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Birkenfeld, the history    14.century 17.century 18.century 19.century


During all this time there also existed the town of Birkenfeld, in contrast to the castle called Tal-Birkenfeld (Tal= Valley), which was focal point of the office, which reached from Traun to Siesbach.The place was situated closely around the church, which had has also a cemetery. (The current cementry was created in 1573 because of plague).

            In the year 1332 the german emperor Ludwig, the Bavarian granted the municipal law to Birkenfeld.

The town never received walls. In 1367, records show that 21 inhabitants paid tax to the count. By 1554, there were 44 taxpaying hearths. In this year a gun shot was the reason for a conflagration, which destroyed the church and the whole village. The Bishop of Trier was forced to reconstruct most of the church, from whose district he also received two-thirds from the "Fruchtzehnt" (=10% of the crop). But he did this very reluctantly, because the Lutheran Confession had been established in the "Hintere Grafschaft" since 1557.

Charles of Birkenfeld


Since the year 1584 the castle was the residence of the Count Palatine Charles of Pfalz-Zweibruecken-Birkenfeld. He inherited from the common rule of Sponheim, which belonged before to Zweibruecken. He made agreements with the government in Baden, which allowed him certain independence as sovereign in the offices Birkenfeld, Allenbach and Frauenburg. He converted the old castle to a palace. His son George finished the building and also in 1669 placed the foundation-stone for a new chapel in the palace. Charles and especiallly his son Georg William were excellent sovereigns. The last one also minted some coins in 1623.

Georg William
Georg William from Birkenfeld

Birkenfeld palace Birkenfeld palace around 1645 -on an engraving from Merian

Around 1600, Tal-Birkenfeld consisted of the older Oberdorf and the younger Unterdorf (under mainstreet, burned 1727). Around the village were eight fish-ponds from the sovereign. The officials live in the palace. All work for the sovereign was hard labor - owners of a horse had to bring wine and other things from Trabach to the sovereign (~27 miles away); other subjects cultivated fields, took letters from the office to farway towns, carried two tubs of grain from Herrenstein to Birkenfeld, stayed in crowds as guard the palace, etc. Craftsmen there engaged in hard labor. In the office there existed coopers, leatherer, hammerers, weavers and bakers guilds. At the river Steinau there was was an agate cutter. Trade was almost exclusively only with the Mosel region (Trier, Trabach) -- there farmers sold grain and butter and there people purchased wine, salt, lime, etc.

There were held many large markets in Birkenfeld and the farmers were punished, if they did not appear. At Johannes market there was also dancing and the palace guard played the instruments. There were also two shopkeepers and two pubs, one of them was "Der Herren Herberg" (the mens shelter), where travelers rested. Visitors, who took the cure at the well in Hambach, also took accommodation here.

The two hosts sold only high-taxed wine. Beer was only available in the tavern at the palace. From here a winding stairs led to the outside, on which several people fell to death. It was a generation which did like drinking-bouts. The minister Conon of Birkenfeld often preached coherently for two hours, but sometimes he didn't pray and instead stayed in the pub and sang. The bailiff fought in vain against this with the barbaric punishments of that time, including fines, being locked up in the tower and birch canings. Adulterous people had to carry around (sin-) stones at the divine service or were banished. The condemned had to pay a quart of wine to the informer. These processes were rare in Birkenfeld, but frequently there were protests against the old customs, which are today preserved and maintained (mummery, witch burnings in the night from the first of May, wheel shifting, etc.).

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

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