Place de la République and the catholic church
Let’s do a quick jump across the French border today. This can be done on a KVV ticket on the local train from Wörth. Lauterbourg is the border station on the edge of the KVV network, a small Alsation country town in closest vicinity to the German border.
Since we all love superlatives... Lauterbourg is the easternmost settlement in mainland France. It is located in the ultimate corner of Alsace on the Rhine where the French-German border leaves the river and takes a westward turn, thus easy to locate even on a map of the world. (Please note that I said mainland France. Of course Corsica is further east and several overseras territories are even much further east.)
I did not have much idea what to expect and found it a nice place for an afternoon trip. The centre is small and easily walkable. The longest walk is the way from the station into town, which takes about 20 minutes (plus the time noeeded for taking photos).
Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-bon-secours is the first historical building that I spotted on the way. The little chapel was built in 1667 (date above the portal) after the plague hit the town. Only 200 inhabitants of Lauterbourg survived, and they donated the chapel here outside the town. This was the location of the cemetery where the victims of the epidemy had been buried. The cemetery is gone, though. Behind the chapel there is a modern residential quarter with large apartment blocks, named „Cité de la Chapelle“.
Walking into town along Rue de la Gare takes you along a residential quarter with small villas from the first half of the 20th century. This walk is pleasant if you stay on the left side of the street: the sidewalk is under large trees that offer shade.
After passing the headquarters of the fire brigade there are some narrow lanes on the right that lead into a quarter with older, small houses, some of these with timberwork. This must have been a poorer suburb in former times. Not all houses are in good shape. Some nice streetviews can be caught, though, for example in Rue de la Forge.
Round a few corners I reached Place de la République, the main square of Lauterbourg. What other name could the main square of a French town have? The square has been redesigned not too long ago and makes a pleasant sight with ist flags and flower beds. Only the many cars disturb the picture.
Place de la République seen from the platform behind the church
Rue de la Première Armée is the main street of the town. Here you find the most impressive townhouses and the town hall, and also a wide variety of shops. Unfortunately there is a lot of traffic running through (okay this was Friday afternoon rush hour, it should be better in other times of the day.
Hôtel de Ville et Mairie, the town hall of Lauterbourg, is a baroque building in Rue de la Première Armée, easy to find because of the flags in front of it. The beautiful sandstone portal shows the town crest and the date 1731.
The ground floor hosts the tourist information office, which might be useful for visitors. Even if you don't want to visit it, walk in through the portal to see the vaulted vestibule. The mairie was enlarged by a modern annex on the left of the historical town hall. I have not found out what the sculpture on the facade is supposed to mean.
The centre of Lauterbourg is a mix of styles. The town has its share of historical buildings, mostly baroque. In the Reunion wars of the late 17th century under Louis XIV French troops burned down the town in 1678. It was then rebuilt in the early 18th century.
In the 18th century some remarkable houses have been built, like the yellow one in the photo on the right. Its tall gable with the regular windows is an eyecatcher in the main street.
In the side streets I spotted some pretty half-timbered houses. Below there is a little gallery of excamples:
Not much is preserved from the times before the fire, for example the Episcopal Residence and Tour des Bouchers.
The renaissance building with the stair tower in the back was the residence of the Prince Bishops of Speyer during their visits to the town. Otherwise it was inhabited by their governor. In the 19th century it was turned into a school.
Tour des Bouchers and the adjacent, rather ruined stretch of town wall are remains of Lauterbourg's medieval fortification. The tower is named the „Butchers' Tower“ because the butcher guild was in charge of it. To each guild a part of the fortification was assigned where their members had to stand guard in case of war or siege. Later on the tower was used as prison. The tower is not in good shape and the wall is crumbling. Watch out for falling bricks.
