As part of our "Top 5" series, we'll reveal five monuments that are rich in history and should not be missed. No doubt, you already know the Gëlle Fra (Golden Lady) and the Grand-Duchess Charlotte monument. However, we'd like to examine other works of art that are regularly upstaged. These monuments and statues are less well-known but just as fascinating as their more popular competitors. Moreover, they await you in the four corners of the Grand Duchy.
Blannen Theis (1747-1824)
Standing proud at the foot of the church, at the entrance to the pedestrian area in Grevenmacher is the statue of Blannen Theis. This monument has almost become iconic for this city on the Moselle. Created by the Luxembourg artists Wil Lofy, it depicts the travelling singer and his dog.
This illustrious figure, baptised Mathias Schou, was born on 30th March 1747 in Grevenmacher. He was blind or visually impaired, hence the name 'de blannen Theis'.
Mathias Schou was a well-known minstrel in the region. At the time, it was common to employ travelling singers to entertain the crowds at village festivals or family parties. Thus, he travelled from village to village and serenaded the locals at markets, marriages or fairs with his violin and organ grinder. He was always accompanied by his wife Margaretha Kummer, called Mimi Gréit. Following her death, he was joined on his travels by his second wife Barbara Kremer, called Bärbel and his dog.
During the musical performances at village fetes, Mathias Schou was the first to sing folk songs in Luxembourgish, such as Zu Arel op der Knippchen (On the hill in Arlon), De klenge Männchen (The little man) and D'Meedche zu Gëtzen (The girl from Goetzingen); these songs remain popular to this day. Sometimes, he would take his accordion to play while people sang, danced and jumped up and down to the music.
The Luxembourgish poet Edmond de la Fontaine, called Dicks, devoted a place in Luxembourg literature to him when he penned his poem De blannen Theis.
The minstrel of Grevenmacher died penniless in the village of Eich, located just outside the capital, in 1824. In honour of its former citizen, the municipality of Grevenmacher commissioned a statue by the Luxembourg artist Wil Lofy in 1991. The only image of Mathias Schou is a drawing in pencil, which belongs to the National Museum of History and Art (MNHA). This drawing was also portrayed on a stamp issued by the Post.
Princess Amélie (1830-1872)
The municipal park in Luxembourg city is without a doubt the green lungs of the capital. In the lower part of this oasis is the Edmond Klein park. Here, a pond, water jets and waterfalls inspire a sense of relaxation, under the watchful gaze of the sculpture of Princess Amélie.
But who was this princess to whom we have dedicated a three-metre high monument atop a Vosges granite base?
Amélie Marie da Gloria of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was the second wife of Prince Henry of the Netherlands. His brother, King William III, entrusted him to govern Luxembourg from 1850 to 1879.
She was born in 1830 and very early in her life she already had brief contacts with Luxembourg through her father, Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, who was appointed Governor General of the Grand Duchy by King William I.
Princess Amélie met her future husband on the island of Madeira in 1847. Following their marriage in Weimar in 1853, they took up residence in Walferdange castle later that year.
The young princess was described as intelligent and cultured and soon won over the hearts of the population owing to her innate sense of genuine values and charity work.
In fact, it was her entreatment of the tsar Alexander II for which she received her letters of nobility. In 1867, she travelled to St Petersburg to plead for the independence of Luxembourg; this independence was, at the time, under grave threat from Napoleon III.
Princess Amélie died in 1872 following a lung infection.
In memory of Princess Amélie, a monument in her effigy was placed at the entrance of the park. The solemn inauguration took place on 30th October 1876.
It was in 1937 that the Forge du Sud witnessed the birth of the great artist Wil Lofy. In 1959 he left Esch-sur-Alzette, his place of birth, and went to study in Florence, Sesto Fiorentino and later at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris. Wil Lofy is a multifaceted artist! He practises various forms of art, in particular drawing, painting and sculpture.
These days, a large number of his fine art works adorn public spaces. These include Blannen Theis in Grevenmacher, Bacchus - the god of wine – sitting atop his barrel on the esplanade in Remich, and Maus Ketti - the defiant mouse – which is on display in Burmerange and Mondorf-les-Bains.
