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Kyffhäuser Mountain Range and Mythology of Barbarossa

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Kyffhäuser Mountain Range and Mythology of Barbarossa

The Kyffhäuser, a low mountain range south-east of the Harz mountains stretching from the Thuringian Kyffhäuser district to the Saxony-Anhalt district of Mansfeld-Südharz, is the central point of a saga of the mountain rift.

The ruins of the kings castle Kyffhausen, which was completed in the end of the 19th century by the Kyffhäuser monument in honor of Emperor Wilhelm I, are situated on a hillock in the north-east.

The literary / mythological motif of the mountain rift is found in various forms in different European cultures. Common to all these ideas is that people disappear from the world of men without dying, and they live in a kind of underworld; So this is a special form of the Rapture. According to this legend, the Emperor Frederick I, called Barbarossa, sleeps in a cave of the Kyffhäuser, together with his faithful, to awaken one day to save the empire and bring it back to new glory.

As he sleeps, his beard grows around a stone table. So far, it is the second turn and when the third round is over, the end of the world begins. Every one hundred years the Emperor wakes up, and when ravens still circle around the mountain, he sleeps for another century. As soon as he awakens, he rides to the Walser Fields, where the dried-up Walser-pear tree is, to which the Elector of Bavaria hangs his coat-of-arms, blossoms again. There he beats the last battle between good and evil, which the good will win. But when the "evil" wins, according to legend, fire will rain, and the horsemen of hell will rise from the ground and gather the souls of all.

In the Barbarossa cave, visitors can see the emperor sitting on a bench, if there is enough power of imagination. His red beard had already grown through the stone table. Up to the 16th century, not Barbarossa, but Emperor Frederick II assumed the role of the sleeping Emperor in the legend, later also Charlemagne. During all in the Middle Ages, there were always high-stackers, who expressed themselves as a risen emperor and many deceived. Perhaps the best known example of this is Tile Kolup.

Particularly in the 19th century the current political demands were linked with the legend about Barbarossa. Before the German unification in 1871, many Germans felt the desire for a nation-state, as it existed at that time in the time of Frederick I.
One of the most famous literary adaptations of this saga is the poem "Der alte Barbarossa" written by Friedrich Rückert in 1817 We keep the German version):

Der alte Barbarossa,
der Kaiser Friederich,
im unterird’schen Schlosse
hält er verzaubert sich.

Er ist niemals gestorben,
er lebt darin noch jetzt;
er hat im Schloss verborgen
zum Schlaf sich hingesetzt.

Er hat hinabgenommen
des Reiches Herrlichkeit
und wird einst wiederkommen
mit ihr, zu seiner Zeit.

Er nickt als wie im Traume
sein Aug halb offen zwinkt;
und je nach langem Raume
er einem Knaben winkt.

Er spricht im Schlaf zum Knaben:
Geh hin vors Schloss, o Zwerg
und sieh, ob noch die Raben
herfliegen um den Berg.

Und wenn die alten Raben
noch fliegen immerdar,
so muss ich auch noch schlafen
verzaubert hundert Jahr.

The legend has been widely accepted in the literature, as for example in the fairy tale "Der Schmied von Jüterbog" by Ludwig Bechstein. Heinrich Heine sat the Barbarossa legend as background in his German book: "A winter tale".

After 1871, the Kyffhäuser myth was no longer related to national unification, but rather to the world power struggles of the German imperial empire under Wilhelm II. The construction of the Kyffhäuser monument, which not only shows Frederick Barbarossa but also Wilhelm I , the first emperor of the Hohenzollern family, presented in the form of a horse statue as the heir of the Staufer.

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