As you enter the Herrenbusch by Haus Gripswald there is the obligatory information board for visitors complete with map and basic local history. This one has a rather lovely sketch of Haus Gripswald which gives a much better impression of the place than any photograph can, as so much of the house is masked by trees.
The oldest photograph of Schloß Pesch in existence is in the town archives at Krefeld. It shows the schloss prior to the extensions and renovations which were carried out in 1884.
Much has changed at Schloß Pesch since the 1970s. Back then, the schloss was abandoned and in a state of disrepair with peeling paint, cracked plaster, its grounds wild and overgrown. Since then it has been extensively renovated and turned into upmarket apartments. The park has been tamed and the ghosts are firmly discouraged. I found these two videos online which capture the transformation which has taken place.
A number of people have contacted me with questions about the chapel at Schloß Pesch and in particular about what it looked like before the renovation. For those who have not visited Schloß Pesch, the former chapel is situated to the left of the schloss as you approach it, slightly set back from the Rentei (staff quarters) which is the building with the clock tower.
To get a better impression of how the old chapel used to look and what changes have been made to it, there is an excellent collection of photographs on the architect’s website. Well worth a browse.
One of the characters in The Devil’s Missal is a collector of stories. He travels around the various villages of Meerbusch talking to residents, gathering their tales of times past and present, trawling through old photographs, letters and diaries.
As a rural community, many of the anecdotes will have been about life on the land, which has seen great changes in the past century. It seems strange to think that only eighty years ago there were still farmers ploughing with oxen or horses in the area.
One of the secret treasures of Meerbusch is the beautiful chapel of Saint Pankratius at Ossum.
St. Pankriatus Church was built in the 12th century as a private chapel to the Court of Grevenhof. The chapel itself is first documented in 1186, but Roman hand millstones, which were used in the construction of the choir of the chapel, and archeological finds dating from the Carolingian era indicate much earlier settlements.
Unlike other own churches in the region, St. Pankratius never became an independent parish church, but remained as a subsidiary branch of St. Stephanus church in Lank Latum.
In 1868 the Romanesque choir had fallen into disrepair and had to be demolished. It was replaced with a new neo-Romanesque polygonal choir. From 1900, an increase in the local population necessitated the building of an extension of the chapel on the western side.
In The Devil’s Missal the chapel provides a resonant setting for one of the crucial scenes in the story.