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The Island of Mainau

     For many hundreds of years the names of the Masters of Bodmann have been very closely connected with the island in the lake of Boden. At first the island was in the possession of this noble race, but later on, in the thirteenth century, it passed into the hands of an order of German Knights. A legend relates the story to us of how this change came to pass.

     About this time the whole of this magnificent property was held in possession by a youthful maiden, who had inherited this beautiful island with all its many charms. As may be supposed, the wooers for the lovely maiden's hand and inheritance became very numerous. She, however, had made her own choice, and it had fallen upon a nobleman from Langenstein.

     Every evening when the sun was sinking down into the golden waters, this maiden walked along the strand watching and listening for some longed-for sound. Then the measured splash of an oar would be heard approaching in the twilight, and a little boat would be drawn up on the shore, a youthful boatman would spring joyfully forth, and lovingly greet the maiden. There this pair of lovers wove dreams about the time from which only a short period now separated them, when they should belong openly to each other before the world.

     The nobleman landed one evening as usual, but this time his heart was depressed and sorrowful; he informed his betrothed mournfully that his father, who was then suffering agony from gout, had once taken a vow to God and to the emperor that he would go on a crusade to the Holy Land, but being unable to fulfill his oath, he laid it to his son's charge to carry it out as he meant to have done.

     The maiden wept bitterly on hearing these unexpected tidings.

     "Trust me and the Powers on high, I shall not make this great sacrifice in vain," said her lover consolingly. "I shall return, that I feel confident of."

     Thus with bright hopes in his heart the youthful crusader bade his weeping betrothed good-bye.

   And every evening when the sun was sinking into the golden waters the maiden walked along the strand, looking with longing eyes out into the misty distance. Spring came and disappeared, summer followed, and the swallows fled from the lake to warmer climes, the maiden sending many a warm greeting with them. Wintry storms blew over the waters, whistling round the lonely island, and the maiden had become as pale as the flakes of snow which fell against the window-panes.

     News one day reached the castle that the crusaders had returned from the East, but that the nobleman from Langenstein was languishing in a Turkish prison in a remote castle belonging to the Sultan. The maiden was heart-broken by these tidings and now spent her days in prayers and tears.


       Within the mighty walls of a gloomy castle in the far-off East, a young hero was sitting pining over his bitter fate. He prayed and groaned aloud in his ,grief, thinking of his betrothed from whom he had been so cruelly separated. The Sultan had offered the fair-haired youth his favourite daughter, a seductive eastern beauty, but the prisoner had turned scornfully away, her dark glancing eyes having no charm for him.

     That night the youth had a strange dream. An angel was soaring over his couch and came down to his side, and a voice whispered, "Promise yourself to me, and you will see your native-land again."

     The knight started up and said reverently, "That was the voice of God!" Confused thoughts rushed through his soul, he must renounce his love, but at least he would see her again. Throwing himself on his knees, he promised with a fervent oath that he would dedicate himself to the Lord, if he might only see the beloved maiden once more.

     An earthquake shook the castle to its very foundations, unfastening the prison doors, thus setting the prisoner at liberty in a marvellous way. He succeeded in reaching the coast without being caught by the guards of the Sultan, and a vessel sailing to Venice took him on board. But as he approached his native land the struggle in his soul between love and duty was very great; at one moment it seemed to overcome him, and he felt he could no longer keep his vow. But God again admonished him. Reaching the lake he steered his boat towards the island, but a sudden storm arose, threatening him with a watery grave. He prayed fervently to Heaven, again swearing his oath. The storm subsided, and the little boat having missed its course landed on the other side of the lake, where the Grand Master of an Order of German Knights had his seat.

     The tired way-farer approached, begging to be received, a boon kindly granted to him. Then starting off again with his boat the youth reached the island. He there imprinted a sorrowful kiss on his beloved's pure white forehead, bidding her and the world good-bye for ever.

     The young girl resigned herself at first silently to her fate; but she soon resolved on another plan: this place which had once been such a happy home had no longer any charms to offer her, and she therefore presented the island of Mainau to the German Order of Knights on one condition, that the nobleman from Langenstein should be the successor of the Grand Master. This request was willingly granted, the noble maiden gave up all her rich possession and left the island in the Bodensee. It is said that she retired to a convent, but no one ever knew where.

    The chronicle informs us that Hugh of Langenstein became one of the most capable Grand Masters of this Order of Knights of Mainau. He is also known as a great poet, and his poem on the martyr Martina still exists in old manuscripts.

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