Short Chronicle of Wintrich

VINDRIACUM - a Celtic Village

was the name the Romans gave to the Celtic settlement with the hint of wine in the first syllable. Villages with the ending “ich” refer to the Celtic “iacum”. “Vintriacum” is proof that in early Roman times there was a Celtic settlement in Wintrich. This theory is underlined by the fact that not only the village name is of Celtic origin but also many vineyard lots and land division names in Wintrich trace back to Celtic language. Settlements which arose in Roman times have Roman language heritage such as Neumagen = Noviagomagum; or they bear the mark of the Franks. Let us take a typical example instead of Wintrich. “Zülpich” is a small town on the Roman road from Trier to Cologne, situated between Düren and Euskichen and was called “Tolbiacum". In 497 a.D. Chlodwig I won the battle against the Alemannics at Tolbiaum (Zülpich). He converted to Christianity and was baptized, laying the foundation for the Christianization of the Franks.

The ancient inhabitants of our homeland emigrated from distant places, probably from Asia Minor. They were called Ligurians and they are the first of our descendants of which we have any knowledge. They belonged to the Indo-Germanic tribe of nomads and lived from hunting and fishing. Their weapons were made of stone, small utensils such as arrowheads and needles were shaped out of animal bones and clothing was made of fur. Vessels were still shaped by hand using clay. At this point it is interesting to note that on Wintrich Hill there were clay pits called “Lähmkaul” but they disappeared when agricultural land was reparcelled.

The transition from the middle to the early Stone Age is not well demonstrated in the cultural development. This period is proven with discoveries of stone utensils. Most artifacts found dating from the early Stone Age were taken from graves or burial mounds. Looking back at the development during the early Stone Age one can assume that towards the end of this period, times were economically difficult possibly due to the fast-growing population and lack of land with access to drinking water forcing people to expand their settlement areas. The early Stone Age cultures did not settle near water on fertile loess soils but chose to move to higher-lying grounds. Here we come back to Wintrich Hill. Water supply was ample. There are many springs and numerous streams and rivulets on the hills over Wintrich. Most of these springs however have disappeared due to the reparcelling of agricultural land and the introduction of drainage over the last decades. Franz Fischer discovered a stone axe while ploughingon Wintrich Hill and this has been dated to this era. 

The people of the early Stone Age first settled the flat plains along waterways and cleared the surrounding area through deforesting and slashing and burning in order to provide wood for building houses and create land for agriculture and livestock farming. Flood-free slopes along river banks and higher plains such as between Korbel and Bungert, were preferred as typical settlements for hunting, fishing and gathering tribes of the post-Ice Age era.

The second quarter of the last millennium B.C. is accentuated by the sole use of iron. The Iron Age brought great development to Hunsrück-Eifel cultural life, an increase in population and settlement of hilly regions. Characteristic for the Iron Age is the burial of the dead in cremation graves under the hills. These are occasionally still preserved either as single or group graves in woodland areas. In the Wintrich areas several groups of such graves were discovered – see archaeological discoveries in and around Wintrich.

The Celts, an Indo-Germanic tribe from the Danube region, started to migrate. They reached the Middle Rhine in this period and encountered the Ligurians. This group retreated and disappeared historically. The Celts, on the other hand, were put under pressure by the approaching Germans and so they crossed the Rhine. The Hunsrück, Moselle and Eifel region became the home of the Celts for centuries.

Although the Germans had already completely occupied the right bank of the Rhine as early as the 1st century B.C., the Celts were able to remain on the left side of the Rhine under the protection of the Romans. The Roman military campaigns depict the transition from ancient history to modern history.

The Celts divided into several tribes. The “Trever” Celtic tribe settled in our homeland – Hunsrück, Moselle and Eifel. The settlement “Vindriacum” was located, as is today’s Wintrich, well protected from attacks because of its location in a side valley behind a high upriver rock face; this was in a raised position covering the wide plateau of the Marai (lat.mare, celtic.mor) and Brühl (celtic. Brogilo = marsh, meadow). Marai and Brühl were wide, fertile grassland areas that allowed farmers on the hill-top meadows and farmland to keep cows and oxen, to plant crops and to use fertilizers for their vineyards. Walnut trees grew in Brühl and there was an orchard of fruit trees in Bungert and in Kurtel (belonging to the Trier Elector). The oldest part of the village Thanischt (celt. Tanaoon) is still named “tonischt” in local dialect. The Wintrich area covers miles over the hills. Marsfeld, named after the Roman god Mars, is a further fertile region followed by spacious woodlands. In ancient times these were all oak forests. Near Kasholz (celt. cas = acorn) there was an old, oak tree standing nobly near the edge of the forest for generations. And near the valley a parcel of land is called Kasbor (bor = spring under the oak trees).

Certainly the present location of Wintrich was first settled for above-mentioned reasons and the plateau high above Wintrich was also incorporated into the settlement and necessary connections were set up. A path on the hill was most certainly laid in former times – on the tracks of an old coach path, past Büschel (celt. mountain/hill) and leading to Grauwiese where farming was centered. With the arrival of the Romans in Vindriacum the Celtic “Trever” style of settlement changed. The local dialect of our home village has traces of those ancient times when there was no written language. It should be considered a precious relic of the past which is invaluable and should not be polished for modern times and then forgotten. If one can describe Neumagen – Noviagomagum – as the Roman base and residence, then one can determine Wintrich to be the Celtic Oppidum well into the 2nd century A.D.

