I realised that the photos on this blog so far have only shown Schloss Pesch from the front as you enter through the main gate. Holda, the main character in The Devil’s Missal used to enter the grounds from the Herrenbusch, which was easy to do in the 1990s, but the path has now been blocked off and a thick hedge blocks the way from the field at the rear.
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.
Immediately to the right of Schloss Pesch is the old farm which supplied the estate. For nearly three decades it has been used partly as a gallery for wonderful sculptures. The lovely shaped gable in the picture was rebuilt in the late 1990s after it was badly damaged by a falling tree.
Back in the days before the park was remodelled, it was quite common to see deer grazing in the grounds, especially in the early mornings. Of course as the park backs onto the Herrenbusch – you’d expect that.
What fewer people know is that it was also not uncommon to find cows grazing on what would once have been the lawn.
Not that the residents actually kept cows. Behind the row of trees at the back of this image there is a field before you reach the woods. The cows which inhabited that field were quite adventurous and enjoyed making occasional excursions through the hedge to roam the grounds of Schloss Pesch. Back then the residents were quite OK with the cows.
Once the park was tidied up and the lawns relaid, the cows were increasingly discouraged from using them as a pasture. It took a while for the cows to take that message on board though.
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 most engaging aspects of The Devil’s Missal is the eerie setting of Schloss Pesch in Meerbusch for some of the key scenes. Since the events of the book the schloss has been extensively cleaned and renovated, to remove the decay and ghostly atmosphere which is so redolent in the novel. In particular the dilapidated old chapel which plays a crucial role in The Devil’s Missal has been renovated almost beyond recognition. For readers who know what went on there, this will come as a relief…
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.
I chose Schloss Pesch in Meerbusch and the woods surrounding it as the setting for The Devil’s Missal. The atmosphere is perfect for an eerie tale of occult happenings and mystery. These are three photographs I took from an upper window of the Schloss very early one morning before the Rheinland mist had fully cleared.
Views from Schloss Pesch looking east towards Schürkesfeld.
The Devil’s Missal is Cathy Dobson’s latest novel, an intelligently constructed psychological thriller set in the Rhineland, combining classic horror themes with the terrifying history of witchcraft and sexual deviance through the ages, all under the oppressive shadow of a corrupted church.