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The Foundation of the Convent of All Saints

     The ancient convent, "Allerheiligen", near Oppenau still existed at the beginning of this century. It was proposed to do away with the cloister, but the mighty lords and masters to whom it belonged could not agree as to what use they would make of the building. One of them proposed to turn it into a garrison, another thought it fit for a spinning-mill, and a third declared it would make a good house of correction. Fate however decided differently. While all these discussions were going on, the building was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground, and the church alone escaped the flames. A legend still lingering in the countryside relates the story of the foundation of this abbey, a story no less peculiar than that of the abbey's fate.

    Long ago, mistress Uta, daughter of the Count of Cahv and wife of a Duke of the House of Welf, lived in her castle near the little town of Oberkirch. This proud stronghold was called Schauenburg, and had once bravely resisted the attacks of the citizens of Strassburg. The ruins are still to be seen.

     Mistress Uta, the pious duchess, desired to build a convent dedicated to All Saints, just as long ago the heathen Emperor Augustus had built the Pantheon which he had dedicated to "all gods." Days and weeks passed in the endless consultations and discussions with her councillors. At last the duchess grew impatient, and according to the advice of her priest, a very ingenious man, a peculiar but most impartial judge was chosen.

     It was agreed that a donkey should settle all doubts and disagreements.

     "The animal," said the light-hearted chaplain, "should be sent out heavily laden, and the foundation-stone of the convent should be built on the spot where the donkey rids himself of his burden."

     Lazily our braying friend set off with his load, followed by the chaplain smiling mischievously, and the magistrates deeply humiliated.

     Soon the brave donkey began to suffer from the heat; the weather was warm, the sack heavy, and his tongue was dry.

     He began to stamp with his hoof, when lo! a bubbling well sprang up out of the turfy ground, and he drank from its waters to his heart's content.

     Thus refreshed, the donkey continued on his way, dragging the load up a steep mountain, till all at once he lost patience and tossed it over angrily into the depths below.

     Gentle mistress Uta was greatly pleased on hearing that by a marvellous chance a lovely valley had been chosen. Thus the convent was built by the advice of the same animal which in olden times spoke to the prophet Balaam.

     It stood there for many a generation. Even now a well springs in the vicinity called "the Donkey's well," near which is a stone bearing the following inscription:

Anno JJ96.

"A donkey passed this place long years ago,
Whose hoofs here caused a well to spring and flow"

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