Bizarre History of Salm

Bizarre History of Salm. Map of Vacquenoux
Bizarre History of Salm. Map of Vacquenoux and surrounding areas.

The Bizarre History of Salm.

In the late 16th century, the small country of Salm appeared peaceful, but the bordering Germanic Empire, embroiled in the Protestant Reformation and the neighboring countries of Lorraine and France as they sought to retain their Catholic heritage, had the small county surrounded.

Bizarre History of Salm – The Coup d’etat
Bizarre History of Salm. The Counts
History of Salm. The Counts.
Photo courtesy Francoise Cordier

Unlike their neighbors, two Counts equally shared Salm’s rule. Count Jean IX de Salm was Catholic and Count Frédéric Sauvage du Rhin et de Salm, called Rhingrave, was Protestant.

On December 29, 1571, the two counts achieved an ingenious coup d’état against the Catholic rule. They called a meeting of representatives of the entire lordship at the Abbey of Senones, hosting a lavish banquet such as the representatives had never seen. During the meal, they asked the attendees if they would accept both counts as their lords.

How could these lowly peasants refuse when they had never been treated with such elegance?

The people agreed, raised their hands, and took the oath of obedience and loyalty to the counts.

The monks and abbots of Senones regarded the coup as null and void and took their case to the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian II. Unfortunately for the abbey, the Emperor found in favor of the counts and the Catholic rule of Salm became a shared rule. This unusual situation gave Salm relative peace during the Wars of Religion, which raged all around them.

Apparently, the shared governance was more difficult than the counts had anticipated, and in 1598, the co-conspirators decided to split the county. However, since economic assets were not spread equally throughout the land, drawing a line would be fiscally unbalanced, regardless of where the line was drawn. Consequently, a bizarre sharing plan, never seen before or since, divided each village in half, giving each count the same numbers of inhabitants and income.

Bizarre History of Salm – Marriage to Lorraine
History of Salm. Francois and Chrestienne
Bizarre History of Salm. Francois and Chrestienne
Photo courtesy Francoise Cordier

Count Jean IX had no heir and left his estate to his niece, Chrestienne, daughter of his brother Paul.

Chrestienne married the son of the Duke of Lorraine,  François de Vaudémont, who inherited only Jean IX’s half of Salm, which was annexed by Lorraine.

Frédéric Sauvage, called Rhingrave and his descendants ruled the other half of Salm until the French Revolution.

On March 2, 1793, what was left of Salm was annexed by the French Republic and the castles and princely estates were sold as national property.



Cordier, Francoise. LES DEMONS DU PAYS DE SALM. 2012 (Print)

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