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Sterrenberg and Liebenstein
In the middle ages, an old knight belonging to the court of the Emperor Conrad II. lived in a castle called Sternberg, near Boppard. The old warrior had two sons left to him. His wife had died many years before, and since her death, merry laughter had seldom been heard in the halls of the beautiful castle.
Soon a ray of sunshine seemed to break into these solemn rooms; a distant cousin at Rüdesheim had died, leaving his only child, a beautiful young girl, to the care of his relative.
The golden-haired Angela became the pet of the castle, and won the affection and friendship of the two sons by her engaging ways. What had already happened hundred of times now happened among these young people, love replaced the friendship of the two young knights, and both tried to win the maiden's favour.
The old master of the castle noticed this change, and his father's heart forbode trouble. Both sons were equally dear to him, but perhaps his first-born, who had inherited his mother's gentle character, fulfilled his heart's desire more than the fiery spirit of Conrad the younger.
From the first moment when the orphan appeared at his family seat, he had conceived the thought that his favourite son Henry, who was heir to his name and estates, would marry the maiden.
Henry loved Angela with a profound, sincere feeling which he seldom expressed.
His brother, on the contrary, made no secret of his ardent love, and soon the old man perceived with sorrow that the beautiful girl returned his younger son's passionate love. Henry, too, was not unaware of the happiness of this pair, and in generous self-denial he tried to bury his grief, and to rejoice heartily in his brother's success.
The distress of the elder brother did not escape Angela. She was much moved when she first remarked that his voice trembled on pronouncing her name, but soon love dazzled her eyes, so that the clouds on his troubled countenance passed unnoticed by her.
About this time St. Bernhard of Clairvaux came from France to the Rhine, preaching a second crusade against the Infidels. The fiery words of the saintly monk roused many thousands to action; his appeal likewise reached the castle of Sternberg.
Henry, though not envying his brother's happiness, felt that it would be impossible for him to be a Constant witness of it, and thus he was glad to answer this call, and to take up the cross.
Conrad, too, longing for action and dominated by the impulse of the moment, was stirred up by the witching charms which a crusade to Palestine offered. His adventurous soul, cramped up in this castle so far removed from the world, thirsted for the adventures, which he imagined were awaiting the crusaders in the far-off East. In vain the tears and prayers of the young girl were shed, in vain was the sorrow of his father who begged him not to desert him.
The old man was in despair about the unbending resolutions of his sons.
"Who will remain at the castle of my forefathers, if you both abandon it now, perhaps never to return," cried he sorrowfully. "I implore you, my eldest son, you, the very image of your mother, to have pity on your father's gray hairs. And you, Conrad, have pity on the tears of your betrothed." The brothers remained silent. Then the eldest grasped the old man's hand, saying gently:
"I shall not leave you, my father."
"And you, Angela," said the younger to the weeping maiden, "you will try and bear this separation, and will plant a sprig of laurel to make a wreath for me when I return."
The next day the young knight left the home of his forefathers. At first the maiden seemed inconsolable in her grief. But soon her love began to slumber like a tired child; on awakening from this drowsiness indignation seized her, whispering complainingly in her ear, and disturbing all the sweet memories in which the picture of her light-hearted lover gleamed forth, he who had parted from her for the sake of empty glory.
Now left to herself, she began to consider the proud youth who was forced to live under the same roof with his rejected love. She admired his good qualities which all seemed to have escaped her before, his great daring at the chase, his skill with weapons, and his many kind acts of pure friendship to her, with the view of sweetening the bitter separation from which she was suffering.
He seemed afraid of rousing the love which was still sleeping in his heart.
In the meantime Angela felt herself drawn more and more towards the knight; she wished to try and make him understand that her love for his younger brother had only been a youthful passion, which seemed to have flown when he left her. She felt unhappy when she understood that Henry, whom she now began really to love, seemed to feel nothing but brotherly affection for her, and she longed in her inmost soul for a word of love from him.
Henry was not unaware of this change in her affections, but he proudly smothered every rising thought in his heart for his brother's betrothed.
