LINDENBERG (Satis Shroff)
Lindenberg is a serene and tranquil 700m hilltop nestled between the Black Forest and the Rhine Valley. From the hilltop you can overlook the Rhine Valley, the Kaiserstuhl and even the Vosges Mountains in Alsace (France). It got its name from a big birch tree which grew on the hill (‘linde’ means birch).
Since 500 years the name Lindenberg is associated with a place where you can pray, light a candle, think about life and be at peace with yourself in the quiet surroundings. Birch and pine trees that tower above you giving you a sense of reassurance. Nearby is a chapel dedicated to Maria Lindenberg which a spiritual haven for people who want to do a retreat and meditate. The view from Maria Lindenberg is lovely for a see the blue surrounding mountains and the valleys and spurs in-between with their picturesque Schwarzwald hamlets, each built around a church. From the spacious Lindenberg chapel you peer over the Iben Valley below and the hilly panorama of the Black Forest.
From Lindenberg you can make excursions into the High Schwarzwald to such trekking destinations such as the 1493m Feldberg, the highest hill of the Black Forest, the 1284m Schauinsland and the 1241m Kandel. Around Lindenberg there are small walking trails that lead you to St. Peter, St. Märgen (please read the author’s article on ‘Rossfest’) or the township of Kirchzarten. The peaceful Schwarzwald and the green meadows invite you to undertake walks in the countryside and picnic or visit the many taverns and inns called ‘Gaststätte’ strewn in the Black Forest. If you want to see more than the Black Forest, you can always head for nearby Freiburg and the neighbouring countries of the three-country triangle with towns like Basle (Switzerland), Colmar and Strassbourg (France). If you don’t want to drive all the time during your sojourn in this part of Europe and enjoy the landscape of sweet little town, fat cows, goats and sheep grazing in the lush green meadows, the quaint Schwarzwald homesteads decorated along the balconies and window-sills with colourful geraniums, then I’d advise you to take a bus or the bahn (railway).
Much like Lourdes, the Maria Lindenberg chapel was constructed in 1498 after Maria appeared in a vision and has been an attraction for pilgrims seeking divine help and strength. It also reminded me of Mariahilf in Morschach (Central Switzerland) with its picturesque and serene surroundings near the lakes of the four cantons. You can observe an old ‘Bildstock,’ which is a part of a tree sculptured like a tall house and a picture of the shepherd-boy and the apparition of Mary.
Once upon a time a farmer named Pantaleon Mayer, who lived in the Lower Iben Valley, was losing his stock of cattle through disease. A knowing person is said to have told him to erect a picture of Maria on a wooden pillar. He had it made and the cow disease disappeared.
Shortly thereafter the farmer’s sheperd-boy had a vision: Maria had spoken to him and told him to have a chapel constructed in the holy place on top of the Lindenberg which belonged to the Galli homestead. Another story related to Lindenberg has it that an old farmer named Hans Zähringer was treated badly and molested by his own family, and became almost blind. In his helpless situation he sought solace on the birch hill. In a vision he cut a small cross out of wood and requested farmer Pantaleon Mayer that he should extend the chapel and complete it. Farmer Mayer fulfilled this wish and built a chapel out of stone. This has been documented between 1486 till 1515. In the archive of cloister St. Peter, the farmer carries the name ‘Bantle Meyer.’
Lindenberg’s reputation among the people grew and the pilgrims came in great numbers. Then came the Farmers’ War (Bauernkrieg) in 1525, during which the pilgrims were cursed and ridiculed and the Lindenberg was regarded as a place of idolatry, heathen and pagan deity. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of evidence left by the people, in the form of votive boards, whose prayers have been heard and answered by Mother Maria in many difficult and emergency cases. In the old days there were only footpaths leading to this place of pilgrimage. Now you can drive comfortably to the top of Lindenberg and get home in time for your coffee with the Schwarzwäldertorte or cheese cake (Käsetorte).
It’s saddening to note that a cultural war (Kulturkampf) ensued and the nuns who ran the Lindenberg cloister were banished in 1869 on a cold, wintry day. Kulturekampf is the war waged by the Catholic church for more freedom and independence that was threatened by the state which mixed in clerical matters.
In the pilgrim’s chapel hangs a board showing the engraved names of sixteen priests who were killed during the Third Reich (1933-1945) and whose only sin was that they prayed to God. Some were executed and others deported to concentration camps and gassed with Zyklon B, a nerve gas. There’s a book about these stories written by Richard Zahlten bearing the title ‘Die Ermordeten’ (The Murdered).