In addition to these works, let us not forget, amongst others, the famous fountain Hämmelsmarsch at the entrance of the pedestrian area in the city centre as well as La laitière d’Ettelbruck and the monument in memory of Josy Barthel and Nicolas Frantz in Mamer.
Diekirch and its donkeys
Diekirch is known as the 'City of donkeys'. This animal can be found throughout the city, in every little nook and cranny, as well as on public squares and in pedestrian areas. These include the fountain of donkeys in the pedestrian area, designed by the sculptor Bonifatius Stirnberg from Aachen, and the monuments in honour of the donkeys - such as the ducat donkey - and there is even a donkey perched on the roof of the church in the form of a weather vane. But why is the donkey the mascot of the city of Diekirch?
To this day, several stories exist to explain this phenomenon... For over 200 years, historians have struggled to establish its origin. Legend has it that the residents of Diekirch opposed plans to make the city main axis of the railway line between Troisvierges and Luxembourg city. In the capital of the Grand Duchy, the authorities accused the 'donkeys of Diekirch' of misjudging the signs of the times.
Another possible explanation seems a little more realistic: Long ago, the farmers relied on donkeys to cultivate their land in Herrenberg, the hill overlooking the city of Diekirch. The donkey was the only suitable companion able to work the fields on the hillsides surrounding the city.
But, never mind the legend... The monuments of the donkeys and their history now form an integral part of the heritage of the city of Diekirch. They are, without a doubt, worthy of your attention in the capital of donkeys!
D’Maus Ketti remains one of the most popular works of Luxembourg literature. It tells the story of Ketti the mouse, who lives a frugal life in the fields of Burmerange, a small picturesque village in the south of Luxembourg. One day, she becomes enthralled about delicious food available in the city and goes to visit her rich cousin Mim in Clausen, a suburb of the capital, and finds these fancy delicacies, which she readily devours.
In the city, the two mice break into a house and feast upon the food laid out on a beautifully set table.
All of a sudden, Tunn the cat appears with his little friend and tries to catch the two mice, who just manage to escape. Ketti gets the shock of her life and takes the decision to return immediately to her home in Burmerange. From that point on, she resolves to live an austere life and eat simple food rather than living a life of greed and daily anxiety.
The fictional story, which compares rural life and urban life and the lessons that can be learned from the two, was written and published in 1936 by the lawyer and politician Auguste Liesch (1874-1949). Based on the fable by the famous Greek poet Esope (600 B.C.), the Ketti mouse poem remained part of the national curriculum for several decades in many primary schools in Luxembourg.
The municipality of Burmerange named its cultural centre after the rural mouse and the Parc Merveilleux in Bettembourg has an exhibition which tells the story of the mouse with dancing and speaking characters.
Which mouse would you like to be?
The long, seemingly endless esplanades, the warm and welcoming terraces and the picturesque pathways running alongside the Moselle give the city of Remich the feel of a seaside resort - especially in summer. However, above all, it is the delicious produce harvested from its vineyards that continues to entice a stream of visitors to the town.
In Remich, wine is a way of life and a culture in itself, to such an extent that it has inspired artists and architects alike. The sculpture of Bacchus is a perfect example. Halfway along the esplanade is the fountain in honour of the Roman god of wine, sat on top of a barrel that spins on another barrel.
In his right hand, Bacchus grasps a bottle of wine; in his left hand he holds a glass. Water from the fountain gushes out of these two symbolic objects. Bacchus was the god of vines, wine, festivities, dance, vegetation and the natural pleasures of life. This homage to the Roman god is the work of the Luxembourgish artist Wil Lofy.
The coat of arms of Luxembourg as well as the name of STAD REIMECH are depicted on the barrel of the fountain. Passers-by can sit on the benches around the fountain, relax and admire Bacchus in all his glory while enjoying a pleasant moment in the shade of the weeping willows. During the height of summer, it is the perfect spot to cool down, especially on a hot day.