Top

St. Sebaldus

Once upon a time, there was a pilgrim who lived in the forest near the gates of Nuremberg. Often, the citizens of the town went to see him to complain about their worries and problems. He cured sick people, comforted them and made them happy. His name was Sebaldus, and all the citizens of Nuremberg knew and loved him.

He owned three big ravens, who kept him company day and night. When a stranger entered his hut they fluttered round the intruder until Sebaldus stopped them. When the visitor had told his concerns, Sebaldus used to withdraw into a dark corner of the room and discuss in whispers, before he came back to help.

In the vicinity of Sebaldus’ small hut there lived a farmer who brought him bread and the things he needed most. One evening, the farmer found only the ravens, who were sitting quietly in the hut in front of the open fire that had burnt down. The farmer, however, discovered Sebaldus at the back of the building with his arms crossed, lying on a wagon with a burning candle in his hand.

“Go quickly and bring me two of your cows, harness them to the wagon and don’t ask me why!” said the old man with a feeble voice. “My hour has come. They are to carry me to my grave.” The farmer hurried home to fetch his cows. He harnessed them to the wagon. “You are to bury me in the place, to which the Lord’s servant, Death, is going to take me,” whispered Sebaldus with his last ounce of strength.

The farmer had hardly heard Sebaldus’ words when the cows pawed with their hooves, reared up and galloped away. When the farmer saw the wagon disappear in the twilight, the ravens flew out of the hut like three black arrows and followed their master. Suddenly the trees bent, branches fell to the ground. In the storm, a little tawny owl screeched as if its life was at stake. The wild animals of the forest stood at the wayside and craned their necks into the air after the ravens. The flickering candle in Sebaldus’ hand resisted the storm. The farmer saw it as a tiny light in the distance long after he had lost sight of the wagon.

The next day, people said that a girl found old Sebaldus dead. Not far from the river he lay on a stretcher with his arms crossed, a candle in his hand that had gone out, two exhausted cows harnessed to the wagon. They carted him away and wanted to bury him somewhere. But Sebal-dus’ three ravens didn’t stop circling above the place where the candle had gone out and the old man had died. The place became spooky for the citizens of Nuremberg.

At times, people returned trembling and told of strange, spine-thrilling noises. Lightning flashed from the sky and black shadows flew through the air. The citizens of Nuremberg finally understood and buried Sebaldus in that place. And there, not far from the river, opposite St. Lorenz (St. Lawrence), there now stands St. Sebald’s Church.


St. Sebald’s Church is in the district St. Sebald, and should be one of your first destinations … or look at the top of room no. 14.