Schmallenberg, NRW, Germany

Schmallenberg Arms

This is the Coat of Arms for the city of Schmallenberg. The Arms were officially granted in 1909, but date from the 14th century. Schmallenberg received city rights in the early 13th century from the Archbishop of Cologne. The oldest known seal dates from 1243 and shows a castle with a banner. The present composition appeared on coins in the late 13th century and on seals during the early 14th century. The Arms show a city gate with a key in the gate, the key being a symbol of both St. Peter and the State of Cologne (St. Peter is the patron saint of Cologne). The actual shape of the gate has changed considerably during the centuries. The Arms granted in 1909 show the composition as used on the local seal from 1344. [Schmallenberg Civic Arms and explanation used with permission of Ralf Hartemink, from his International Civic Arms web site].

Schmallenberg is the oldest continually inhabited settlement in this portion of the Sauerland, originating around the year 1100 and becoming a fortified (walled) city in the year 1243. The homes and buildings in the pictures below were constructed after the original buildings that stood there were destroyed by the great fire of 1822. On 31 October 1822, 151 of the 168 houses in the city were consumed by flames. Previous fires in 1608, 1732 and 1746 had also destroyed many buildings, so after the 1822 fire, the city fathers redesigned the layout of the streets and they also prohibited the use of thatched (straw) roofs for new construction. As a result, the use of slate for roofing and siding became very common both in Schmallenberg and throughout the Sauerland. In the middle of the 19th century, Schmallenberg developed a thriving textile industry, which continues to be a part of the local economy even today, along with forestry and tourism. Click here to visit the Sauerland Tourism Web Site (German only) .

Eaststrasse - north Eaststrasse - south

Oststraße (East Street)

left: looking north; right; looking south

Weststrasse view Johannes Grobbel's house

Weststraße (West Street)

left: looking north from the top of the steps of Johannes Grobbel's house, which is also shown in the picture to the right


Park - north Park - east

Scenes from the park located at the north ends of Oststraße and Weststraße


Aerial View of Schmallenberg

This fabulous photo was taken by Reinhard Grobbel while he was flying his ultralight aircraft. It shows the town of Schmallenberg and just below the upper right corner of the photo, near the side edge, is the Grobbel ancestral farm (the buildings are surrounded by light green fields). Immediately to the left is the village of Obringhausen and if you follow the narrow, winding, dark green path that leads north (up) from Obringhausen, it goes between two white towers. These towers are modern windmills that have propeller-type blades for making electricity.

Osterfeuer ready for lighting Osterfeuer just after ignition

Osterfeuer at a steady burn Boys just love playing with fire

The Custom of "Osterfeuer" (Easter Fire)

The Osterfeuer is a German religious custom that typically begins at the Easter Sunday morning Sunrise Service with the creation of a flame that is used to light the main Easter Candle and the candles that are held by the parishoners. Everyone then proceeds into the darkened church with the symbolic light that signifies Christ's Resurrection and His victory over death. Later in the evening, just before dusk, a flame from the Easter Candle is taken to a nearby hillside where a structure has been constructed for the purpose of being burned as an Osterfeuer. These structures are often just a large pyramid of logs, tree limbs and brush, but they can also take the form of a large wooden cross that is covered with straw, or even a large straw-covered wheel that is set ablaze and then rolled down the hill under the auspices of the local volunteer fire department. Some towns have multiple groups that compete to see who can build the largest Osterfeuer. Large groups of people, including many families, come out to witness the evening Osterfeuers. There is often singing, along with food and drink. Sausages, Easter Eggs and beer are often sold to the spectators, with the proceeds going to charity.

At dusk on Easter Sunday of 2000, Johannes Grobbel took us to a hillside overlooking Schmallenberg where an Osterfeuer cross had been set up. The pictures above were taken from video tape that I shot that night.  Off in the distance we could see fires on 2 other hillsides, plus columns of smoke from 2 other fires that were hidden from sight by other hills.  Soon, after the cross had been thoroughly soaked in kerosene, it was ignited to the applause of the gathered crowd. This Osterfeuer was a family affair - there were many children running around playing tag in the meadow while they waited for the fire and then having fun lighting their own hand-held torches.

Milchenbach Mt. Wilzenberg

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Mike Grobbel
Last revised: 26 Nov 2002
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