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Kaysersberg Vignoble (Municipality, Haut-Rhin, France)

Last modified: 2017-05-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: kaysersberg | kientzheim |
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Presentation of Kaysersberg Vignoble

The municipality of Kaysersberg Vignoble (4,660 inhabitants in 2014, 3,545 ha; municipal website), located 20 km west of Colmar, was formed on 1 January 2016 as the merger of the former municipalitis (now, delegate municipalities) of Kaysersberg (2,710 vinh., 2,482 ha), Kientzheim (738 inh., 483 ha) and Sigolsheim (1,195 inh., 580 ha).

Ivan Sache, 13 May 2017



Flag of Kaysersberg - Image by Ivan Sache, 24 September 2011

Kaysersberg (lit., "The Emperor's Mountain") was mentioned for the first time in 1227, when King of Germany Henry VII, the son of Friedrich II of Hohenstaufen, purchased the rights on the castle erected in the early 13th century. Increased, strengthened and made an Imperial fortress, the castle watched the access to the valley or river Weiss, a main link between Upper Alsace and Lorraine. In 1293, King Adolph of Nassau granted to the inhabitants of the village that had formed near the castle the status of Imperial Town. The local Imperial administration (Reichsvogtei) was set up in Kaysersberg in 1330.
In 1354, King Charles IV stayed in Kaysersberg, where he recognized the Dekapolis (German, Zehnstädtebund; lit. "Ten Towns"), an alliance formed by the ten Imperial Towns of of Haguenau, Colmar, Wissembourg, Turckheim, Obernai, Kaysersberg, Rosheim, Munster, Sélestat and Mulhouse, which subsisted, more or less, until the incorporation of Alsace to the Kingdom of France in 1679. A weekly free market was granted to Kaysersberg in 1429, followed in 1479 by a yearly fair. At the time, Kaysersberg was a wealthy town mostly known for wine, exported all over Europe.
In the 16th-17th century, Kaysersberg suffered from the unrest and the wars that scoured the region. In 1525, the revolted farmers seized the town and looted the castle and the abbey of Anspach. The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) ruined the town, which eventually had to mortgaged its church bells in Basel.
During the French Revolution, the town was renamed for a while Mont Libre (Free Mount); textile industry developed in the 1820-1870s. Severely damaged at the end of the Second World War, but quickly rebuilt, Kaysersberg is now a main tourist spot in Upper Alsace.

Kaysersberg is the birth town of Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), who started his book De mon enfance et mon adolescence as "I was born on 14 January 1875 in Kaysersberg, a small town in Haut- Rhin, in the house with a small tower located on the left upstream of the place. My father was the pastor and teacher in the small Protestant parish of the village."
Himself a pastor and a theologian, but also a philosopher and a musician, Schweitzer founded in 1913 with his wife Hélène (1879-1957) an hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon. Schweitzer was awarded in 1952 the Nobel Peace Prize. The eight associations that support the Lambaréné hospital are grouped in the Association Internationale Schweitzer Lambaréné (AISL, website).
The story of the Lambaréné Hospital has been related by the Catholic writer Gilbert Cesbron (1913-1979) in the play Il est minuit, docteur Schweitzer (1950), made in 1952 into a movie with the same title, directed by André Haguet and starring Pierre Fresnay and Jeanne Moreau. More recently, the Gabonese musician Pierre Akendengué and the French musicologist Hugues de Courson released the CD Lambarena - Bach to Africa as a tribute to Schweitzer, blending Bach musics and Gabon traditional rhythms. Excerpts of a Bach choral played by Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné on his personal organ are included in the record.

The flag of Kaysersberg (photo, 19 June 2011), is white with the municipal arms in the middle.

The arms of Kaysersberg (presentation) are "Argent a purse sable fitted or". The purse (locally, Tasche), representing trade, is a very old symbol of the town; the burghers put it on their new arms when the town was granted municipal rights in 1293.
In the 19th century, Kaysersberg used more complex, non historical arms mixing elements from the old seal and arms of the town. The seal, known since 1271, shows a tower, as a symbol of the Imperial power. The arms where "Per pale, 1 Per pale gules and azure all over a tower surrounded by a crenellated wall masoned sable port and windows of the same on five mounds vert, 2. Argent a purse sable fitted of the first." The Armorial of the Généralité of Alsace gives arms made only of the dexter part of the "mixed" arms described above.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 24 September 2011



Flag of Kientzheim - Image by Ivan Sache, 27 November 2011

Kientzheim was mentioned for the first time in 785, as Coneshaim. Once owned by the Counts of Lupen, Kientzheim was granted the title of town, and therefore, the right to build a town wall. In spite of the destructions of the Second World War, Kientzheim has kept (or rebuilt) several old houses and its town wall. The Lalli Gate, built in the 15th century, is decorated with a grimacing man's face, equipped with a metallic, retractile tongue, which was used to scoff at assaulters.

In 1563, Kientzheim was purchased, as part of the Upper Landsberg domain, by Lazarus of Schwendi (1522-1583), who completely rebuilt the castle, its main residence. Born in Swabia, Schwendi was a main general and diplomat serving Emperors Charles V and Maximilian II. On 11 February 1565, he seized the Tokaj fortress from the Turks. The Alsatian tradition says that he brought back to Alsace the Tokay grapevine and would be the father of the Tokay Alsatian wine. This convenient tradition is not supported by any serious data (although Schwendi for sure contributed to the development of wine-growing in the region): the Alsatian Tokay has nothing to do with the Hungarian Tokay (so that the Hungarians eventually obtained the suppression of the Tokay name for the Pinot gris Alsatian wines) and has been grown in Alsace at least since the Middle Ages. Schwendi asked to be buried in the Kientzheim church, where his tombstone is still visible. The sculptor Bartholdi erected in 1898 a statue representing Schwendi holding a grapevine plant.
[Alsace Passion]

The flag of Kientzheim (photo in the magazine L'Alsace. Découverte et passion, No. 10, 1999) is vertically divided white-blue with, in the middle a standing black bear with a red tongue. The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, "Per pale argent and azure all over a bear statant sable langued gules".

According to the Armorial des Communes du Haut-Rhin (2000), the bear has been shown on the municipal seals since the 15th century, represented statant except on a seal dated 1550 showing it passant.
The Armorial Général mistook the bear for a barbet, a French water dog (vaguely looking like a bear!). The correct arms were reestablished on 4 December 1979 by the Municipal Council.

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 27 November 2011