Arenfels Castle – The Legend of the Crusader

This is the story of the crusader knight Dieter, how he fell in love with the daughter of Arenfels and how the castle was destroyed and rebuild.

Schloss Arenfels south
Schloss Arenfels – © Raimond Spekking

The lord of Castle Arenfels had two lovely daughters, so lovely that their beauty was well known throughout the region. On day, a knight called Dieter of Castle Rheineck asked to stay overnight, as he travelled on a barge down the Rhine River. He had sworn to fight in the crusades and was travelling to join. However, the next morning the boat had to leave without him, since Dieter had met Berta, one of the two daughters and had fallen for her head over heals. Berta had also taken the handsome young man into her heart and the two of them spend many days happily in each other’s company. However, Dierter had sworn an oath and the time finally came for him to depart and fight in the crusades. He knew that this endeavour could cost his life, but he could not break his oath. Thus, one day he departed and bid farewell to Berta, who promised tearfully that she would pray for him daily and that her prayers would keep him safe. 

After a long journey, Dieter arrived in the Holy Land and fought like a man possessed. He was highly regarded by his men and comrades for his bravery and strength, but deep down he knew that it was Berta’s prayer that kept him alive. One day though, he was ambushed and taken prisoner. Many years he spend in the darkest dungeon and only his faith in god and his maiden at home kept him sane and he promised to build a chapel, should he be delivered. 

Finally, the day arrived that his comrades took the castle where he had been held and they freed Dieter. His friends hardly recognised him. He had lost weight and grown filthy. Gone was the handsome knight and in front of them they only saw a creature of misery and anguish. His spirit to fight had been broken and Dieter started the long journey home. 

Travelling up the Rhine, Dieter’s spirit returned. He was finally coming home to Berta and his friends marvelled at his transformation. He passed his families castle, Rheineck, and did not stop as nothing was to come between him and his beloved. However, when he arrived the castle Arensfels was gone and only ruins were left where once proud castle stood. Weeping, Dieter fell to the ground. A group of shepherds had rested in the area and one of them came over to see what had disturbed the man so much. When asked, he told Dieter the sad story of how Arenfels had been attacked and destroyed. He knew nothing of Berta, but assumed that all inhabitants had died in the large fire that had engulfed the stronghold. Dieter was inconsolable. He stayed lying on the ground for the rest of the day and the night and finally got up the next day to return to his family’s castle. 

In his misery though, Dieter did not pay attention to the path and before long he had lost his way and found himself on a clearing in the forrest with a simple hut. Two women were working outside the hut, helping a charcoal burner to prepare for his daily tasks. One of them looked up and even with her blanked face, Dieter recognised his Berta and she him. After a moment of shock, the lovers ran towards each other, embracing and celebrating. One of the castles servants had ushered the two sisters out of the castle during the faithful night and the charcoal burner had offered them safe lodgings. 

After thanking the man, Dieter and Berta rode to Castle Rheineck, where his parents lived. There they married and decided to rebuild Arenfels. Dieter had grown rich during his time aboard and the castle was build anew much more beautiful than before. Berta’s sister entered a convent though and as he had promised, Dieter build a chapel in the same location. Thus ends the story of the two lovers and the legend how Arensfels Castle was rebuild. 

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