Vianden, Luxembourg Walking Tour (with subtitles) Summer 2021
We start our tour of Vianden along the River Our, with views of the stunning medieval castle, spectacularly situated high above town. Vianden is a delightful historic town with only about 1,800 inhabitants, but as a traveller's favourite, the summer high season brings in some crowds. It’s a most pleasant little town with a restaurant at every corner and all the fairytale atmosphere you could ask for. Situated in Luxembourg’s North East, at the German border, Vianden's history goes far back, with a Gallo-Roma castellum preceding the current castle.
The earliest documented mention of the town, then called Viennensis, dates from the year 698. The Church of St Nicholas dates from the 13th century. It was partly destroyed by fire in 1723 and rebuilt the following year. The altar with it’s statue of Saint Nicholas dates from 1768. Note the low-tech rope system for ringing the church bells. The original statue of Saint John Nepomucene, protector from floods and drowning, has been transferred to the church from the nearby bridge where a copy has now been installed. The Hôtel Victor Hugo recalls the famous French writer who, during his 19 years of exile from France, stayed in Vianden a few times, most notably for 3 months in 1871.
Victor Hugo recorded the town’s beauty and setting in prose, poetry and sketches, including the series of poems L'Année terrible. Hugo did much to promote the attractions of Vianden to the outside world. There is a small museum displaying some original works (manuscripts and drawings) as well as the original rooms with furniture as the famous visitor has used it. We visited shortly after the floods of July 2021 that caused the collapse of a wall and part of the road into the River Our. Luxembourg escaped relatively unscathed from the floods that caused devastation and many casualties in the neighboring regions of Germany and Belgium.
The Vianden valley was covered in vineyards in Roman times, and the first historical reference to Vianden was in 698 when there is a record of a gift in the form of a vineyard in Monte Viennense made by Saint Irmina to the Abbey of Echternach. Vianden possesses one of the oldest charters in Europe, granted in 1308 by Philip II, count of Vianden, from whom the family of Nassau-Vianden sprang, and who was consequently the ancestor of William of Orange. In the Middle Ages, Vianden's craftsmen were recognised for their skills as tanners, drapers, weavers, barrelmakers, masons, locksmiths and goldsmiths. In 1490, they created guilds for their various trades.
Vianden is also remembered as the site of multiple battles in World War II. In November 1944 it saw fierce combat between the Luxembourg Resistance and Nazi German forces. It was the last place in Luxembourg to be freed from the Germans in February 1945 when the Americans completed Luxembourg's liberation. Vianden is a 47 kilometres (29 miles) drive from Luxembourg town. It can also be reached by bus from Diekirch or Clervaux which have rail connections to the city of Luxembourg. Many visitors arrive by bicycle taking the signposted cycle tracks from the south along the Our valley.
The Church of the Trinitarians dates from 1248 and was built in the Gothic style with two parallel naves and the adjacent cloister. The ledger stone and epitaph of Henry of Nassau dates from 1589. The main Rococo-style altar was created by Michel Weiler in 1758.
The recumbent effigy is that of Marie de Spanheim, dating to ca. 1400. It preserves the memory of the last descendant of the Counts of Vianden. The former Trinitarian cloister, dating from around 1250, houses a lapidary museum. A famous local festival, the nut market takes place in October when the local walnuts are on sale together with walnut cakes, walnut confectionery, walnut brandy and walnut liqueurs. In the Middle Ages, Vianden was a fully fortified town, surrounded by city walls with 24 half-round towers and five gates. Most of those ramparts are now gone, taken down by Marechal de Bouffiers in 1679. A few restored ruins and a bell tower remain, however.
The power of the counts of Vianden was at its peak in the 13th century, and so was the grandeur of their castle. A Renaissance-style structure was added to the castle in the 17th century, but over time the state of the fort diminished with the stature of its lords. As Luxembourg fell under Dutch rule, the town became of little consequence, with earthquakes and a fire further damaging its castle. It was only in the late 1970s that serious repairs and restorations started, and the castle was progressively returned to its former glory.