Porte de Landau is a town gate which was built in the place of a medieval gate in 1708. It is part of the baroque fortifications in Vauban style. The outward side shows a relief with a sun in the triangular gable: the symbol of the Sun King Louis XIV, which is presented to every visitor who enters from the German border. Landau is the name of the nearest larger town on the German side. The square behind is named after the famous French military architect Vauban who designed so many fortresses in those times.
This gate made history in the German-French War. German troops, Dragoner from Baden commanded by Count Zeppelin, marched into France through here on July 24, 1870. This was the first act of this war (which lead to the foundation of the second German Empire).
In the street behind Porte de Landau I spotted a funny building which I named The Melting House, because that's what it looks like. No idea if it has an official name. An imaginative artist has painted the facade of this small town house in a really weird way. Porte de Landau. The pink colour makes it impossible to miss. Fancy, isn't it?
The catholic Church of the Holy Trinity is the centre and landmark of the town. It is located on a platform above the main square. The building still has some medieval (gothic) parts in the choir and the sacresty. It was badly damaged in the wars of the late 17th century, though. The nave has been renewed in 1716.
Details of the architecture reveal the origins of the architect: Dominicus Elmenreich, who had learned his craft in Vorarlberg.
The church is open in the daytime. The interior still contains one piece from the old church: the pulpit, dated 1581.
The Latin inscription above the main portal: „hIC sVM faVente Deo paCe et Vrbe“, can be translated as: Here I am, thanks to the Lord, peace and the city. It is a chronogram. The enlarged letters can be read as Roman numbers and give the year of the construction: M D CC VVV I = 1716.
The platform behind the church offers a fine view Place de la République with its flower beds.
The little protestant church is well hidden in a side lane named Rue du Temple. It looks a bit unusual and there is reason for that. The building originally served as powder magazine for the Vauban fortress. Itw as built in 1708. In 1887 the protestant community bought the building to turn it into a church. This proved difficult. Windows and doors had to be broken into the walls which are 1.70 m thick. The floor had to be lowered. A small bell spire, just a wall with two arched openings for the bells, was added on top of the gable.
I would have liked to see the interior, but it was closed and there was no mentioning of opening times, so I assume they only open it for services.
The two cemeteries of Lauterbourg, the Christian and the Jewish, are located next to each other outside the old town along Rue de la Chapelle. The Christian cemetery is the bigger one, and open in the daytime. The active part of the cemetery has a mix of older and modern tombstones. The older monuments are on family graves that have recently received a new 'inmate', otherwise they would have been cleared after a certain time. The bones are then put to rest in the ossuary next to the little chapel. A custom that was new to me are the little stone or brass plates on the graves, each donated by a family member or friend with a memorial wish for the defunct.
In the back of the graveyard there are two rows of historical, mostly 19th century tombstones along the hedge, obviously taken away from the graves and put on display there. Some of these marked the graves of members of the local freemason loge „Persévérance“. The symbol of this loge was the bee, and it is depicted on their stones.
The much smaller Jewish cemetery is surrounded by a high wall, and the gate is locked. But you can catch a glimpse through the wrought-iron gate. The cemetery was opened in the second half of the 19th century, the oldest tombstone present dates from 1877. Most tombstones are pre-World War II, for obvious reasons.
From the cemeteries it was just a short walk to the station, so I ended my tour there and took the next train back home.
Lauterbourg train station has connections in two directions: to Strasbourg, and across the border to Wörth in Palatinate. A look at the timetable shows that connections to Strasbourg are once per hour or once in two hours but not at regular intervals. Also, the German and French trains don't connect. If you plan to continue south, check the timetable carefully. Connections into Germany are better. Local trains run from Lauterbourg to Wörth every hour and reach Wörth after 16 minutes. In Wörth you connect to the regional train route between Karlsruhe and Landau/Neustadt-Weinstraße and the Karlsruhe city tram into the city and to Germersheim. The route is part of the KVV and VRN public transport networks, the respective tickets are valid. The state of Rheinland-Pfalz has recently modernized the fleet of local trains, so there is a modern diesel railcar commuting on this line.