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The Haut-Barr Castle

You cannot visit Saverne whithout seeing the Haut-Barr Castle which dominates the whole city. It's a privileged excursion destination for the inhabitants of Saverne and the most impressive of the seven ruined medieval fortresses in the surroundings of the city. Installed since the 12th century on a rock bar made of rose-coloured sandstone, the Haut-Barr has been built by Rodolphe, bishop of Strasbourg. The postcard hereunder shows how it looked like in the 16th century (according to an engraving from Merian).

The Haut-Barr according to Merian

Later, the castle was bought by the bishop St-John, Count of Manderscheid, who formed the Horn Confraternity. Those who were able to drink at one go the content of a gigantic wild ox horn were admitted in the confraternity. This horn was named "Willkomm" (Welcome). In the year 1634, it was used to celebrate the "Widerkomm" (the comeback), ie. the return of the Haut-Barr to France. The horn was kept in Saverne until the French Revolution, a disrupted period during which it disappeared.

Hereunder is a humorous representation of the horn and the confraternity.

The Horn Confraternity

In the year 1650, the Frenchmen destroyed the fortifications of the Haut-Barr and gave it back to the bishop of Strasbourg. In 1743, the French government decided to fortify the castle again. From 1796 to 1878, the castle belonged to various owners and has finally been bought by the state. The city of Saverne rented the castle in 1901, for a duration of 99 years, and built the present restaurant in the ruins (former forester house). The city is now the owner of the castle.

The Haut-Barr has been built on a rock bar, made of three consecutive rocks. Two of them are joined by a bridge named Devil's Bridge. You can better appreciate the appropriateness of this name when you go on the bridge and have a look down.

Devil's Bridge

But this name of Devil's Bridge has another origin. Here it is.

The first bridge joining the two rocks has been built at the time where the Bishop of Strasbourg bought the third rock to the Abbey of Marmoutier, approximately in 1171. During its construction, when the workers were at the end of their work, the bridge collapsed. A second and a third attempt had the same destiny. The workers began to despair.

Then, a stone cutter presented himself, and ensured that he was able to build the bridge alone, in one night. Everyone laughed at him, but, as he insisted, the Bishop let him try his luck. But which salary would he ask for? The cutter came then to light: it was the Devil and he asked for the soul of the first living being who would cross the bridge. "It's a bargain!", said the Bishop.

The other da, the bridge was finished and the Devil was waiting for his salary. But the Bishop made a fine mess of it! His men had captured a stray dog and they made it cross the new bridge before everyone. The Devil have had all his trouble for nothing. He got angry and hit the rock so hard with his goat paws that he graved his prints in it. But the deal has been respected on both sides.

Let's follow now the walls and go to the entrance which we can see in the background.

The Walls

To be continued...

© Thierry Heitmann - 1998-99