"Old Beauty Erpel" on the river Rhine
Newspaper "Unkeler Reporter" Nr. 14 from 1. April 2004

Idyllic village center invites you to stay a while

More than 1500 years of village history show the ever changing history of this quaint village in the middle Rhine area, which belongs to Unkel's community of villages. Erpel is a popular place for living. Expanded after WW II with the higher Erpel region and its district Orsberg it now counts about 2800 citizens.


The historical village center is Erpel's calling card


Heribert Sieberts and his helpers are currently restoring the Neutor


The baroque city hall is still being used by the village council today

Nearly half of Erpel was destroyed in WW II bombing raids due proximity to the Ludendorff Bridge, which connected Erpel and Remagen. Today the two bridge towers remain next to the B-42. The village with its historical village center, remains of the old city wall, and many culturally valuable buildings lies directly on the river Rhine and stretches up the hill almost up to Bruchhausen.

In addition there are the quaint village district Orsberg with its 1708 built chappel and the Erpeler Ley, an impressive "rock" with a height of 190 meters. On a day with the good weather one can see all the way deep into the "Eifel" from the plateau. The plateau features a wooden cross, built in memory of the casualties of the last few months of WW II, and a memorial for the passing of Graf Zeppelin with his airship "Z II" on August 5, 1909, on its way from Frankfurt to Cologne. The Erpeler Ley is also well known among the sports community, who takes part in the many running competitions on Nikolaus day and Easter. These competitions are organized by Erpel's gymnastic and sports association TuS.

Erpel has a very beautifully designed boardwalk along the Rhine. Between the boardwalk and the old city wall passes state road B-42, which was reworked and lifted for more flooding protection during the last two years. The 500 year old city wall still shows one of the gates, the Fronbogen ("soccage gate"), through which one can walk to the historical village center with all its romantic alleys and idyllic tutor houses. Many cafes and restaurants invite you to stay a while.

Erpel under the rule of the church

It is a journey back in time which shows that Erpel once was property of Cologne. Erpel was first mentioned in a document in 1072. 58 years later, in 1130, it was given to the Cologne church chapter. As a consequence Erpel was no longer governed by any worldly ruler. This is where this phrase originated: "A life under a crook is a good one!"

Erpel further features its parish church St. Severinus. It is a late romanesque column basilica, which was built in the early 13th century. The church is know for its bell "Osanna" from 1388. The church tower is a remains of the previous one-nave church, which was built during the 10th century. Legend has it that the previous church hosted the relics of the Three Wise Men in 1164, when arch bishop Rainald von Dassel brought them from Milan, Italy, to Cologne.

Directly in front of the parish church St. Severinus lies the Baroque city hall which was built in 1780 by Ignaz Freeq. At one point in time this was the office of the mayor, which include the villages Orsberg, Heister, Bruchhausen, and Niederkasbach. Between 1816 and 1822 it was the office of the chief district executive Hilgers. Today the renovated building still hosts sessions of the village council and other representative functions. Inside there is more to see than just the Merian engraving of Erpel from 1646.

Village mayor Edgar Neustein has all reason to be proud of the guest book, which was kept over several hundred years, and the church tower clock from 1767, which is being displayed on the first floor of the city hall.


The Ludendorff Bridge's remains are known as a interesting landmark beyond Erpel's borders


Erpel's market place features many historical tutor style houses

The Neutor was built in 1420 as part of a ring wall around the village. Two other gates, the "Linzer Tor" and "Schleidentor" no longer exist. The Rhine gate became part of the Fronhof. During the 14th century many developments went towards Erpel becoming a city: Erpel got market rights in 1420 but never city rights. Wine became the mostly traded good. All the way into the 20th century wine making was of high importance for Erpel. In 1936 there were 91 businesses and shops in Erpel (wine makers included).

Especially beautiful and worth seeing is the triangular shaped market place. It features a sycamore tree, planted in 1887, and a well tower from 1753. Around the market place there are many beautiful tutor houses.

Many things got done in Erpel during the last years as part of a village renovation project "Make our village more beautiful" which went so well, that Erpel received many awards for it on county and state level.

Erpel's citizens are also proud of their village's court of arms: The top shows the three golden crowns of the Three Wise Men on a red background. The black cross on a silver background reminds of the city of Cologne and two golden keys on blue background originate from the oldest official Erpel lay judge seal remind of the rule of the church chapter of Cologne between 1167 and 1803. Many more details can be found on many copper plaques which were posted by the village council on almost every historical structure.

Further reading about history and places of interest

Numerous informational brochures about Erpel are available: starting with association of Erpel's customs and traditions "Friends of Erpel's wine fairs" guide of the art of the parish church St. Severinus, as well as interviews with Edgar Neustein, Heribert Sieberts, Rudolf Volmer, and Willi Christmann ( 2004). In addition there are the "Rhine Area City Atlas" of 1998, published by the Rhine Area Regional Authority, and the book "Erpel". This book is a private publication of the "Institute and Association of Historical Applied Geography" in honor of scientist and professor Dr. Ursula Lewald on her 65th birthday. Lewald published a lot about this Rhine region, lived in Erpel after WW II and died here in 1979.

Text and photos: -Röder-

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