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Seligenstadt, Germany, boasts many blessings

The former Benedictine abbey and the Carolingian Einhard Basilica in Seligenstadt, Germany, as seen from the cloister gardens. The abbey was secularized in 1803. Parts of the church date back to the ninth century.

MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

By MICHAEL ABRAMS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 3, 2015

It may be cliche, but if you are looking for a quaint, picturesque town with layers of history dating to the first century, Seligenstadt has a lot to offer.

The Romans were the first inhabitants of the town, which sits along the Main River east of Frankfurt, building a fort in the first century. It was later destroyed by Germanic tribes.

The city got its name thanks to Charlemagne, who in 815, gave the town of Obermuehlheim to his biographer and confidant, Einhard.

About 15 years later Einhard had a basilica built, which housed relics of the martyred saints Marcellinus and Paul. The town was soon renamed Seligenstadt, meaning blessed city in German.

Later, a Benedictine abbey was established and, thanks to the basilica, the abbey and the river trade, Seligenstadt soon became a wealthy town.

Today, in the Old Town district, which is under historic preservation, beautifully restored half-timbered buildings line the narrow streets. Start your visit in the morning at the Marktplatz, the market square, where the tourist office is located. It is in what is probably the most striking building in town, the 16th-century Einhardhaus. The richly adorned, half-timbered house has inscribed on its facade a line from a legend of how Seligenstadt got its name.

According to that legend, Einhard and Charlemagne’s daughter were lovers, and when the emperor found out he banned them from his court. Years later, he stayed at their house during one of his travels, but did not recognize his daughter until she cooked one of his favorite meals. “Selig sei die Stadt genannt, da ich meine Tochter wieder fand,” or “Blessed be named the city, there where I found my daughter again.”

Follow signs to the Einhardbasilika and Benediktinerabtei.

The abbey, secularized in 1803, houses a museum that holds an immensely popular Easter egg market each year. Its cloister gardens showcase a staggering variety of herbs.

The Carolingian basilica next door features statues of the two martyrs outside and their relics inside.

Next, head down to the river. Walk left along its banks and you will pass the Palatium, a 12th-century hunting palace of Frederick I. Unfortunately only one wall remains. Nearby stands one of the town’s remaining medieval defensive towers.

Heading back into town you can see the Steinheimer Torturm, the only medieval city gate still standing.

If it’s time for lunch, head to one of the town’s many restaurants. Zum Riesen on the Marktplatz is an option, or the Roemischer Kaiser nearby. Both offer locally brewed beer. Across from the abbey gate you will also find popular eateries.

Walk off lunch with a stroll upriver along the banks of the Main. After about 20 minutes look for a sign on the right pointing to the Wasserburg. Follow the path and you come to a baroque house surrounded by a moat. Built in 1708, it was the summer residence of the abbots.

abrams.mike@stripes.com


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