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Winningen – from the history of a long-established wine village

The beautiful wine village of Winningen is located only a few kilometres away from the Deutsches Eck, where the river Mosel flows into the Rhine.

Winegrowing is a century-old tradition in Winningen. During excavations in the area around the church, tools were discovered that indicate a settlement of the village over 3,000 years ago. The excavation of a Roman villa on Winningen Hill is accessible to the public.

In 871, Winningen was mentioned in a document for the first time, when Ludwig II confirmed the bestowal of vineyards of the nobleman Otbert and his wife Hildegardis to Prüm Abbey. The properties include, among others, the cathedral chapter of Aachen, the St. Martin Abbey in Cologne and the cathedral chapter of Bamberg. This is evidence of the high value of Winningen winegrowing even in ancient times.

However, the sovereigns also levied feudal duties of 40 bushels from the district early on.

The origins of Germany's oldest vintage festival can be traced back to these feudal duties. In 1551, there was a particularly successful vintage, and the feudal lord celebrated this with a sumptuous banquet together with the population – the first vintage festival was born.

Winningen was initially under the rule of the Count Palatine of the Rhine, who thus enfeoffed the Counts of Sayn. Through inheritance, the rule later fell to the Counts of Sponheim, who introduced Lutheran teachings in Winningen in 1557. To this day, Winningen is a Protestant enclave in strictly Catholic surroundings. The Winningen Church, a Romanesque building from the 12th century, henceforth served a different religious faith.

An important date in Winningen history soon followed. On 29 September 1579, the then Prince Regnant submitted to the Winninger's desire for freedom and abolished serfdom with the Letter of Freedom. With this, the Winningers were free citizens – but were still required to pay an extraordinary tax for the next 12 years.

Hard times followed during the course of the next decades. The plague in the years 1597 and 1598 claimed 206 lives in Winningen, and around 130 lives in 1611. In 1612, the village had only 250 residents. They had only just overcome this fate when the Thirty Years' War began. Murder, pillage and looting were suffered constantly by the population, when foreign soldiers occupied the village. Oftentimes, Winningen's citizens were forced to hide for months at a time in the forest in order to avoid the despotism of marauding soldiers. The citizens in the neighbouring villages were also less than humane towards the Winningers, who had a different religious belief. An entry in the church register states: "God forgive the soldiers and evil neighbours for their wantonness towards the church, and bring us the longed-for peace".

When the war was finally over, the persecution of witches became a terrible scourge. The belief in witches and sorcerers had taken root in people's souls like a disease. During the years 1630-1661, 21 men and women in Winningen became victims of the witch hunts. A memorial on the Heidelberg today acts a reminder of the darkest era of superstition.

The rule of the Counts of Sponheim continued to 1794, when the French occupied the Rhineland. Hard times were to follow for the Winningen citizens yet again, as the village was occupied by French troops. Conditions improved in 1801, when peace finally came and the cession of the left bank of the Rhine to France was officially sanctioned. The citizens soon became used to the new conditions – and several new terms even proved advantageous. Thus, the citizens were liberated from a heavy load with the abolition of the tithe and third of grapes. The consolidation of the large pastoral property and its sale provided the opportunity for many citizens to purchase their own plots and vineyards. These advantages of the new era were much appreciated by the Winningers. When the Napoleonic era was over, the village was placed under Prussian administration in 1815. The following century provided the village with peaceful times and gradual advancement. Winningen became larger and community life took hold. In 1838, Winningen's first male choir association was founded.

The year 1879 represented a significant event. The Mosel railway line Coblenz – Trier was opened and Winning was connected to the transport network. Trade and transport developed into an economic focus of the municipality. The population increased and forced the municipality to build new roads. Community life also began to flourish. The sports association and the fire brigade were founded in the nineties; the music association followed in 1902. But the times of peace were to end soon.

Many citizens of Winningen lost their lives on the battlefield during the First and Second World Wars. A memorial in the cemetery pays tribute to the numerous victims. The Nazi regime was also omnipresent in Winningen, and split the population. Denunciation, persecution and deportation of innocent people were the result.

Winningen auf alten Postkarten

After the Second World War, life had to continue. A new generation grew up, and it is due to the diligence of the population that tourism quickly became a significant economic factor. Many major facilities were developed, such as shipping piers, the Weinhexbrunnen (wine-witch well), the camping island, a modern lido and the educational wine trail.

Winningen has an honorary citizen: August Horch. The founding father of the Audi factories was born in Winningen on 12 October 1868. After an apprenticeship as a smith in his father's forge, he went on the tramp and subsequently studied in Mittweida, where he took his engineering examination. His first job was at the Benz Company in Mannheim. As early as 1899, he became self-employed in Cologne. In 1901, he relocated to Zwickau. Thanks to his drive, his restless diligence and inventive genius, the Horch factories experienced a swift rise to the top. But in 1909, differences arose within the Horch factories, which had since become a stock company. Horch left the company and founded a new company. In an ironic twist of fate, the management of his former company failed to give him the right to call his new company August Horch. In Latin, Horch means Audi – and this was the name he gave his new company. August Horch died on 3 February 1951 and was buried in the Winningen cemetery. A section in the museum shows insights into the life and works of the famous automobile pioneer.