1682).
This imposing looking medieval fortress is actually the very thick walled bell tower of adjoining St. Martin's Church. This powerful structure was originally built about 750 years ago as the main defense tower of the fortified village, and was flanked by the defense ramparts. It was built on a steep hillside on the side of the city farthest from the river. When it was no longer needed as a defense tower, it was converted into the bell tower of the new church built adjacent to it.
The architecture of the tower is typical of that of Gothic fortresses built in the region, and it looks very much like a castle rook straight out of chivalrous folklore. The crenelated battlements protected the archers from the advancing enemy. The architecture of the massive and high naved St. Martin's church is also bold and defiant. The many narrrow Gothic arches seem to reach towards the heavens. It continues to amaze me that the inhabitants of relatively small villages built such massive towers and churches. The artworks inside the church are superb, and do much to smooth the bold appearance of the church and tower.
The walled cemetary shown surrounds the church. Shown in the background are the Rhein River and part of the steep terrain rising above the great river.