Saturday, 22 February 2020

daytrip: milseburg

Bright through very windy, H and I took a trip to another of the nearby peaks of the Rhön highlands (Mittlegebirge, mountain ranges that tend to not rise above the treeline and are forested the entire way up) and hiked up the Milseburg with views of the Wasserkuppe and the valleys beyond. This trapezoidal massif and extinct volcano is most significant for the remains of its ancient Celtic settlement—oppodium, which was one of the first well researched and preserved sites of its kind in central Germany and led to the establishment of societies to maintain places of cultural heritage and accord them protected status, beginning nearly a century and a half ago.
Though now covered in moss, the basalt stones still in parts comprise the base of defensive walls (see also) and foundations of domiciles and the abrupt abandonment of the fortress, first in 1200 and then again in 400 BC, suggests that the site set the scene for a clash of cultures between the Celts and the Germanic tribes of the area. At the top of the mountain is a chapel dedicated to Saint Gangolf, a Burgundian knight and wealthy landowner under King Pippin the Short, whom was killed 11 May in 760 for his express wish to renounce his worldly possessions by his wife’s lover.
Prior to his martyrdom, however, Gangolf had several heroic exploits including, reportedly, no less than vanquishing the giant Mils, who in league with the devil was preventing people from taking the sacrament of baptism by a monopoly of water sources—and generally causing crops to fail by withholding irrigation access. They shall not pass—Gangolf fought valiantly but had no refreshment to regain his strength for the next attack, and a local farmer, himself desperate, refused the knight any relief unless he paid an exorbitant price, which for all his wealth Gangolf could not muster. Resigned to defeat, he removed his helmet and on the spot where he laid it down, a new spring broke forth, still flowing to this day, and gave the knight the resolve he needed to finish off the giant and furnish the locals with a new source of clean water.
The devil entombed the defeated Mils and hence the Milsburg. No recent excavations have been undertaken but the mountain is protected from an archaeological standpoint as well as a being a nature preserve that welcomes visitors and remains a popular destination. Being stormy, it wasn’t the best conditions to be exposed on a summit but it is one that we’ll be able to explore again soon.