Eguisheim, a village of many awards
Eguisheim, the whole of France has been talking about it since 2013!
This picturesque medieval city of Alsace has indeed achieved national notoriety when it was crowned the favourite village of the French for the year 2013!
The French indeed fell in love with this postcard village; half-timbered houses, facades painted in cheerful colors, pointed roofs, flower-filled balconies and concentric cobblestone lanes that unfurl around the castle.
These also earned it to be ranked among the Plus Beaux Villages de France in 2003, to be the winner of the Grand Prix des Villes et Villages Fleuris de France since 1989, and be awarded the gold medal of the European competition Entente Florale* in 2006.
However, Eguisheim is not only flowery, but it’s also a ‘green’ village!
It has indeed been committed to cut by at least 70% of the use of phytosanitary products in the management of green spaces; as a result, it received in 2014 the label 2 libelules (dragonfly) that rewards this initiative.
So many awards and distinctions for this village nestled in the heart of the Schlossberg hills, in the Nature Park of the Ballon des Vosges**.
Eguisheim receives some 700,000 visitors a year; it has successfully adapted to its new fame and improved its infrastructure (roads, parking, accommodation, hotels …)
But Eguisheim is not just a pretty postcard village, it’s also a medieval city with a history worthy of novels.
In 1865, the remains of a Neanderthal man were found in the commune; Paleolithic folks obviously liked the strategic position of the hills that command the Schlossberg Valley.
The many Celtic sepultures uncovered in the commune show that the site remained continuously inhabited afterwards.
But the turning point of the village’s history was the 2nd century AD.
Indeed, a battalion of Roman legionaries led by the emperor Diocletian built a camp at the foot of the Schlossberg.
They also worked out that the gentle sunny slopes of the Schlossberg were ideal for winegrowing, and planted the first vineyard in Alsace.
The village started to develop around 720 AD when Eberhard, the descendant of the Dukes of Alsace, built the castle of Eguisheim.
Eguisheim was then a stronghold, protected by a wooden enclosure; there were neither flowers nor colourful houses!
It expanded from the 11th century on, when the castle was rebuilt in stone.
It kept growing despite the territorial wars that opposed the Nassau, the local lords, to the kings of France, and the many epidemics that disseminated populations throughout the Middle Ages.
New dwellings and lanes appeared around the Château Saint-Léon, creating a concentric street plan that is now one of the village’s attractions.
The three castles of Husseren-les-Châteaux
In these remote times, villages needed to upgrade their defense system against invaders and looters.
Three surveillance towers were thus built on the Husseren Hill, 2 kms southwest of Eguisheim, to monitor the plain and protect the village.
Today in ruin, they are also known as Castles of Eguisheim.
Although side-by-side, the castles of Dagsburg, Wahlenburg and Weckmund were built at different times.
They were named after three dominant feudal families; Castel de Vaudémont or Burg de Weckmund, Wahlenburg or Wahlenbourg, Dagsbourg or Dabo.
The Eguisheim-Dabo were for a long time the lords of Eguisheim.
The Weckmunds and the Wahlenburgs are more modest branches connected to the Dabo by marriage; their names were later attached to their castle.
The colongères courts of Eguishem
The colongères courts were another peculiarity of Eguisheim.
The village had 5: Girsberger, Kyburg or Braunschweiger, Catharinen (today a restaurant), Zorn or Escher, and Keiserdinghof.
A colongère court was a medieval form of organization of the rural world; it originated in the Germanic countries, and thus transferred to Alsace and Lorraine.
It defined a group of farmers who depended on the same lord (lay or religious) and were subject to a common law and depended on the same court of justice.
A colongère court generally included several houses, barns, stables, with land and meadows …
The farmers paid royalties or annual benefits to their lord.
The mayor (head of the colongère) lived in the main house that was protected by a hedge with palisades and a door with a lock.
It indeed accommodated the lord when he came to collect his royalties and hold his court of justice.
Eguisheim, birthplace of Pope Leon IX
Eguisheim prides itself on being the birthplace of a pope!
Indeed, in the 10th century, the village became the property of the Counts of Nordgau.
Brunon d’Eguisheim, the son of Hugues IV of Eguisheim, Count of Nordgau and Heilwige de Dabo, was born on June 21, 1002 in the castle.
He studied at the Chapter of the Cathedral of Toul, in Lorraine, and entered the Imperial Court of Conrad II at the end of his studies.
He became bishop of Toul at 24 and consecrated Pope on February 12, 1049 under the name of Leon IX.
Eguisheim, in the heart of the Alsace Vineyard
Now, let’s go 2000 years back…
The Romans planted the first vines, and made Eguisheim the cradle of the vineyards of Alsace.
However, the abbeys developed viticulture; the monks had to produce their own holy wine.
What a beautiful excuse!
Located at 210m above sea level, the gentle sunny slopes of the Schlossberg hills are ideal for growing grapes.
Eguisheim, today on the Alsace Wine Route, boasts a terroir of 339 hectares, which produces two grands crus, the Pfersigberg and Eichberg.
The winemakers of Eguisheim put the Pfersigberg back in the spotlight at the first Wine Fair in Colmar in 1927.
The name Pfersigberg might not ring a bell, until you know that it includes the Gewurtztraminer.
Then the incomparable fruity aroma and body of this superb wine, already known in the 16th century, awakens your taste buds!
The Eichberg is another marvellous wine that combines opulence, finesse and fruity and a remarkable longevity.
If you enjoy Alsace Wine don’t miss the prestigious Fête des Vignerons, an annual festival that takes place on the last weekend of August.
And if you’re passionate about history and old stones, you’ll never tire of admiring this amazing medieval city located 7 kms south-west of Colmar.
Department of Haut-Rhin – Alsace region
Coordinates: Lat 48.04306 – Long 7.30583