The Knight of Land Harm

Two hours upriver from Heidelberg, at a place where the Neckar valley forms a semicircle, the mirrored silhouette of the small town of Neckarsteinach, located at the foot of mighty gray rocks, can be seen in the waters. Four crumbling knights’ castles are located there at imposing heights. These were the homes of the line of the Landschads of Steinach, and they were in close distance of each other. The oldest one, which was founded under the name of Schadeck, was dubbed the “Schwalbennest” (“Swallows’ Nest”) by the people.

The church of Neckarsteinach safeguards many gravestones of the knights of Landschad. The oldest and most beautiful of these bears the simple inscription: “1369 in die Sancti Michael’ ob. Ulricus Landschad. Miles.” It has a depiction of a knight in an old-fashioned form with a lowered sword. Two angels hold a cushion beneath his head, a dog adheres to his feet, at his right side there is a harp, and to his left there is the crowned head of a heathen. Popular legend associates this Ulrich with the foundation of the line of the Landschadens. His father, Bligger von Steinach, was as wild as the region he inhabited. His heart was as hard as the rock foundation on which he perched. Emperor Rudolf of Habsburg had ordered that “no one shall maintain a castle, unless they can do so without harming the land.” Bligger, however, lived off robbery and murder, and was the terror of the entire region - a true “Landschaden” (“harm to the land”). Ordered to appear in court by the emperor, he remained in his unassailable castle until the imperial ban was proclaimed against him, and he could no longer safely step on any road. This enforced quietude was unbearable for the wild and restless robber knight, and one day he was found dead in the courtyard.

His son, Ulrich Landschade von Steinach, had inherited the infamous name of his father, but not his evil temperament. In order to atone for his father’s misdeeds and reconcile himself with the emperor and empire, he took up the cross and joined the crusade against the Saracens. He helped with the siege and conquest of Smyrna, destroyed a three times larger mob of enemies with his followers, and decapitated the Sultan, whose camp he had infiltrated as a harpist and whose favor he had attained with his skill at playing the harp. He then carried the bountiful loot to his jubilant host. Now, the emperor solemnly confirmed his knighthood, and gave him the formerly insulting nickname “Landschaden” as his knightly name, as well the name of his lineage. Furthermore, he permitted him to bear the head of the slain enemy as a crest in his coat of arms.

(By Gustav Schwab.)

(See also his “Wanderungen durch Schwaben.”, 2. Section of the “malerischen und romantischen Teuschlands” Leipzig Migand. p. 64 and 65).

Source: Schnezler, A. Badisches Sagen-Buch. Zweite Abtheilung: Von der Ortenau bis zum Mainthal. 1846, p. 565.

Notes & Commentary: Fortresses of Baden