Vianden Gaass

The medieval city

was during the middle Ages the capital of the powerful county of Vianden, an area as large as the present Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It included 136 villages and stretched as far as Prum and Bitbourg.

It was a fortified city, tucked at the foot of the castle, which dominated and protected it. Five gates gave entry to the city, which was surrounded by ramparts with 24 semi-circular towers. The present bell-tower, the " Hockelstour", standing on a rock between the castle and the town, originally served as a watchtower, allowing an effective vigilance to be maintained. The Marechal de Bouffiers, who also dismantled the castles of Brandenbourg, Falkenstein and Stolzembourg, destroyed the city wall in 1679. About 1850, the last two gates of the town, the gate of the upper town and the bridge gate were considered cumbersome and were pulled down as well.


In the 15th century

Vianden had a population of 3000 and was a flourishing centre for many kinds of crafts. It was the third largest town of the country and owed much of its prosperity to the talent of its artists and to the know-how of its craftsmen, who were grouped into seven corporations: there were the tanners, drapers, coopers, masons, tailors, locksmiths and goldsmiths.

We are indebted to the Vianden goldsmiths for a great number of secular and religious works of art, to be found throughout the Ardennes-Eifel region. The seven corporations of Vianden had the right to use special measurements for liquids and wheat as well as for all the merchandise sold by weight and ells. 

In 1308, the inhabitants of Vianden received the freedom of the city and from then on, enjoyed the same liberties as the burghers of Trier. The town was administered by a mayor and seven councillors who were also practising magistrates. Vianden had three main courts of justice, as well as a feudal court and a court of the nobility.

Commune Vianden, Veiner Weissert, Geck, ... © ORT
Vianden  ©ORT

The castle

became the symbol of the misfortunes and sufferings of the town of Vianden. The Nassau dynasty, which inherited the county in the 15th century, considered it only as a minor possession. The counts no longer lived in the castle and administered the county through bailiffs. This was the beginning of the town's decline, a decline accelerated by the abolition of the county of Vianden in 1794, by the surrender of 42 villages of the former county to Prussia at the Vienna Congress in 1815, and by the introduction of tariff barriers between Vianden and these villages after Luxembourg had left the German "Zollverein" in 1918.

The French troops, who had occupied Luxembourg in 1794, abolished the county, the lands of which were to belong in turn to Napoleon I, to his brother Louis Bonaparte and to his general de Marboeuf.

In 1815 the Vienna Congress gave the main part of the former county to Prussia and returned the rest to William I of Orange Nassau, King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg, who in 1820 had no compunction about selling the castle to the highest bidder. The fine castle was then bought for the sum of 3 200 florins by the Vianden merchant Wenceslas Coster, who quickly dismantled it and sold it off in little bits - tiles, panelling, iron, masonry, doors, windows, etc. He himself moved the entrance staircase, some furniture and panelling to his own house in the lower town. This house dates from 1475 and became the chemist-shop. 

William the first sought to calm the anger of the inhabitants of Vianden by re-acquiring what was left of the castle for the sum of 1100 florins. The reconstruction began in 1851 with the restoration of the castle's chapel. Today the castle belongs to the Luxembourg Government, which restored the majestic manorial seat since 1977. The restored halls of the castle are animated by exhibitions of ancient weapons and suits of armour, of precious goblins and furniture, of genealogical tables and portraits, of archaeological finds and drawings.

Famous visitors,

kings and statesmen, have come to see Vianden, as Queen Elizabeth of England, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, the French Prime Minister Robert Schumann, Gustav Heinemann, the President of the German Federal Republic, a.s.o. "Your town is not well-known enough; it is not known as it should be, I shall do all I possibly can to make it better known and to contribute to its prosperity", said Victor Hugo in 1863, who actually did contribute to the rise of the Vianden tourism. It was in 1880, that was formed a town council committee in charge of touristic concern. 

In 1885 the Luxemburgish poet Dicks wrote the first guide "Vianden and its Environment", and in 1893 the "Societe d'Embellissement" was set up. After the Second World War, it became the "Syndicat d'Initiative" (Tourist Office).After a century of great efforts in the field of tourism, Vianden now enjoys very good tourist equipment, with a modern hotel capacity of 500 beds, pleasant camping-areas, restful vacation homes, beautiful walking paths and various attractions.

Musée © Musée Victor Hugo (1)
vianden-gerberei 1924 © E. A. Schaack

The industry

was introduced in Vianden with the first Luxemburg’s blast furnace that William the Silent had built there by specialists from Siegen in 1564. But already in 1566 this blast furnace, which stood on the site of the present cemetery of Vianden, stopped working, when Philip II, King of Spain, confiscated the County of Vianden. Later the heirs of William the Silent were given back the County of Vianden, but the blast furnace of Vianden and the foundry of Koerperich hat stopped working for good.
Thus the inhabitants of Vianden went about their trades as before. Only two centuries later, did David May establish a drapery in the buildings of the ancient Trinitarian Monastery, which had been abolished by Joseph II in 1783. Around 1830, the tanners got organized on an industrial basis and before long the Prussian wars against Denmark, Austria and France gave a new rise to the tannery of Vianden.
World War I brought new orders and led to the founding of two important societies: "Tannerie de Vianden» (1914) and "Tannerie Ardennaise» (1920). World War II boosted the production of the tanneries, but caused death and ruins in the little town. Numerous inhabitants of Vianden lost their lives on the battlefields or in concentration camps.

On 11th September 1944 the first allied soldiers set food on German territory in Stolzembourg near Vianden. Two months later, the " Battle of the Ardennes» badly damaged Vianden, which was the last Luxemburg’s town to be liberated on 12th February 1945.

When the tanneries stopped their production in 1955.

The Sanatorium, on the heights dominating the town, was put into operation in 1931. There was room for some 150 patients ill with tuberculosis, which was cured according to the most advanced methods. The rate of such patients having decreased, the sanatorium has been transformed into a nursing home.

Edmond de la Fontaine

Above the Church of the Trinitarians, the Dicks Monument commemorates our national poet Edmond de la Fontaine (1823-1891), who died at Vianden, where he had been conciliation magistrate from 1881 to 1891. He was the author of the first Luxemburg’s comedies and won a considerable fame under the pen-name ''Dicks". A tablet fixed to the poet's home above the Cross of Justice honours the poet's memory. In the ''Dicks House" you may see to-day the old city museum with various themes.

Dicksgärtchen Vianden 02