Saturday, January 10, 2015



The Hotel Godesburg sits atop the highest hill in Bad Godesburg, Bavaria, and overlooks the Rhine. It was built on the remains of a 13th century fortress owned by the Archdiocese of Cologne as a symbol of the power of Catholicism. It gives a gorgeous panoramic view of the surrounding towns and on a clear day one can see as far as the spires of the Cologne Cathedral.
The hotel has an interesting story to tell about the old fortress, and the War of Cologne during 1583-1588, between the Catholics and Protestants. The involvement of a woman called Agnes of Mansfeld-Eisleben was what triggered the war.
Love came unbidden to this canoness who lived in a religious community at Gersheim near Dusseldorf in the 16th century. Though this was a cloister, Agnes had not yet taken her perpetual vows. She was therefore at liberty to move outside the convent and visit her family.
During one such visit to her sister Sibella and her husband Peter von Krichingen, she was introduced to Archbishop Gebhard of Walburg-Truchburg of the Cologne Electorate. It was love at first sight and the beginning of a liaison that led to the War of Cologne between Catholics and Protestants which lasted from 1583 to 1588. Agnes’ brothers Heyer and Ernst insisted that the Bishop marry their sister.
They were married in December 1582. Agnes was a staunch protestant and the Bishop unmindful of the consequences, converted to Protestantism. The Roman Catholics considered Calvinism a heresy. The parishioners were afraid that the Bishop would convert his Electorate to Protestantism. He declared from the pulpit that Catholicism and Protestantism enjoyed equal parity in his diocese. But he became an iconoclast and encouraged the destruction of many statues and images.
The Pope excommunicated Gebhard in 1583 and appointed a new bishop for Bavaria. But Gebhard refused to relinquish office and secured himself in the Godesburg fortress which was strong and impregnable and situated on a high mountain peak, 400 feet above the ground. However the new bishop got together an army of Catholic soldiers who tunneled their way into the base of the mountain using 1500 pounds of dynamite, and took possession of the fortress. Gebhard was forced to relinquish office in 1588.

The couple moved to Strasbourg in France, which was a stronghold of Calvinism. They were safe here. Agnes had no qualms about the part she indirectly played in the War of Cologne. Gebhard died in 1601, leaving Agnes with a generous lifetime annuity. His brother Karl was her guardian. But when he died in 1593, Agnes came under the protection of the Duke of Wurtemburg. She died in 1637 and was buried in Sulzbach.

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