In 697/698, Irmina of Oeren donated her property in Echternach to the Anglo-Saxon missionary Willibrord. Echternach is the oldest city in Luxembourg.
Irmina was of a very influential noble family and, according to the legend, even a daughter of the last Merovingian King Dagobert II. As a mother of Bertrada of Prüm (the founder of the Prüm Abbey), she was also a great-great-grandmother of Charlemagne on his mother’s side.
However, her name isn’t mentioned very often nowadays, in contrast to that of Willibrord.
Monument of Saint Willibrord in front of the St. Irminen Monastery in Trier.
The Abbey of Echternach.
With the support of the Carolingian family, Willibrord built in AD700 the first church, and in 751, the monastery became an Imperial abbey.
The present appearance of the abbey church dates from the 11th and 13th centuries.
The crypt is preserved from Carolingian times, and here is the Spring of Willibrord, considered to be curative for skin diseases, as well as the marble sarcophagus with the relics of the Saint.
In 1939, the abbey church was raised to Basilica minor, and this is the only one temple of this rank on Luxembourg territory. It is considered the most important religious building in the country.
In Echternach too is held a wide-known procession, not every 7 years, but every year on Whit Tuesday – the so-called Sprangprëssessioun, or Springprozession.
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to attend it, so I can only attach a photograph of a painting that I’ve photographed through a shop-window in Echternach – it gives more or less an idea of what the procession is like.
It is a very special procession that is listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. As the name itself shows (springen=hop), it is being performed with hops to the sound of Polka in honor of the Saint. Yet this procession has also its pagan roots, and here is the irony as Willibrord had been a notorious champion of the ‘right faith’, had demolished pagan sanctuaries and baptized the infidels… And posthumously, he is honored with a pagan dance/ritual. But maybe there is no other way, since all our would-be Christian feasts and rituals, even daily activities, are of heathen origin.
Near the abbey, there are the abbey garden and the Orangery, dating from 1735-1736.
The always hungry carp-fish.
View from the Orangery of the Basilica.
St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church. Actually, it is here where the initial small monastery donated by Irmina to Willibrord must have been placed. It was built on the foundations of a Roman castel.
The present church was erected around AD1000.
On the Market square stands the Denzelt (Dȅnzelt, or Dingstuhl), the building of the former palace of justice. It originates from 1236. Next to it is the Laange Veit Inn with Veit himself – the fiddler of Echternach – depicted on the façade (Veit derives from the name of Saint Vitus). According to the legend, Veit, who due to his height was called the Long Veit/Laange Veit, was a Christian who had lived at the time of Willibrord and who, after returning from a long pilgrimage to Jerusalem, was unjustly accused of having murdered his wife underway. On the day of his execution, he began to play his extraordinary violin brought from the pilgrimage and enchanted all the people of the town in an endless dance so that he was able to get away undisturbed and run away from the town. That all with the help of God.
Another old building in Echternach is the Gothic House, dating from the first half of the 14th century.
The Roman Villa from the 1-5th centuries is one of the biggest in Europe north of the Alps.
But I couldn’t begin this publication with the Romans, like by the oldest cities in Belgium and Germany, since the history of the settlement didn’t begin in Roman times, but as late as the Merovingian times. In that respect, even though the oldest city in Luxembourg, Echternach cannot be included in the group of the oldest European cities.