The old knight was greatly pleased when, one day, Angela came to him, and with tears in her eyes disclosed to him the secret of her heart.
He prayed God fervently to bring these two loving hearts together whom he believed were destined for one another by will of God. In his dreams he already saw Angela in her castle like his dead wife and his first-born son, rocking her little baby, a blue-eyed, fair-haired child. Then he would suddenly recollect his impetuous younger son fighting in the Crusades, and his dreams would be hastily interrupted.
Just opposible to his ancestral hall he caused a proud fort to be built, and called it "Liebenstein," intending it for his second son when he returned from the Holy Land. The castle was hardly finished, when the old man died.
The crusade at last was at an end. All the knights from the Rhine country brought back the news with them on their return from the Holy Land, that Conrad had married a beautiful Grecian woman in the East, and was now on his way home with her.
Henry was beside himself with wrath on hearing this news. Such dishonorable conduct and shameful neglect seemed impossible to him, and going to the maiden he informed her of his brother's approaching return.
She turned very pale, her lips moved, but her tongue found no words.
A large ship was seen one day sailing along the Rhine with strange flags waving on its masts. Angela saw it from her tower where she now spent many a long day reflecting on her unfortunate destiny, and she hastily called up the elder brother.
The ship approached nearer and nearer. Soon the cries of the boatmen could be heard, and the faces of the crew could be distinguished.
Suddenly the maiden uttered a cry, and threw herself weeping into the arms of the knight. The latter gazed at the vessel, his brows contracted. Yes! there on board, in shining armour, stood his brother, with a beautiful strange woman clinging to his arm.
The ship touched land. One of the first, Conrad sprang on shore. The two watchers in the tower disappeared. A man approached Conrad and informed him that the new castle was destined for him. The same day the impetuous knight sent notice of his arrival to Sternberg castle, but his brother answered him, that he would Wait for him on the bridge, but would only meet sword in hand the faithless lover who had deserted his betrothed.
Twilight was creeping over the two castles. On the narrow ground separating the forts the brothers strove together in a deadly fight.
They were equally courageous, equally strong those two opponents, and their swords crossed swiftly, one in righteous anger, the other in wounded pride. But soon the elder received a blow, and the blood began to drop on his breastplate.
The bushes were at this moment suddenly pushed asunder, and a maiden, veiled in white, dashed in between the fighters thrusting them from each other. It was Angela, who cried out in a despairing voice:
"In God's name stop! and for your father's sake cease, ere it be too late. She for whom you have drawn your swords, is now going to take the veil, and will beg God day and night to forgive you, Conrad, for your falseness, and will pray Him to bless you and your brother for ever."
Both brothers threw down their arms. Conrad, his head deeply bowed, covered his face with his hand. He did not dare to look at the maiden who stood there, a silent reproach to him. Henry took the weeping girl's hand.
"Come sister," said he, "such faithlessness does not deserve your tears."
They disappeared among the trees. Silently Conrad stood gazing after them. A feeling which he had never known seemed to rise up in his heart, and, bending his head, he wept bitterly.
The cloister, Marienburg, lay in a valley at some distance from the castles, and there Angela found peace. A wall was soon built up between the two forts Sternberg and Liebenstein, a silent witness of the enmity between the two brothers.
Banquet followed banquet in the newly built castle, and the beautiful Grecian won great triumphs among the knights of the Rhine.
But sorrow seemed to have taken possession of Sternberg castle. Henry had not wished to move the maiden from her purpose, but from the time of her departure, his strength faded away. At the foot of the mountain he caused a cloister to be built, and a few months later he passed away from this world, just on the same day that the bells were tolling for Angela's death.
The lord of Liebenstein was not granted a lasting happiness with his beautiful wife. She fled with a knight who had long enjoyed the lavish hospitality at castle Liebenstein. Conrad, overcome by sorrow and disgrace, threw himself from a pinnacle of the castle onto the depths below.
The strongholds then fell into the hands of Knight Brömser of Rüdesheim, and since that time have fallen into ruins. The church and cloister still remain in the valley, and are the scene of many a pilgrimage.Click to go to the next section of the Legends of the Rhine