Friday, December 07, 2012

Bergheim, France - June 14, 2012

Bergheim is a little town of 1800 souls in the Haut-Rhin department of the Alsace which, since the beginning of the 11th century, has been pretty much confined within a 330 yard by 550 yard walled area. The fortified walls comprise a double rampart, originally separated by a moat (now filled in and converted to gardens) and serviced via four gates. There were nine flanking towers all of which are still visible. Three of the four gates were demolished in the 19th century to make more room for carts.
Over the centuries, Bergheim has undergone several name changes since it was first built on a former Roman camp. In 465 CE it was known as Berchem, morphing to Bercheim in 1302, then Berckheim in 1510, Bercken in 1576 to eventually become Bergheim.
Ownership changes were even more frequent. In the 7th century Hagio donated the settlement to the Moyenmoutier Abbey in Lorraine. Later, Otto I gave the town to Hermann, Duke of Alsace. The Moyenmoutier Abbey regained possession in 964 aided by Gerhard, the bishop of Toul, until Duke Hermann seized it back in 978.
Under Emperor Henry II, Bergheim became the property of the bishops of Toul and, in 1132, this was confirmed by no one less than Pope Innocent II himself. In 1225, bishop Otto conferred all rights of Bergheim to Mathias, Duke of Lorraine and, in 1246, Mathias gave Bergheim to Philip Gilbeviller. On his death it passed to Hugh, Earl of L├╝tzelstein.
By 1287, Bergheim had come into the hands of Rappolstein before falling to Albert I, King of the Romans in 1301. A few years later, Henri de Ribeaupierre gained control, surrounded the town with the fortifications (better late than never I suppose) and offered it to the Emperor Henry VII who gratefully received it in 1312.
Bergheim was finally elevated to a free city under the tutelage of Henri de Ribeaupierre . and in 1313 received the privilege to mint money and the right of levying of customs. Thirteen ownership changes in the space of 700 years - what confusion!
More pictures of this tidily organized town are here.