Luxembourg’s origins From a small castle to a powerful county

Lucilinburhuc, the 'small castle' first mentioned in a deed in 963, constitutes the very roots of Luxembourg. It was perched on a rocky outcrop and surrounded by forests, pastures and legends. A wise marriage policy, some acquisitions and military conflicts allowed the county to become a major regional power in the early 13th century.

Once upon a time, there was a small castle

Luxembourg's origins were modest but promising. In 963, Count Siegfried, the youngest son of an Ardennes Count and with no significant endowment, acquired a castellum on a rocky outcrop and surrounded by forests and pastures from the St Maximin Abbey in Trier – today this is called the 'Bock'.

The small castle was located in the vicinity of the former Roman road going from Reims to Trier and surrounded by fertile land. It prospered  quickly and developed into a real economic, political and religious centre.

Rapid expansion

From the 12th century, Luxembourg could really be referred to as a town. It became an economic, political and religious regional centre with ambitions stretching far beyond the heights and valleys surrounding it.

In fact, the Counts of Luxembourg succeeded in increasing their wealth rapidly through marriages, land purchase, ties of vassalage and war, if needed. They defeated their rivals, despite suffering occasional setbacks, such as the Battle of Worringen (1288), during which Count Henry VI and three of his brothers fell, mortally wounded.

Stained glass window at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Luxembourg - Glass window of the grand ducal gallery (artists: Josef Oberberberger / Franz Braunmiller - 1936)
© / Christophe Hubert

In the late 13th  century, the County of Luxembourg occupied a vast area between the Meuse and the Moselle rivers. with the particularity of straddling the  linguistic border, with one part being German-speaking, the other French-speaking.

Beautiful Melusine

A number of legends surround the foundation of the city. The most well-known of these is the story of the  siren called Melusina, a mythical figure of the Middle Ages which can be found in various European regions.

 Count Siegfried had married her under one condition. Before the wedding, she had demanded to have one day per week during which no one, including her husband, would be allowed to see her.

A few years went by and Siegfried's curiosity became stronger and stronger, until one day, he looked through the keyhole. He was struck by the sight of his beautiful Melusine with a fish tail! He had married a mermaid. He was so astounded by what he saw that he shrieked and Melusine realised that her secret had been revealed. She  jumped out of the window onto the Bock cliff and disappeared with a thunderclap.