Les Amis de la Wasenbourg

The Medieval Period

    After the departure of the Romans and the barbarian invasions (middle of the 5th century), there are no more historical traces mentioning Niederbronn and more particularly the Wasenbourg.

    However, in 730, the cartulary of the abbey of Wissembourg (1) mentions a meeting between the abbot ERNOALD, superior of the convent, and the duke LUITFRIED concerning a division of goods: “dominico quodicitur fasenburg“.

    Assuming that this is our Wasenbourg, can we deduce that there was already a castle or at least a building at that time? Some authors think so. However, there is no tangible evidence to support this hypothesis. “It is probable that the name is linked to the Gallo-Roman ruins which were probably still visible before the medieval occupation of the site” (2).

    However Charles CZARNOWSKY (3) writes speaking about Wasenbourg and evoking the beginning of the 14th century: “in addition it passes to be the castle of origin of the families von BORN, de BORNE, von BURNE. They were bailiffs of the territory that bore their name, which extended from the Zinsel to the Schwarzbach, from Gumbrechtshoffen to Uttenhoffen and part of Zinswiller“.

    For others, the observation that certain stain marks found on the stones of the Wasenbourg can be found on the stones of Strasbourg Cathedral (4) has generated the idea that the castle was built (or rebuilt?) around 1275 on the initiative of the bishop of Strasbourg Conrad de LICHTENBERG and under the direction of the architect Erwin de STEINBACH

    In fact, the castle must have been built a little earlier, since it already existed in 1272, “the year in which a Frederick of WASENBERG appears, who probably adopted the name of the castle whose care he was entrusted with. Probably built by the landgraves of WERDE” (5).

    The first mention of the LICHTENBERGs appears in 1335 at the time of the inheritance division which attributes Wasenbourg to LUDEMANN III of LICHTENBERG. In 1378, it was given in fief to Wilhelm von BURNE who carried out various works there.

    In 1398, after a brief but very hard siege, the troops from Strasbourg took the castle but returned it to the von BURNE family shortly afterwards.

    In 1400-1401, Wilhelm von BURNE sold the castle to Johann von LICHTENBERG, who in 1407 gave it in fief to Raffan de KIRCHHEIM, son-in-law of WILHELM von BURNE.

    The castle remained in the possession of the LICHTENBERGs until their extinction in 1480. When the property was divided between the HANAUs and the ZWEIBRUEKEN-BITSCHs, it went to Count Simon WECKER IV von ZWEIBRUEKEN-BITSCH.

    It is said to have been damaged in 1525 during the Peasants’ War and then restored, but this has not been formally established.

    In 1551, it fell to the LEININGEN-WESTERBOURG (or LINANGE, who became lords of Oberbronn by marriage-inheritance).

    In 1590 (?), it was given as a sub-fief to Johann-Jakob NIEDHEIMER (or NIETHAMER), a former doctor who had been ennobled, bailiff of Haguenau. From then on, the family was called NIEDHEIMER de WASENBOURG.

    However, the castle is mentioned as ruined in 1592. Did the NIEDHEIMERs still live there? We find them in 1593 in Schirrhoffen, near Haguenau.

    One has hardly elements during the 17th century if it is not the assertion by certain authors that like many other castles of the north of Alsace, Wasenbourg would have been destroyed in 1677 by the French troops of the baron de MONTCLAR and de MELAC. It is allowed to doubt it taking into account the fact that it was already considered uninhabitable.

    However, it was acquired again in 1750 by the GAYLING D’ALTHEIM family, and then some time later by the HOHENLOHE-BARTENSTEIN and STRAHLENHEIM families, successive owners of Oberbronn Castle.

    In 1890, the German state bought the castle and the dependent forest. The ruin was classified as a “Historic Monument” on 6 December 1898. It was added to the general inventory in 1996.

(1) Traditiones Wizenburgenses, ensemble de cahiers rassemblant les chartes concernant les biens de l’abbaye de Wissembourg.

(2) D’après ENCYCLOPEDIE DE L’ALSACE,tome 12, Éditions Publitotal Strasbourg 1986.

(3) Charles CZARNOWSKY, architecte des monuments historiques : « Die Wasenburg bei Niederbronn-les-bains », dans « D’Elsasser Kalender Husfrind » 1937, pp.117 a 122.

(4) Cf page 52, note 1

(5) Châteaux forts et fortifications médiévales d’Alsace, Nicolas MENGUS, Jean-Michel RUDRAUF, Éditions La Nuée Bleue Strasbourg 2013, p.335-336