RIQUEWIHR AND ITS HISTORY
RIQUEWIHR: Milestones in the city’s history
Richo, a Frankish landowner, ran an estate here, hence the name "Richovilla", the origin of Riquewihr's name.
The first mention of 'Richenwilre' in a document; Riquewihr was already involved in viticulture ("possessiones in Riquewihr cum vineis...").
Owned by the Count of Horbourg, the town was surrounded by walls and a moat: construction of the Dolder and the Thieves' Tower (reinforced in the 14th c.).
The Counts of Horbourg sell the seigneury of Riquewihr to their cousin, Count Ulrich X of Württemberg (Riquewihr remains part of Württemberg until 1796).
Count Eberhard de Wurtemberg becomes engaged to Henriette de Montfaucon, Countess of Montbéliard.
Count Henri grants and confirms the burghers' charter of freedom; Riquewihr becomes capital of the Württemberg lands in Alsace.
Construction of the second fortified enclosure following the spread of firearms.
Organization of the Winegrowers' Association ("Rebleutzunft").
The Reformation was officially introduced by Count George I; the pilgrimage church (1337) was transformed into a presbytery, and the church of St. Erard (a hospital chapel) into a school with accommodation for the teacher.
Construction of the present château by Count Georges.
A happy period; the town lived from the production and sale of its wine, renowned throughout Europe: the beautiful houses bear witness to the prosperity of this period.
Thirty Years' War: the city was besieged, pillaged and occupied several times by imperial and French troops (1635, 1652): epidemics, famine, high mortality, hostage-taking...
In his "Topographia Alsatiae", Merian refers to Riquewihr and illustrates his text with an engraving of the town.
Following the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), Riquewihr and its seigneury became French, but remained subject to the laws and customs of the German Empire.
Heavily in debt, one of the last Dukes of Württemberg borrowed a total of 540,000 livres from the philosopher Voltaire (in Berlin) and mortgaged the seigneurial revenues, particularly those from the Riquewihr vineyards.
The Württembergs relinquish their possessions on the left bank of the Rhine: this act marks the definitive attachment of Riquewihr to France.
The Tour des bourgeois (southern flank) and the Porte du bas de la ville (eastern entrance) are demolished: construction of the neo-classical Hôtel de Ville.
With cracks in its walls, the old Gothic-style parish church of Ste-Marguerite was demolished and two new churches were built, one Protestant and one Catholic.
Following the German victories, Alsace was abandoned by France and came under the de jure or de facto authority of Germany.
Riquewihr was liberated by the Allies on December 5, 1944.
Discover Riquewihr’s historical points of interest by hovering over the numbered red dots below:
An enlarged engraving by the Merian (1644 ), displayed behind the Dolder fountain, shows Riquewihr in the mid-17th century: its hills planted with vines, its double enclosure, its towers, its three churches, its castle…
The Tour du Dolder (1291) was one of the city’s fortified gates and belfry:
– Its facade, facing the town, has a pleasing appearance, with corbelled storeys (1565) and flower-filled windows. Passing under the Dolder…
– its western face, turned towards the potential invader, is severe: on either side, you can see the fortified wall built in 1291, topped by a covered way, enabling the bourgeois, armed and mobile, to defend their city at strategic points.
Heading south, take the old ditch that runs alongside the 1291 wall and leads to the Heller tower (now a dwelling) at the south-west corner. Climb the stairs…
…from the top of the rampart, view of the south-west bastion built in 1621 to reinforce the defensive system in the run-up to the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648); then round the bastion to reach avenue Méquillet; view of the western front with its flanking tower and the Dolder. Join the…
…High fortified gate (traces of the drawbridge, and a wooden portcullis from 1536); on either side, standing in the former moat, we discover the second perimeter wall built in the vicinity by 1500 to protect the city from the development of firearms; the earthworks behind the wall provide a solid “rampart” to withstand bombardment.
Tour des Voleurs (late 13th-early 14th century): a former angular defensive tower that served both as a prison and as a place to exercise seigniorial justice during the reign of the Counts of Württemberg, new owners from 1324. (see their coat of arms – deer antlers – carved into the top of the tower’s projecting quoins). Then head east…
The north wall dating from 1291 was not lined, as it once ran alongside a wide ditch fed by the Sembach river. However, around 1500, this wall was adapted for use with firearms. A closer look at the unplastered parts of the wall reveals traces of merlons and battlements, with brackets that once supported medieval tilting shutters (house before the third wall breach).
