Last modified: 2008-09-06 by ivan sache
Keywords: vianden | veianen | veinen |
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Flag of Vianden - Image by Željko Heimer, 28 July 2008
The municipality of Vianden (in Luxemburgian, Veianen - locally, Veinen; 1,764 inhabitants on 15 October 2007; 967 ha), one of the 12 towns of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is located in Oesling (north- eastern Luxembourg), close to the border with Germany.
Located on the river Our, the town of Vianden is dominated by the
castle of the Counts of Vianden. The name of the town has been related
to the Gaulish word vien, "a rock". The rocky spur harbouring the
castle was already the place of a castella during the Lower Roman
Empire (IVth-Vth centuries), probably housing a permanent garrison
watching the road to Trier. Partially destroyed by fire, the castle
was rebuilt in the Merovingian and Carolingian periods, reusing the
tower of the Roman fort. The exact use of the castle at that period is
not known, maybe the protection of the wealthy abbeys of Prüm and
Echternach against the Northmen's raids but more probably the collect
While increased c. year 1000, with a hall (aula) and a chapel (capella), the castle kept its administrative function and was not permanently inhabited by a noble lineage until c. 1100. At that time, Bertholphe, Comes de Vianne (Count of Vianden), added a square donjon (camera) to the castle and modified the hall, setting up a kitchen, rooms and latrines; the old wooden fence was replaced by a thick stone wall and the castle became the main residence of the Count. Count Frederic I completely revamped the castle around 1150 in Romanesque style, as did later Count Frederic III. When the Gothic style emerged in the late XIIIth century, the castle was completely transformed once again and significantly increased; Henri I, Count of Vianden and Namur, showed his wealth and power to his rival and neighbour, the Count of Luxembourg. Known as a town since 1256, Vianden was officially granted this title and the associated franchises by Count Philipp II in 1308. The Counts founded an hospital and a Trinitarian convent, and surrounded the town with city walls.
However, the Vianden lineage swiftly declined. In 1417, the last heiress of the lineage, Countess Marie of Sponheim and Vianden died and the county, including the castle, was transferred to the Ottonian branch of the House of Orange-Nassau. The castle was no longer used as a residence but as a place of storage; some buildings were further transformed into stables, breweries and forges. In 1820, the burgher Wenceslas de Coster purchased the castle and sold everything worth, for instance the wooden beams and the iron and lead gutters. In 1890, the castle, then a ruin, was transferred back to Grand Duke Adolphe of Nassau (senior branch) and remained property of the House of Luxembourg until 1977, when he was transferred to the Public Domain and completely restored.
Already ruined at the end of the XVIIIth century, the town's fortifications were suppressed between 1835 and 1850. The town of Vianden was registered as Cultural Heritage in 1938. At the end of the Second World War, Vianden was the last place in Luxembourg liberated from the German occupation, on 12 February 1945.
The most famous member of the Vianden lineage is Yolanda of Vianden
(1231-1283), the youngest daughter of Count Henri I. Yolanda refused a
marriage arranged by her parents and became a novice at the convent of
Marienthal. She was brought back by force to Vianden but her parents
eventually had to let her going back to the convent, where she became prioress in 1258 and welcomed her mother after the death of Henri during a crusade in 1252.
There are little remains of Yolanda but a part of her skull kept in the Trinatarian church of Vianden. Her fame was mostly due to Brother Herman von Veldenz, who published in 1290, therefore only a few years after her death, the epic Yolanda von Vianden, a long poem written in Mosan Franconian, a language cloesly related to modern Luxembourgish. The original manuscript of the epic, known as Codex Mariendalensis, discovered by Guy Berg in November 1999, is considered as the oldest manuscript in Luxembourg.
Vianden is today a main tourist spot in Luxembourg but the fame of the
town is not really new. In the XIXth century, the narrow streets and
the castle already fascinated the Romantics, found of the medieval
remains of the Rhine region. The French writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
contributed more than anyone else to the fame of the Grand Duchy of
Luxembourg and, especially of Vianden. Hugo visited Luxembourg every
year in 1862-1865; in 1872, he was banned form France because he had
helped rebels of the Commune insurrection to hide and escape the blind repression exerted by the government.
From 1 June to 23 September, Hugo stayed in Luxembourg, especially in Vianden, where his house has been revamped and transformed into the Victor Hugo Museum. Hugo was a hard worker and could not spend a day without writing or drawing; therefore, there is a lot of primary material about what he did all along his life. The famous writer seems to have enjoyed his stay in Vianden, in "the house at the corner of the bridge". He notes ironically in his diary (24 July 1871) that not everybody was pleased with his visit: "Last Sunday, the priest of Vianden said from the pulpit: 'The Devil had on earth three religions, the Lutherists, the Calvinists and the Jansenists. Now he has launched a fourth one, the Hugonists!'". However, a local farmer told him (28 July 1871) in Vianden: "I farm the land, I read Shakespeare in English and Hugo in French".
