“The Women of Rouffach,” Alsatian folktale

(Originally posted to Patreon in September 2020).

“The Women of Rouffach,” is an Alsatian folktale collected in Les récits historiques et légendaires by Robert Wolf, 1922, found here.


Around the 12th Century, the capital of the holdings belonging to the bishops of Strasbourg was Rouffach. There, these prelates had an important fortress built that was given the name Isenbourg, the castle of iron.

But around the year 1166 when the war of Investitures arrived to shake up Europe, the Emperor Henry IV declared himself for the antipope Clement.  In order to force all the prelates of his empire to recognize Clement, Henry IV had all the goods of the bishops who refused to imitate him seized and confiscated.  Among them was the bishop of Strasbourg.  By order of the emperor, the territory of Rouffach was seized, the castle occupied by men-at-arms, and soon the paternal government of bishops gave way to oppression, tyranny, and terror.

But one day, this takeover that the presence of an army sanctioned, this tyranny that bent the city beneath a scepter of iron, was overthrown by the sobs of one woman.

On Easter day, the governor of the castle dared to kidnap a young noble maiden whose mother was taking to church. The weeping mother, in her pain, called out to its citizens to have courage and take offense.  She entreated them to save her life and the honor of her daughter.  But the fear of punishment, the threat of the garrison chilled their hearts and paralyzed their willingness to devote themselves to another.  So this woman, in her despair, stirred up the mothers with families, depicted for them her shame which one day or another might be theirs.  And the women armed themselves and stormed the castle. Soon the doors flung open beneath their blows.  The surprised garrison could not defend themselves, and the emperor himself was obliged to flee to Colmar.  The women seized his crown, his scepter, and his imperial mantle which they placed on the altar of the Virgin.

To commemorate this event, the magistrate accorded them the place of honor at every public ceremony. It is said that they maintain this privilege to this day, because they hold this right at the church.


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