How Alchemy was practiced at Castle Stolzenfels

This is a legend about Castle Stolzenfels and the dark results of alchemy, practiced within its walls. The castle was, at the time, a formidable stronghold, built to withstand any attack. It was held by the Archbishops of Cologne, but was well known for less Christian work. Archbishop Werner in particular resided here with the expressed aim to make gold through alchemy as his predecessor had left him with little. But alas, it was not to be and after trying for years he abandoned the endeavour and left the castle. 

Castle Stolzenfels
Castle Stolzenfels – Fritz Geller-Grimm, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Werner left behind Knight Kurt, who had assisted him in his experiments and who was not ready to give up yet. He continued his masters work and when one day a self-declared alchemist arrived at the castle, he offered him what he had to help achieve his aim. He even gave away the tithe he had collected for the church. His daughter, Elsbeth, grew greatly concerned about her fathers obsession and decided to intervene on his behalf. 

She went to see the alchemist one evening and asked if there was a way for her to help. She was prepared to give anything she could to make her father happy and the man quickly accepted her offer. He claimed that a maiden’s blood, fresh from her still beating heart, would turn any ore into gold. Desperate in her need to help, Elsbeth agreed and was told to see the alchemist at midnight on top of the highest tower.

As fortune had it, in this moment the horns proclaimed the arrival of the Archbishop and in his party was the Knight of Westerburg, who had fallen for Elsbeth. Immediately he noticed the distress of the girl and when she disappeared shortly before midnight he suspected foul play. He followed her up the tower and watched her take up a dagger to plunge it in her own heart. The knight jumped into the chamber and took the dagger off the maiden, demanding an explanation. Elsbeth broke down in tears and explained what had happened. 

The knight of Westerburg promised immediately to help her and her dad. He surmised that the alchemist was nothing but a swindler, who had already fled the castle. Indeed this was the case, as the alchemist had seen the knight follow Elsbeth up the tower and had known the game was up. Men were sent to pursue and when he was caught at the river Rhine, he fell in and the gold he had stolen dragged him to the bottom, where he died. Fishermen dragged out his corpse the next day alongside the riches which were returned to Kurt, who happily gave Elsbeth to her saviour in marriage. And thus, alchemy seized to be practiced at Castle Stolzenfels. 

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