Mermaid

Do you know Luxembourg's Melusina myth?

The story of one of Luxembourg's oldest myths

Photo: LW archive

Many of us have passed by the purple Melusina statue  in the Grund. Unfortunately she recently suffered a bit of damage. While she's being repaired, we thought we'd investigate the myth of the Luxembourg‬'s Melusina.

Luxembourg’s Melusina may well be one of the oldest nightclubs along the Alzette river in Clausen. However, the club actually borrowed its name from the Luxembourg version of the myth of Melusina the mermaid.

Medieval Luxembourg

Officially, it is widely accepted that Luxembourg was founded in 963 when Count Siegfried I of Moselle and the Ardennes traded Feulen for the "Bockfiels", which was owned by the Abbey of Saint-Maximin of Trier.

Count Siegfried I built his castle, "Lucilinburhuc" on what are thought to be the remains of a Roman fortress, which later became Luxembourg City.

His servants and soldiers settled around the Bock and soon the fortress became a city and Siegfried gave himself the title “Count of Luxembourg”, officially making the area around today’s Bockfiels and Vieux-Marché a County. It is said that the tower on top of the Bockfiels, above the casemates, might be an old Roman watchtower, but there’s little archaeological evidence of this.

Mélusina with her creator Luxembourger Serge Ecker, before she suffered a little tail injury
Photo: Pierre Matgé

The Melusina myth

The Melusina myth, however, sees the foundation of Luxembourg slightly differently. It is said that Count Siegfried of the Ardennes, who was living in Koerich, was a keen hunter. On one of his hunting trips he lost his way and ended up in the beautiful Alzette valley. While admiring the area and viewing the ruins of an old Roman castle on an ominous-looking cliff he heard a wonderful song, more beautiful than he had ever imagined, come from the rock. Siegfried looked around and soon saw a beautiful girl sitting high among the ruins of the old castle. It was Melusina of the Alzette valley.

Exhausted from his trip and overwhelmed by the sight of such beauty, Siegfried fell asleep. He awoke the next day and headed back to Koerich.

However, he could not forget Melusina and longed to see the beautiful girl again and listen to her breathtaking song. So, he returned to the Alzette valley day after day, and as if by miracle one day found himself face-to-face with the bewitching Melusina.

Photo: Marc Wilwert

The Count instantly declared his love for her and asked for her hand in marriage. Melusina accepted Siegfried’s passionate offer, but she insisted on two conditions: firstly, she should never have to leave the cliff, and, secondly she needed to be alone every Saturday. The Count swore on his honour that he would meet those demands.

In order for the marriage to take place Siegfried had to become the owner of the Bockfiels. He sold his land around Feulen in Ettelbrück to the Abbey of St. Maximin who, in turn, gave him the Alzette valley containing the rock that Melusina would not leave.

Years passed and Siegfried was true to his word. He never interrupted his spouse on Saturdays; he never even asked what she was doing. However, as his friends became aware of the arrangement, they suggested Siegfried look, just once, to figure out what his beautiful wife would be doing in her room all Saturday. Alas, Siegfried couldn’t resist the temptation and he thought that one quick peek through the keyhole wouldn’t be a breach of vows.

Photo: LW archive

Peeping through the hole, he saw Melusina lying in her Roman bath combing her long, blond hair and humming the most melodious tune. However, as he looked closer he soon realised that his wife’s feet were replaced by a disgusting, slimy fish tail. Siegfried gasped in horror and Melusina, realising what had happened, vanished into the cliff, never to be seen by Siegfried again.

Today, it is still rumoured that Melusina will show herself every seven years and wait for someone to free her from the Alzette River. In 1997, Luxembourg created a stamp illustrating the beautiful Melusina sitting on a rock in the Alzette River held-down by her fish-tail. Does that means that if she showed herself to the artist in 1997, she will appear sometime soon?

Or who knows, maybe someone has already married a beautiful blond girl, who insists on living on the “Bockfiels” and spending her Saturday nights alone.

Variations

As with all myths there are several variations to the tale of Siegfried and Melusina. Some argue that Siegfried had to sell his soul to the devil so that he could afford the construction of the "Lucilinburhuc" fortress, which would explain the two first syllables “Luci”(as in Lucifer).

Others insist that Melusina holds a key and she can only leave the Alzette if that key is taken from her. One of Siegfried’s soldiers is said to have tried, but the moment he reached for the key, an evil growl arose from the Alzette valley (the devil?) and he fled.

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