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Bingen and the Mice tower, Hildegard von Bingen

With the increasing importance of the Rhine as a trade path and the continuous expansion of Rhine shipping in medieval times, the strategically advantageous location of Bingen provided financial gains via tolls. For this purpose, the Mäuseturm (=mouse tower) was erected in the 13th century on a little Rhine island nearby Bingen, where a Roman fort had previously been built to secure Rhine shipping. The fort was then used as a tollhouse until its detonation in 1689 by French troops. When rebuilt, the tower served as a signal tower for ships going through the Binger Loch (=Binger Hole). Legend describes the Archbishop of Mainz Hatto II (who died in 970) as a man notorious for his remorselessness towards the poor; He collected and stored wheat, thereby pushing the people into severe famine. This did not only affect the poorest of the poor but even led to widespread riots throughout society. Justice was done when a plague of mice ravaged his stored wheat and chased after him. In despair, he fled into the mice tower for safety but the mice followed and ate him alive. No doubt: dulce et decorum est pro iustitia mori. Vivant sequentes! On the other side of the Rhine lie the ruins of the Ehrenfels fortress, which belonged to the Archbishop of Mainz and was where the dome treasure of Mainz was kept for a long time. Alongside the mice tower, the fortress was expanded to form a perfect barricade for Rhine ships in 1298. This provided an efficient method of collecting tolls. The Rhine was an expensive place for sailors of the day as the next toll station was just 5 km downstream at Rheinstein fortress. Here, in 1282, King Rudolph of Habsburg sat in judgement over robber barons that were active in the middle Rhine valley. A little further downstream, Rheinstein Pfalzgrafenstein fortress formed an extraordinary toll station in the middle of the Rhine, near Kaub (built 1326-1327 by King Ludwig of Bavaria to collect taxes). If you got past the dangerous Loreley rocks you encountered another toll station owned by the Earls of Katzenelnbogen, Rheinfels fortress at St. Goar (built 1245). So, if you are unhappy about motor highway tolls, it was even worse back then!

Lying where the Nahe flows into the Rhine and exactly where the Rhine begins to break through the slate mountain range, Bingen has had strategic importance. This was first exploited in Roman times after Caesar's Gallic wars (58-51 B.C.) when a garrison was built here to secure military passageways. As the main axis road of the Hunsrück, the "Via Ausonia" connected the regions of Mainz (Moguntiacum) and Bingen (Binginium) with the former antique imperial city of Trier (Augusta Treverorum). The "Ausonius Way" is named after the Roman poet Decimus Magnus Ausonius who travelled by coach over the Hunsrück from Mainz to Trier in the year 370 A.D. to assume duties as educator at the Court. He wrote the poem "Mosella" describing his experiences during his travels.

On the other side of the Nahe, across from Bingen, is the hillock Rupertsberg, where Benedictine Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), who was born in the region of Alzey and grew up on the Disibodenberg in the Nahe valley, founded her first convent. She is a remarkable woman who, as the first female German mystic, has recently reached a high degree of popularity with her writing and music. Her works in the field of biology and medicine are just as distinguished; she collected and documented the flora of the Nahe region. In Hildegard von Bingen's "Physica", more than 250 types of plants are recorded and many folk cures and "natural" methods of treatment are described..

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