Scheinfeld is a happy town in the Steiger Forest in Franconia, northern Bavaria. You can tell it’s a happy town because some internet-savvy person has written “:D” with a felt-tipped marker in the upper left-hand corner of the sign.
Up on a hill overlooking the town there is a castle or palace (the German word Schloss can mean both) called Schwarzenberg and a monastery with the same name.
In the summer of 2011, I rode over to Scheinfeld on my bicycle, using a car-free walking and cycling path from nearby Markt Bibart.
Before going to Scheinfeld, all I knew about it was that eight years earlier an American named David had walked the same route with a friend of his. When he returned home to Chicago he joined VirtualTourist (using “DeNisme” as his member name), posted one page with one photo and then disappeared from the site a week later.
His one page was about Scheinfeld, which he described as “just a small town with a Schloss called Schwarzenberg but we had a purpose in going and being there. My friend had lived in the Schloss as a young Lithuanian refugee immediately after the war.” On a Sunday morning almost sixty years later they “retraced the walks taken from the train station back to Scheinfeld” and took a photo of the town, the castle and the monastery.
The city of Scheinfeld now includes not only the original town of Scheinfeld but also the surrounding villages of Burgambach, Erlabronn, Grappertshofen, Hohlweiler, Klosterdorf, Kornhöfstadt, Neuses, Oberlaimbach, Ruthmannsweiler, Schnodsenbach, Thierberg, Unterlaimbach and Zeisenbronn. All of these together have about 4,600 inhabitants, according to the city’s website.
Since 1627 Scheinfeld has been a predominantly Catholic town, but during the century before that its religious history was typical for towns in this area.
The turmoil started in 1524 when the local ruler, Prince Johann the Strong, a member of the Schwarzenberg family, converted to Protestantism. When this happened: presto! The entire population was suddenly Protestant.
Like many other aristocratic families, the Schwarzenberg family had a Protestant branch and a Catholic branch. When the Protestant branch died out, the Catholic side of the family inherited Scheinfeld, with the result that: presto! The entire population was suddenly Catholic again.
This did not sit well, however, with the Margrave of Mark Brandenburg, a Protestant who was theoretically the feudal lord of this region. So the conflicts went on and on until 1627 (during the Thirty Years War), when Prince Georg Ludwig von Schwarzenberg finally settled the matter in favor of Catholicism. I think it is safe to assume that he did not rely solely on theological arguments to accomplish this.
After three centuries as a predominantly Catholic town, Scheinfeld has accumulated a number of crucifixes prominently displayed on the roadsides.
Since I have never been terribly knowledgeable about theological matters, I was puzzled by the letters “J.N.:R.J.” at the top of this cross. But I have since looked them up and found that they mean Jesus Nazarenun Rex Judeorum, which is Latin for “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” These words were written in three languages (Latin, Hebrew or Aramaic and Greek) and were posted at the top of the cross on orders of Pontius Pilate. (John 19:19-20)
Scheinfeld remained more or less exclusively Catholic until after the Second World War, when some German Protestant refugees from Romania (Transylvanian Saxons) settled in Scheinfeld and built a new Protestant church. So now the town has both.
Another town with a similar religious history is Tauberrettersheim, where the ruling Hohenlohe family first converted to Protestantism but later re-converted (one branch of the family) to Catholicism. So all the residents of the towns where this branch ruled were required to re-convert to Catholicism, too.
After taking a look around the town center of Scheinfeld, I followed the signs pointing to Klosterdorf and started riding up a street called Adi-Dassler-Straße, without having any idea who Adi Dassler was.
Even when I came to the Adidas factory at Adi-Dassler-Straße 24, I still didn’t make the connection. It took quite a while before the penny dropped and I finally realized that Adi Dassler was the founder of the company and that the name of the company came from the founder’s nickname, Adi-Das.
Actually his name was Adolf Dassler (1900-1978), but after the Second World War nobody wanted to be called Adolf any more (though it used to be a very common name), so he stuck with Adi.
Adidas is a company that is very popular with consumers in Germany, but also often criticized, particularly because they have eliminated many thousands of jobs in Germany and now produce most of their shoes and other sports equipment in low-wage countries like Indonesia, with little regard for the environment or for workers’ rights.
Reportedly the Adidas plant in Scheinfeld (officially called its “Global Technology Center”) is now the only facility in Europe where the company actually produces anything. They still make some lines of shoes in Scheinfeld, partly on an assembly line and also custom-made shoes for big-name athletes.
