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The history of the horseshoe on Oberwesel’s market square

Between the cobblestones, large and small, oblong and round, in the centre of Oberwesel’s old and bumpy market square, a sturdy, shiny horseshoe lies cemented in the ground. This happened many years ago. The market square and the houses were already there. The ramparts already surrounded the town. But in those days - with only a single, weak pastor to take care of the Oberwesel flock - the citizens of the town had gone wickedly astray.
Without telling the pastor what they were doing, they invited the devil himself to join with them in a dangerous pact behind Engehöll. It seemed, at first sights, reasonable. For ten years, St. Peter had been sending bad weather, and the vintners were now prepared to go to any lengths - especially considering the fact that the bailiff up in Schönburg Castle was drinking more heavily than ever before.
But promising to give the devil a giant barrel of natural wine every year in return for a good autumn was still a bit much.
Nonetheless, all was secretly agreed and pledged. The truth did not come to light until the devil appeared to demand his giant barrel of wine. The vineyards had recovered well, and the vines had drooped under the weight of grapes. But somehow the finest wine tasted flat - especially when the first delivery of the devil’s wine sparked strong opposition in the citizen’s council to the pact that had been made. Subdued, the vintners promised to donate all their excess income to the church buildings which the opposition supported. Had they not done so, Oberwesel would not today boast the Church of our Lady, or the Church of St. Martin for the lower part of the town, or even Werner Chapel.
A large church was also erected in Rattenkloster. But the devil just laughed at all these churches, and refused to be dislodged. Every year, when the wine was pressed and gleaming golden yellow in the barrels, the devil came to claim his giant barrel of the finest wine. Black horses driven by strangers took the wine over the Rhine river and disappeared around the edge of the mountain spur, which was given the name “Rossstein” - the “horses’ stone”, as it is still called today. The devil himself was always the first to taste the wine. And woe betide if the wine was not up to scratch! But the citizens of Oberwesel would not allow even the devil to disparage their wine.
Years went by. The vintners who had made the pact grew gloomier and gloomier. Until one vintner, who is said to have lived in the house in Heiligengasse alley, where a statue of St. Christopher can still be seen in a niche in the wall, worked up some courage with the assistance of copious amounts of pomace brandy, and concocted a plan. The frame for the devil’s giant barrel was being built on the market square. This vintner was present, and laid on the mountain-facing side of the frame two boards as support for the barrel, these boards often having been used by gravediggers to mark the space around open graves, and thus having been consecrated many times. The red-haired devil appeared to collect his barrel at the appointed hour. Petulantly, he circumvented the holy boards and clambered on to the frame from the river-facing side. And despite - or perhaps to show - his annoyance, he took a deep draught of the wine. But he forgot to pay attention as he was so doing; or maybe his squint was at fault.
At any rate, he did not notice until it was too late that the vintner whose breath stank so wonderfully of pomace brandy had pulled away the wedges, and the barrel - the market square being on an incline - began to roll. He jumped back quickly, but his left cloven hoof was already stuck so tightly underneath the barrel that it was not only squeezed flat, but the horseshoe broke off.
As the heavy oaken barrel rolled over his hoof, the devil cursed dreadfully and disappeared, leaving a layer of stinking sulphur in his wake.
The barrel gained momentum as it rolled, and as the town gates were open, it rolled through, almost coming to a halt in the sand, but then falling into the Rhine river with a mighty splash, like a boat throwing its anchor. The barrel floated down the river in the direction of Loreley. When the spectators came to their senses again after this cunning attack, they first stood stock still, rooted to the spot. It was not until the hero of the day, having scraped the sulphur into his blue smock coat to use it later for smoking out his wine barrels, left for home, that it dawned upon the crowd that their pact with the devil had finally come to the end they had longed for, and they began to cheer.