North-east corner tower, known as the Anabaptist tower (1291), then the round tower with gunboats, built in 1615 in the run-up to the Thirty Years’ War,
To complete the tour, you can walk along the eastern side of the town, on either side of the Town Hall (1809), where you’ll discover the well-preserved 1500 wall.
Take another look at the south-east bastion, erected in 1621, where the “Tree of Liberty” was planted in 1792. Climb up to the esplanade of the ramparts: during the Revolution, the “Cult of Liberty” was celebrated here.
Approximately 40 metres further along the esplanade, the beautiful eastern facade of the Württemberg castle and a small lapidary collection can be seen on the left.
This castle was built by Count Georges in 1539-1540 in the Rhenish Renaissance style of the period, with its characteristic crenellated gable and numerous mullioned windows (see also the pediment above the entrance to the stair turret).
At the foot of the château’s eastern facade, a small lapidary collection preserves ancient stones related to the history of Riquewihr.
Enclosure from 1291
1500 mm enclosure
Tower from 1615 and bastions from 1621
Alongside the beautiful homes, towers and other remnants of the old fortifications, or the objects preserved in our museums, some interesting stones complete these testimonies to the rich history of our town. Gathered at the foot of the Württemberg castle’s eastern facade, they make up our “lapidary space”.
The upright millstone: is it a millstone from an oil mill (walnuts and almonds) or a millstone used to crush iron ore? This millstone was discovered in the “Rosenburg ” at the beginning of the 20th century, in a vineyard plot at the foot of the “Schwaertz”, a wooded mountain to the southwest of Riquewihr. It has recently been established that there were iron mines on this mountain; a carbon-14 analysis of charred wood taken from an ore-processing site indicates dates between 550 and 650.
Merovingian tombs: some 30 skeletons, in and out of sarcophagi typical of the Merovingian period, were discovered in 1913, not far from here at a place called “Oberberg”, between vineyards and forest. It was apparently a burial place for the miners who worked at the “Schwaertz”. We would therefore tend to think that the grinding wheel, worn on one side, could have been used to crush the ore before extracting the iron in blast furnaces.
Two fragments of a tombstone with inscriptions These fragments are those of the funerary monument of the first wife of Count Henri II de Wurtemberg-Montbéliard, mother of the future Duke Ulrich, born at Château de Riquewihr on February 8, 1487. Elisabeth, Countess des Deux-Ponts, died there a few days after the birth of her son, and was buried in the former Church of Notre-Dame. These fragments, found in 1885, bear the Latin inscription engraved in stone: ANNO…. ARII. OBIIT. GENEROSA. DNA. ELIZABET. COMITISSA. DE. ZWAINBRUCK. NATA. DE. BITSCH…. DNI. HEINRICI. DE. WIRTEMBERG. ET. MOTEBELLIGARDO. CVIVS. ANIMA. REQUIRED CA… (“In the year (1487, February 17, died the generous Lady Elisabeth, Countess of Deux-Ponts, née Bitsch (wife of the illustrious) Lord Henri de Wurtemberg et Montbéliard. May his soul rest in peace. “A unique testimony to the Württemberg presence in Alsace in the seigneuries of Horbourg and Riquewihr (1324-1796).
Hump stones dating from the 14th and 15th centuries were salvaged following the laying of pipes upstream from the Hôtel-de-Ville, where they had been used as foundations for the double fortified tower-gates at the bottom of the town; preserved, they were installed as low walls.
Carved door lintelThis undated lintel bears the Riquewihr coat-of-arms, and is evidence of the transition between the late Gothic and Renaissance periods. It is thought to have surmounted the entrance door to the former town hall in the early 16th century.e which stood in the center of the city and was demolished in the spring of 1789 due to dilapidation?
Altar of Liberty of 1790 (FREYHEITS ALTAR 1790)Originally erected on the south-east bastion, on the site where the Tree of Liberty would be planted two years later, the citizens of Riquewihr, who had embraced the new ideas, celebrated revolutionary and republican festivities with great pomp. This remarkable piece, unique in Alsace and even in France, was found by chance in 1884, then placed in the center of the lapidary complex and protected by a glass slab.
This is followed by other stones, often dated, but of lesser importance: the old central shaft of the Dolder fountain , dating from 1560, is particularly noteworthy. This piece was accidentally ripped off by an American army truck at the end of January 1945: the heraldic lion at the top of the column greets visitors as they climb the stairs to the Dolder Museum, while the carved lower part is preserved in our lapidary collection.