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Birkenfeld, the history 

14. century 17. century 18. century 19.century

coat of arms from the county of Sponheim  

History

Long before the time of which yellowed parchment could tell, there was a human settlement in the area of Birkenfeld. Finds, discovered by hard-working researchers (Back, Baldes) showed, that since 1000 B.C. at the "Schmißberger Eck", there existed a larger settlement at the crossroads between Thalfang- Rinzenberg- Nohen- Baumholder and Metz- Tholey- Soetern- Bruecken -Idar to the Rhine. Grave sites located on top of a hill are often found at other locations during this time period.

The Roman legions under Caesar found their poor framework houses, when they occupied the region. The Romans also brought armies to Birkenfeld. The great Roman road between Trier and Bingen runs over the Hunsrueck, but between this road and the road south from the river Nahe (Metz- Mainz) they developed a faster way. And at the "Schmißberger Eck" was a post station with a blacksmithy, small shop and tavern, also a temple and some grave monuments. Roman small holders had nearby (Elchweiler, Dienstweiler) stone-built dairy-farms. Many finds from this sunken world are now shown in the museum.

In the 4th century German tribes pushed against the Romans, who retreated from the Rhine. Plundering the former Roman territories, they caused some proud Roman buildings to go up in flames in this ferocious time of the migration of nations. The ruins were used by the following generation as building-stones for their homes. Researchers have found in the masonry from the church in Birkenfeld not only stones with Roman sculptures, but also a stone with the paw from a lion and the counterpart from this stone in the forest of "Wasserschied".

From this church there comes also a document, which for the first time in the historical record mentions the name "Birkenfeld". Egbert, Bishop of Trier, makes a donation for the Paulinus convent in the year 981 as a compensation for lost churches. He says, that bishop Liutwin has built the churches from Brombach and Birkenfeld on his own ground and donated them to the Paulinus convent. Liutwin, former duke of Lorraine and probably the ancestor of the Salian emperors, died in the year 713, so the church in Birkenfeld must have already existed in the year 700.

The church came later into the possesion of the archconvent in Trier, which had jurisdiction in the Birkenfeld region. Their governors were counts from Sponheim, who gradually usurped sovereignty and no longer recognized the jurisdiction of the archconvent in Trier. The possessions of Sponheim were divided up in the year 1223 and Birkenfeld came to the "Hintere Grafschaft", whose dukes resided on the Starkenburg near Trabach.

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Birkenfeld castle 1585 When Loretta of Sponheim held the regency for her minor son, Bishop Balduin tried again, to tear sovereignity from the Duke of Sponheim. He began a feud in the year 1328 and built a castle at Birkenfeld for his protection. By a famous caper, made during an armistice near the castle, the countess brought the prince of the church into her force and coerced him to acknowledge the jurisdiction of Sponheim and to agree to the payment of compensation. With these funds, she built Frauenburg castle, where she desired to live for the rest of her life. But Loretta was forced to travel to the pope in Avignon, to absolve herself from the decree of excommunication. The building of the Birkenfeld castle, which was begun from Balduin, was finished by Sponheim. The castle was first mentioned in the year 1330 in a letter from Loretta.

The castle became a residence of the office Sponheim, along with Allenbach and Frauenburg. After the death of the last count in 1437 the "Hintere Grafschaft" came under the common rule of his two brothers-in-law, the margrave of Baden and the count of Veldenz. This type of government which was very unfavorable for the country lasted until 1776. As a consequence of complicated inheritance rules, the Dukes of Palatine-Zweibruecken inherited.

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Letzte Änderung/Last update: 03-Jun-2000 (DK)

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