Rosy: "Bonjour! I think moi is looking very French in this outfit!"
Eguisheim near Colmar with its charming streets, timberframe buildings and blooming flowers everywhere is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France.
The name is derived from "home of Egino", a Germanic first name which was used by the most powerful family in the area. That family later became the counts of Eguisheim who owned the city till the 13th century. After the last Count had died without an heir, the city went to the bishops of Strassburg who owned it till the time of the French Revolution.
While the first documented mention of the city dates back to 720 AD, archeological research reveals that tens of thousands of years ago homo-sapiens from the Dordogne region lived here. The oldest human skull found in Alsace has been discovered here.
At the center of the small town, which was fortified in 1257, there are the remains of a castle constructed in the 13th century, possibly on the site of an older building. (The house on the left with the turret.)
In 1049 Bruno of Eguisheim was born here. He would become Pope under the name of Léon IX and was partly responsible for the reform of the Church in the Middle Ages. He was later canonized. The chapel in the picture (dating from 1894) is named after him.
Rosy quickly dashed into one of the souvenir shops lining the square, mugged a souvenir doll and returned in a traditional Alsatian dress.
We fortified us for our walk around the old city centre with a cup of coffee, some cake and a glass of wine. After all, we were on the Alsatian Wine Road!
Rosy enjoyed a typical and very hearty Alsatian dish: Choucroute Royale, sauerkraut with smoked bacon and sausages and boiled potatoes.
Back at St. Leon´s Square, we had a look inside the chapel next.
The chapel contains a reliquary with a piece of Pope Leon´s skull. The stained glass windows and the artworks on the painted ceiling depict the various stations of his life.
The Legend of Eguisheim
In the 10th century, Count Hugon IV of Eguisheim was particularly attached to one of his sons named Bruno. One night, an unknown fortune teller came to the chateau to provide the evening's entertainment. After having revealed disturbing destinies for everyone, she read Bruno's palms. She then declared that although the authority of Hugon IV was great, this child would have an even greater authority - such that his father would kiss the dust of his son's feet. The Count was very affected by this prophecy. He secretly sent his son into the forest with a hunter to have him killed. As proof that the deed was done, the hunter was to bring back Bruno's heart to the chateau.
Rosy: "That Hugon guy has definitely read Snow White a few times too often!!"
When the Count had the death of his son confirmed, he fell into a great depression and was full of remorse. During many years he lived miserably and suffered from terrifying hallucinations. One day when he could not take it any more, he confessed his crime to the chaplin. The chaplin told him to wear the cloth of a penitent and to travel to Rome that winter to confess his sins.
Upon arriving in Rome, Hugon threw himself at the feet of Pope Léon IX and told his story. The Pope helped him up and hugged him saying "Christ died for us all, the good and the bad. You will find forgivenss in Him, a forgiveness unlike any other. You have just done what you had wanted to avoid at all costs: you have just kissed the dust of your son's feet. The hunter did not have the strength to kill the child in the forest. His arrow hit a fox and it was the cry of the fox that was heard. It was the heart of the fox that was brought at you. Let us pray for this servant who thanks to him, the Count of Eguisheim is not a criminal!" With these words the Count of Eguisheim was full of joy. He stayed several weeks with his son who had become Pope Léon IX. He kissed his son's feet again before he returned home. The rest of his life was consecrated to distributing his wealth to the poor.
On the mountains above the city, there are the ruins of three castles of the Counts of Eguisheim - originally one single castle which was divided for different parts of the family in the 12th and 13th century. In the castle ruins, there are also remains of a stone age settlement, as well as a necropolis and remains of a Roman military camp and road.
Like most of the numerous villages along the German or French Wine Road, Eguisheim is surrounded by vineyards. It is actually considered to be the cradle of Alsatian wine-making, which has been going on there since the 4th century. During the Middle Ages, the industry expanded as the bishops of Strasbourg and certain Abbeys owned and developped their vineyards.
The good reputation of the wine from this region soon travelled. Wines from Eguisheim were found on the royal tables of England and Holland. Later, Voltaire, who stayed in a nearby region, would declare his preference for these wines and even acquired certain domains. Every Alsatian grape is grown in Eguisheim.