Hugo enjoyed the romantic ruins of the castle, writing on 13 August 1871: "I have drawn on my travel book a big spider web through which can be seen the ruin of Vianden, like a specter. A good job for a 13." In his Discours aux Viandénois (20 July 1871), he anticipated the rush of tourists to the town: "Today, in its wonderful landscape that all Europe will once visit, Vianden is made of two things, equally comforting and brilliant, one sinister, the ruin, the other one cheerful, the people."
In his novel Quatrevingt-treize, published in 1874, Hugo remembered Vianden as follows: "This crypt was the oubliette. Every donjon had its own. [...] Once in the feudal times, this was the room where quartering was performed, by a less noisy method than the use of four horses. [...] Such a room can still be seen today in Vianden."
In 2002, for the bicentenary of Hugo, the finest cooks of Vianden designed a menu hugolien, in which all the dishes have a relation with the poet's life and works. The gâteau Saint-Victor recalls the serenade offered on 20 July 1871 to the poet by the musicians of Vianden. The douceurs pour Juju recalls the nickname given by Hugo to his lover Juliette Drouet, who stayed with him in Vianden.
Ivan Sache, 28 July 2008
The municipal bulletin Réckspéil, #5, November 2006, relates the creation of the "Commission 2008", whose main goal is the preparation of the celebration of the 700th anniversary of the municipal rights of the town, granted in 1308. Among the proposals made by the Commission is "the manufacturing of a Vianden flag, red, silver, red, for the private houses".
The next issue of Réckspéil, #6, July 2007) confirms that "in due time, every interested household shall order a banner to the original colours of the town of Vianden (red, silver, red) to help decorate the streets of the town.
Photographies of the historic parade performed on 22 June 2008 show
medieval riders holding a horizontally divided red-white-red flag.
The flag of Vianden is also used in historical re-enactions performed in the castle during the Vianden Medieval Festival.
The flag of Vianden is a banner of the municipal arms, "Gules a fess
argent". According to Loutsch (Armorial communal du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg), these arms are among the oldest in Luxembourg. They were adopted in 1288 by Count Godefrey I of Vianden, who took the arms of
the Perwez family, from which Godefrey's mother descended.
These arms were granted to the town of Vianden by French Royal Decree
on 1 November 1696 and confirmed in the XIXth century by Dutch Royal
The arms of the Counts of Vianden are shown in the Gelre Armorial ("Grave v. Vianden", #39, folio 27 v). The Armorial shows another, erroneous version of the arms of Vianden with the fess chequy argent ("Vianden", #1709, folio 1r).
The Counts of Nassau-Vianden used as their arms "Quarterly Nassau and Vianden". The Counts of Nassau-Corroy used the same arms; the municipality of Zwevegem (Belgium) uses a banner of their arms as its municipal flag, recalling that the Nassau-Corroy were the last lords of the village. Until the municipal reform of 1976, the municipality of Rumst (Belgium) used the arms of Vianden as its municipal arms, recalling that Philip of Vianden was lord of Rumst in the XIIIth century.
There might be a relation between the arms of Vianden and Leuven via Perwez, which I have not been able to elucidate.
The arms of Vianden appear, as quarter XIII, in the arms of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg "valid from Grand Duke Adolphe to Grand Duke Jean", that is from 29 July 1898 (Decree) until 2000, the new, simpler arms being prescribed by Decrees on 23 February and 23 June 2001.
The title "Count of Vianden" is still held by Queen Beatrix as one of 41 titles that belong to the King of the Netherlands.
Ivan Sache & Maxim van Ooijen, 29 July 2008
The vertical banner designed for the celebration of the 700 years of the town rights is shown on photographies taken during the visit
of the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg in Vianden, 22 June 2008, and during the celebration of the National Day, 26 June 2008.
The banner, displayed vertically, is vertically divided red-silver-red with the emblem of "Vianden 2008" enclosed into a shield outlined in white and skewed to the upper part of the banner.
The emblem, as can be seen on the Vianden 2008 website, shows the red skyline of the church and castle of Vianden, in red, on a silver background. The letterring, also in silver, combines "700", "VEINEN", "2008" and "Stad".
Ivan Sache, 28 July 2008
On 3 September 1870, short after the battle of Sedan that suppressed Napoléon III's Second Empire, the stagecoach from Neuerburg entered Vianden decorated with a Prussian flag. An inhabitant of Vianden removed the flag and threw it down into a stable while other villagers insulted the coach's driver. Chancellor Bismarck did not like the event and the young Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was internationally embarassed. Two members of the same family of Vianden, one representative at the Chamber of Luxembourg and the other representative at the Reichstag, were able to calm down the situation. However, the coach service between Neuerburg was suspended and was never reestablished.
Source: Vianden 2008 website
Ivan Sache, 28 July 2008