Castle Berwartstein part II
The Weissenburg Abbey had appointed constables over the castle which they could dismiss at any time. This was quite contrary to the otherwise general procedure of fiefdom in place during the age. The result of this was that the administration of the castle and its pertinent countryside generally took place according to the Abbey's wishes. This arrangement could only be done well for so long given the nature of the time. When Berwartstein's constable at the time, Erhart Wyler, started launching encroachments on a neighboring region, it turned into a battle with the knights of Drachenfels. This feud gave Pfalz Cure prince Friedrich I, "the victorious", a welcome excuse to intervene. This intervention served several purposes. For one, he wanted the castle, with its strategic location and rich lands; for another, he wished to extend his influence in this particular area of the country, but for the most part it was because he did not like the Weissenburg Abbey's control of a Empire fief, nor its Abbot or constables. To spite them, he occupied the castle- then things get interesting...
In 1485 Friedrich I let his army leader Hans von Drodt occupy the castle, thus von Drodt's possession was entirely at the expense of Weissenburg Abbey. The Abbey, which was under the impression that they would be getting Berwartstein back after the intervention, was not pleased at all about it, and began a nearly continual entreatment to the Emperor, Cure prince, and Pope for Hans' removal. This petitioning never succeeded.
The purpose for Friedrich I installing von Drodt in Berwartstein was more than likely to put a loyal buffer between the constantly feuding von Drachenfels and Weissenburg Abbey, and to reward him for meritorious service in a foreign war. The setup was fine with Hans von Drodt, as he also disliked Weissenburg and the Abbott due to past familial difficulties between them (The Abbot had spoken badly of his family in the court of the Emperor), and could care less for the von Drachenfels, who he considered falsely religious cowards. Hans had the support of his Cure prince, a mission to fulfill, a feeling of being entitled to his reward, and most importantly- a "legal" deed.
Given this situation of a nearby enemy constantly trying to undermine him to the Emperor, Hans perhaps got a bit paranoid, and rebuilt Berwartstein to a wonderful condition, equipping it for all types of defense and with every conceivable war structure of the time. These actions strengthened Berwartstein to the point of being relatively impregnable to all known weaponry and tactics of its time. The gun tower of "little France" was also developed as a fore work and observatory during his rule.
After the surety of the castle, Hans von Drodt, also known as von Trotha, even better known as Hans Trapp, began a guerilla war against Weissenburg Abbey. Hans went after them with all vigor, using every dirty trick in the book. He removed whole localities from under their dominion, damaged their trade, robbed, kidnapped and harassed their officers and merchants, and generally made a major nuisance of himself. Naturally the Weissenburgers deplored these acts and plead again, first before the Cure prince, then receiving no satisfaction, the Emperor, then when nothing was done, the Pope.
This resulted in von Drodt being excommunicated, but had no success in getting rid of him. Mainly this can be blamed on the Pope's insisted condition that the Cure prince would have to disassociate himself publicly from his friend von Drodt, which he was not likely to do even though he and the entire Palatinate was excommunicated in result. This caused Hans much anguish and loss of honor, and only made matters worse for the Weissenburgers, who he now considered less than worthy of contempt
Hans was later declared an enemy of the church. When summoned to Rome to appear before the papal court and stand trial on his faith before Pope Alexander VI he flatly refused to go, stating " No thank you, I don't speak the language". He then writes the Borgia Pope a bold and immoral letter of refusal (Something about "kiss my ass") and berating the Pope bawdily for daring to question his Christianity! ..
However, because of all this the Emperor was forced to either do something about it or accept permanent excommunication of the entire empire and bad relations with the powerful church. To placate them, he enacted a royal ban on Hans von Drodt . As a result of this banning from the royal court, the already disgraced Hans had lost any possibility of rising further in the empire on top of being banned from the church as well.
In response Hans became extraordinarily nasty. The raids and terrorizing continued with even more destruction than previously. For example, he built a dam on the Wieslauter river above Weissenburg, which damaged its mills and ruined its shipping. After the dam was full to the brim he burst it, causing the Abbey and much of the country around it to be flooded and destroyed. This also demolished the years crops. Then with 2000 men, surrounded and burned the villages of Weissenburg on Christmas eve. He and his men (picture above) took many inhabitants prisoner, including the Abbott, releasing them only in return for a high ransom, and a great many of the town's nobles and scholars met his torture room. Although Emperor Maximilian I and the King of France objected strongly to this, and once met to discuss dealing forcefully with Hans, he remained untouched under the protection of the Cure prince. Quite to the contrary, because of his "diplomatic abilities" he was even sent as an Ambassador to the French royal court, where he experienced high honors and was named a Knight d'Or (of the Golden Fleece).
The successor of Cure prince Friedrich, Philip II, likewise von Drodt's friend, sold him both Berwartstein and Castle Grafendahn, along with all rights pertaining to them. This treatment by the French and Cure prince was probably in the realization that as such a troublemaker he would be a good ally and could weaken the empire's power, as well as their private delight in his actions due to their own shared difficulties with the church, who thought its authority was more powerful than the rulers of the land, and meddled in their affairs constantly
Hans von Trotha is the actual and original "bogey man", the Black Rider. This is the same Hans Trapp who in Alsacian and Weissenburger Christmas legend accompanies St. Nicholas as a sort of Anti-Klaus, punishing bad little children, yet rewarding good ones with candy. Because of his excommunication and status as enemy of the church, it was rumored that he had instead sold his soul to the devil. He is reputed to have been a terror, everything from the devil and a flesh eating monster to a wronged but good noble knight who had served his king and would be pushed no more by greedy ecumenicals for simply being rewarded for his heroic service by being given Berwartstein. I think the latter is more than likely the actual case.
However, if you enjoy campfire tales, it is said that he still haunts the land every December as a demonic spirit somewhat akin to a vagabond, black wolf, or shape shifter, devouring hapless fools that wander into his path, and errant children. If St Nick leaves you nothing, chances are Hans Trapp will be along to collect you soon.
Hans was shunned by the church for most of his life, though it is said that he was indeed a man of faith, and attended services regularly in his own chapel, which he had built after being declared an enemy of the church. Two years after his death in the year 1505, his long held excommunication was dissolved by the Bishop von Speyer. Hans may be laid to rest in the chapel at the foot of Berwartstein, but his presence is definitely still to be felt about the castle.
Thus ends the legendary rule of Hans von Drodt of Berwartstein. After the death of Hans' only son Christoph (63) in the year 1545, the possession of Berwartstein went to his son-in-law Friedrich von Fleckenstein. Under the Fleckenstein's rule the castle might have experienced relatively calm times, but unfortunately, also its end.
Lightning supposedly strikes it soon therafter, and to a large extent it is destroyed in the resulting fire.
Castle Berwartstein part III