: Folk-lore And Legends: German
By the side of the "Beautiful Doorway," leading into the cloisters of
the cathedral at Mainz, stands, worked into the wall, a fragment of
the tomb of Fastrada, the fourth wife of the mighty monarch
Charlemagne according to some authorities, the third according to
others. Fastrada figures in the following tradition related by the
author of the Rhyming Chronicle.
When the Kaiser, Karl, abode at Zurich, he d
elt in a house called
"The Hole," in front of which he caused a pillar to be erected with a
bell on the top of it, to the end that whoever demanded justice should
have the means of announcing himself. One day, as he sat at dinner in
his house, he heard the bell ring, and sent out his servants to bring
the claimant before him; but they could find no one. A second and a
third time the bell rang, but no human being was still to be seen. At
length the Kaiser himself went forth, and he found a large serpent,
which had twined itself round the shaft of the pillar, and was then in
the very act of pulling the bell rope.
"This is God's will," said the monarch. "Let the brute be brought
before me. I may deny justice to none of God's creatures--man or
The serpent was accordingly ushered into the imperial presence; and
the Kaiser spoke to it as he would to one of his own kind, gravely
asking what it required. The reptile made a most courteous reverence
to Charlemagne, and signed in its dumb way for him to follow. He did
so accordingly, accompanied by his court; and the creature led them on
to the water's edge, to the shores of the lake, where it had its nest.
Arrived there, the Kaiser soon saw the cause of the serpent's seeking
him, for its nest, which was full of eggs, was occupied by a hideous
toad of monstrous proportions.
"Let the toad be flung into the fire," said the monarch solemnly, "and
let the serpent have possession of its nest restored to it."
This sentence was carried at once into execution. The toad was burnt,
and the serpent placed in possession. Charlemagne and his court then
returned to the palace.
Three days afterwards, as the Kaiser again sat at dinner, he was
surprised at the appearance of the serpent, which this time glided
into the hall unnoticed and unannounced.
"What does this mean?" thought the king.
The reptile approached the table, and raising itself on its tail,
dropped from its mouth, into an empty plate which stood beside the
monarch, a precious diamond. Then, again abasing itself before him,
the crawling creature glided out of the hall as it had entered, and
was speedily lost to view. This diamond the monarch caused to be set
in a costly chased ring of the richest gold; and he then presented the
trinket to his fair wife, the much-beloved Fastrada.
Now this stone had the virtue of attraction, and whoso received it
from another, so long as they wore it, received also the intensest
love of that individual. It was thus with Fastrada, for no sooner did
she place the ring on her finger than the attachment of Charlemagne,
great before, no longer knew any bounds. In fact his love was more
like madness than any sane passion. But though this talisman had full
power over love, it had no power over death; and the mighty monarch
was soon to experience that nothing may avert the fiat of destiny.
Charlemagne and his beloved bride returned to Germany, and, at
Ingelheim palace, Fastrada died. The Kaiser was inconsolable. He would
not listen to the voice of friendship, and he sorrowed in silence over
the dead body of his once beautiful bride. Even when decay had
commenced, when the remains, late so lovely, were now loathsome to
look on, he could not be induced to leave the corpse for a moment, or
to quit the chamber of death in which it lay. The court were all
astounded. They knew not what to make of the matter. At length
Turpin, Archbishop of Rheims, approached the corpse, and being made
aware of the cause, by some supernatural communication contrived to
engage the emperor's attention while he removed the charm. The magic
ring was found by him in the mouth of the dead empress, concealed
beneath her tongue.
Immediately that the talisman was removed the spell was broken, and
Charlemagne now looked on the putrid corpse with all the natural
horror and loathing of an ordinary man. He gave orders for its
immediate interment, which were at once carried into execution, and he
then departed from Ingelheim for the forest of the Ardennes. Arrived
at Aix-la-Chapelle, he took up his abode in the ancient castle of
Frankenstein, close by that famous city. The esteem, however, that he
had felt for Fastrada was now transferred to the possessor of the
ring, Archbishop Turpin; and the pious ecclesiastic was so persecuted
by the emperor's affection that he finally cast the talisman into the
lake which surrounds the castle.
An immediate transference of the royal liking took place, and the
monarch, thenceforth and for ever after during his lifetime, loved
Aix-la-Chapelle as a man might love his wife. So much did he become
attached to it, that he directed that he should be buried there; and
there accordingly his remains rest unto this day.