Himmelsberg and linden tree

The Village Ute Schneidewindt

Himmelsberg is located on a hill, close to heaven. At least the Cistercian monks in the 13th century felt that way. Thus they gave the village the name "Himmelsberg" – Heaven's Hill. It is true. To the southwest of the Mid-hessian town Kirchhain, the village of 200 souls can be found on the hill. Himmelberg is part of Kirchhain. It has a church, about 60 houses, a bakehouse and a community building. Formerly there were also a village school and a tavern. In the past nearly all of Himmelberg's residents were farmers. The water was drawn from the well and the roads were not yet paved. The many children played dodgeball in the church square. In the evenings, the adults met under the huge linden tree and drank cider or beer, all the while relating things that had happened in the village. The book is about these stories. And who better to tell them than the old linden tree which is 1020 years old and heard them all.

The linden tree Ute Schneidewindt

The linden tree in Himmelsberg/Himmelsberg Linden Tree is a special tree. According to the latest measurements it is 1020 years old. Its trunk has a huge circumference. It takes a ring of about five adults to hug the tree. Of course it takes three times as many children, nearly a whole kindergarten class. There are "winter" and "summer" linden trees, commonly known as small-leaved linden and large-leafed linden. The one in Himmelsberg is a large-leafed linden. Its leaves are so big they can offer shelter against rain when held over one's head. The special thing about Himmelsberg's linden is that it is "guided". This means branches were cut and then grafted lower on the trunk so they might grow parallel to the ground at a certain level, branching out in a star-like fashion. The residents of Himmelsberg did this so musicians could sit on the branches to play while the villagers danced around the tree. Since all branches strive skyward to the sun the grafted branches only grow horizontally for a bit and then with a sharp bend continue upward. Such an unnaturally grown tree could never stand straight on its own. So the villagers have built a scaffold under the branches. The linden is grown in such a way that there is room for several children. For the young ones, the linden tree used to be a dollhouse. The kitchen was "downstairs" and up to the left and right the parlor and bedrooms. One may no longer climb the linden tree today since it is old deserves respect. Or in other words: it is now a natural monument and is under protection. Only when the tree appears in the newspaper will exceptions be made. Then an author may sit in the branches so her picture can be taken. And of course Anna Lena, the protagonist of the book, has climbed the tree.

Reading in Himmelsberg

On Sunday, November 21st 2010, the book Heaven's Hill – stories told by Himmelsberg's linden tree was presented in front of a hundred people in Himmelberg's village hall. The mayor of Kirchhain greeted the guests to the reading followed by a book signing. The TV announcer Dr. Hans-Josef Schöneberger read four chapters of the book. The Oberhessische Presse, a regional daily newspaper, reported on the event under the title "Thousand-year-old linden tree learns to speak." And the online newspaper, marburgnews, covered the book launch as well.

arte in Himmelsberg

In September of 2014 a film crew from the French-German channel arte came to Himmelberg. For six days they captured life all around the old linden tree. Whether it was a children's dance group, St. Martin festivities, readings or interviews under the tree, it was a lively week. The documentary filmed in Himmelsberg is part of a documentary series on ten old trees in Europe. The series took air the week of the 26th of October 2015, Himmelsberg's linden tree featuring on the 28th of October.