One must assume that first the main Roman road was built from Mainz via Bingen to Trier. After or during the fortification of Neumagen the secondary road from the vineyards to Neumagen followed, later from this route a branch lead via Kasholz, Wintrich schutzhaus, Filz Schutzhaus to the mouth of the Lieser river. From this secondary road a direct connection from the Windmill via Neuweg to Wintrich was built in the 2nd century. The Wintrich “Trever” people had about 200 years to develop outside of the Roman influence and to intensify culture and language. 300 years of Roman rule, 600 years of Frankish rule and 800 years under the crook of the Trier Electors have not been able to destroy the heritage of Celtic language in Vindriacum.

The Romans erected several wineries made of massive stonework and introduced viticulture. They needed the local Wintrich Celts as cheap labour who then began to settle around the wineries.
There are at least three locations which qualify as Roman manors:
1.South of the cemetery
2.On the site and in the vicinity of the parish church
3.On the Linde
At all three location Roman stonework and floor pavements were excavated exactly on the path of the present day Moselle Wine Route.
The Wintrich Celts were settled in the oldest part of the village, on “Thanischt”, and on the east steep slope.

The Romans ruled for three centuries using their fortifications and legions on the left bank of the Rhine. Later on the German right bank new names appeared: Franks, Alemannics and Saxons. All groups of people put pressure on Roman fortresses and crossed over the Rhine several times, only to be pushed back where they then settled the left bank. Here the Roman Empire found its outer boundary.

The kings of Franconia belonged to the Merovingian dynasty. The most famous representative was Clovis the son of Childerich. Clovis died in the year 511 and was buried in the church he had built and dedicated to the saints in Reims. After his conversion to Christianity he became a more moderate but powerful leader, and he laid the foundations for state structures in medieval Europe although his reign was short. After his death his four sons divided the kingdom among themselves. Their offspring was also divided and quarreled permanently. The oldest Frankish book of law, the “lex salica” dating from the 5th century describes the division of Franconia into districts (Gau). Our homeland belonged to the Moselle district. Neighbouring districts were Bitgau, Carosgau, Ardennengau, Nahegau, Saargau and Bliesgau etc.

The royal power of the Merovingian dynasty diminished and it was succeeded by the Majordomo. One of this family, Pippin, managed to become the first Carolingian to be named King of the Franks in the year 752. Under his son, Emperor Charlemagne, the kingdom of the Franks grew to its most formidable size. However, civil wars lead by his sons brought doom to his kingdom and with the signing of the Treaty of Verdun in 843 A.D. the future separation of Germany and France was sealed. In the year 870 the kingdom was again divided in the Treaty of Mersen into its present language boundaries. The five Ripuarian districts including the Moselle district were given to Germany.

In the 12th century the old district constitution came to an end and numerous noble houses occupied or built castles. Their recognition as landowners was declared at the Reichstag in Worms in 1231. Also the clerical nobility arose at the same time thus creating a complicated patchwork of small noble houses which were all interwoven and stood together or divided as needed. In the German Empire there were 300 single states at that time and this ridiculous circumstance finally ended with the French Revolution.

During Franconian times monastic and noble landowners arrived with the spread of Christianity. The valley was turned into a flourishing garden: on the Gerget (manor garden), in Mardeinerland (St. Martin Trier), on the Münichbösch (monks’ bushes), in the Härenecken (manor corner). It must have been an attractive country which brought them here. In the year 966 Emperor Otto I the Great gave his manor house in Wintrich to the St. Maximinabbey in Trier.  In 1098 Emperor Henry IV confirmed the transfer of ownership of the Wintrich house to the Simeon monastery in Trier (Simeonsberg). State sovereignty belonged to the Elector of Trier. The monasteries and abbeys of Klausen, St. Martin, Trier, Tholey, Mettlach, the Trier cathedral, Himmmerod, Kartause and St. Alban near Trier all had properties in Wintrich. Similarly, the secular lords, the Knights of Neuerburg, the Earls of Esch, Viandes and Oranien-Nassau, the Earl of Salm, of Enschringen and the stewards of Hunolstein all had wineries in Wintrich.

The parish church of St. Stephan is first mentioned in the deed of 14 January 1340 in which the Archbishop of Trier, Balduin of Luxembourg, confirmed the incorporation of the parish of Wintrich with Kartause near Trier through the noblemen Philippp and Johann of Weiskirchen dating 9 December 1339. From that time on, the prior of Kartause was also the pastor of Wintrich. He appointed a representative called the “vicarious perpetuus”. This right of patronage lasted until the French Revolution.

The land and its people always had to suffer the upsets of war:
30 years war (1618 – 1648)
2nd war of conquest of Louis XIV (1672 – 1678)
3rd war of conquest of Louis XIV (1688 – 1697)
Spanish war of succession (1740 – 1748)
7-year war (1756 – 1763)
All of these wars took place here in our region and many chroniclers report abputthe wearisome and painful days in which wealth could not be accumulated. In 1794 as a result of the French Revolution, the French arrived in our region. In the treaty between Prussia and France of 15/04/1795 the left bank of the Rhine reverted back to France.  After a temporary allocation, Wintrich became part of the township of Lieser and the Arrondissement Trier in the Saar department.

At the Congress of Vienna the Rhine province was promised to the Prussian crown on 1 February 1815. After the treaty of 31 May 1815 Wintrich was integrated into the authority of Mülheim. The Prussian state existed from 1918 as a republic until 1947.