Scheinfeld is also where Adidas has its highly publicized “vault” containing the originals of all the different shoe types that they have produced in the past seventy years.
By the way, the corporate headquarters of the Adidas company is not in Scheinfeld, but forty kilometers away in Adi Dassler’s home town of Herzogenaurach, which is also where his older brother Rudolf set up a rival company called Puma on the other side of the river.
I later read about the bitter rivalry between these two companies on a VirtualTourist page by an Australian member, Dee (member name balhannah), with whom I used to communicate regularly until VirtualTourist was unfortunately closed down. She wrote that for many years Herzogenaurach was known as “the town of bent necks”, because the townsfolk would not strike up a conversation with a stranger until they had first looked down at the shoes that person was wearing. You couldn’t go into certain pubs if you were wearing the wrong shoes. And a Puma person certainly couldn’t marry an Adidas person. Intermarriage was unheard of and would have caused a huge scandal.
Her text ended on a more conciliatory note, however. “Tensions between the two firms appeared to have eased in recent years, with neither company in the hands of the founding families any longer. The rift in the town also appeared to have mended. Teens in the town square could be seen hanging together wearing Puma, Adidas and even Nike.”
Although VirtualTourist no longer exists, Dee’s text on Herzogenaurach can still be accessed on the web, via the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive.
As far as I know, the rivalry between Adidas and Puma never spilled over into Scheinfeld, which was and still is a purely Adidas town, ever since the Adidas factory was established here in 1959.
This castle on a hill overlooking the town of Scheinfeld was the traditional residence of the Schwarzenberg family, or at least whatever branch of the family happened to be the rulers of Scheinfeld at any particular time.
Parts of the castle now house a private school, which was being renovated when I visited in 2011. The rest of the castle was also in need of renovation, as there were visible signs of damage due to dampness in some of the walls.
I was there on a Sunday morning but arrived several hours too early for the weekly guided tour, which was offered on Sunday afternoons at 2 pm from Easter to October.
This is only one of a dozen or so castles and palaces that the Schwarzenberg family used to own in Germany, Austria and Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic.
The current head of the family, Prince Karel VII of Schwarzenberg (born 1937), is a Czech politician who was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2007 to 2009 (originally nominated by the Green Party) and again from 2010 to 2013. He was a candidate for President of the Czech Republic in 2013 but lost in a runoff election to Miloš Zeman.
This is a Franciscan-Minoriten monastery which was founded in 1866 and is still very much in operation. Currently eight monks (“brothers”) live in the monastery and work mainly in the adjoining educational center, where they offer numerous week-long seminars and courses on a variety of (mainly religious) topics.
The educational center consists of four modern buildings with three seminar rooms and several smaller rooms for group work and religious services. The center also provides overnight accommodation with 65 beds for the seminar participants.
In a display case at the entrance to the monastery, along with seminar dates and other useful information, I found a German word I had never noticed before, namely Marienfrömmigkeit, which in English would be something like “Mary-Piety”. Later I looked it up and found that since the beginnings of Christianity theologians have squabbled, off and on, about the role the Virgin Mary should play in religious dogma and practice. Some were content to have her venerated practically as a goddess, taking over the traits of other goddesses from earlier religions. Others (patriarchs?) warned against making Mary the fourth person of the Trinity and letting her outshine the other three. I started wondering if there have ever been any empirical studies comparing the frequency of Our Fathers versus Hail Marys, for instance as prescribed by people’s confessors.
Although it is only one kilometer from Frankfurt, Kornhöfstadt is officially a district of Scheinfeld, since it is one of the twelve villages which were incorporated into the city of Scheinfeld in the local government reform of 1972. It’s a nice little village, with an inn and a bus stop, but all I did there was to ride through on my bicycle on a Sunday morning.
This carefully tended little shrine by the roadside between Kornhöfstadt and Scheinfeld marks the spot where a thirty-year-old local man was killed by a car in 1998.
In the same year, 1998, the BBC reported that cars cause “more than 500,000 deaths a year, and injure another 15 million people. In 100 years there have been more than 20 million car-related deaths worldwide.” The same report said: “Road accidents are the single largest killer of men aged between 15 and 44.”
Location of Scheinfeld on Google Maps.
My photos in this post are from 2011. I revised the text in 2020.