ALSACAT -> Homeclick!
Cette page en françaisCliquez!

ALSACAT:

As its name suggests, ALSACAT is my comprehensive catalog of UFO sighting reports in Alsace, the region is the North-East of France, whether they are "explained" or "unexplained".

The ALSACAT catalog is made of case files with a case number, summary, quantitative information (date, location, number of witnesses...), classifications, all sources mentioning the case with their references, a discussion of the case in order to evaluate its causes, and a history of the changes made to the file. A general index and thematic sub-catalogs give access to these Alsatian case files.

Case of Thann, on June 30, 1161:

Case number:

ALSACAT-1161-06-30-THANN-1

Summary:

French ufologist Jacques Vallee, echoed by others later, told in 1965 that in Thann, Alsace, "a chapel was built in 1160 after three lights were observed over a fir tree", in 1160.

In 2009, he came back on the story, now dated 1161, indicating that three lights "or luminous objects" were seen by "the Lord of Engelburg" at "the village of Thann" in Alsace.

He says a servant of Ubald, bishop of Umbria, had stolen a relic from the saint's body, hiding it in his walking stick, which he planted in the ground next to a pine tree, then three lights were seen arriving at the top of the tree, and the next morning the servant found his stick locked into the ground and he was unable to pick it up. This had impressed the people so much that they built a chapel to celebrate the "miracle."

He added that every year on June 30 in Thann and even today, three fir trees are burned in reference to the three lights, in front of the main church in the celebration of the legend of the founding of the city.

His version is a rather distorted version of a highly dubious local legend, there was little reason to suggest that there had been three "UFOs" seen there. The servant did not steal anything, he inherited a ring from his bishop. There is no "Lord of Engelburg", it was the count of Ferrette; who would have seen in a distance obviously, the lights in the direction of Vieux Thann from his Engelbourg manor - now the location of the famous "Eye of the Witch " on a hill overlooking the present city of Thann. Some versions say that the lights had sprung from the servant's stick.

As for me, for reasons of date, fir trees and local pagan customs, I wonder whether the Count of Ferrette had just seen some "St-John's fires" - people from the region burning fir trees to celebrate the coming of the Summer.

Data:

Temporal data:

Date: June 30, 1161?
Time: Evening?
Duration: ?
First known report date: 1161? 1628?
Reporting delay: Minutes? Years? Centuries?

Geographical data:

Department: Haut-Rhin
City: Thann
Place: Manor of the Count of Ferrette, or castle of Engelbourg, hill near Thann.
Latitude: 47.814
Longitude: 7.101
Uncertainty ratio: 100 m

Witnesses data:

Number of alleged witnesses: 1
Number of known witnesses: 0
Number of named witnesses: 1
Witness(es) ages: ?
Witness(es) types: Count of Ferrette.

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: Local legend.
Type of location: Hills at the start of the Vosges mountains.
Visibility conditions: Night?
UFO observed: Yes
UFO arrival observed: ?
UFO departure observed: ?
Entities: No
Photographs: No.
Sketch(s) by witness(es): No.
Sketch(es) approved by witness(es): No.
Witness(es) feelings: ?
Witnesses interpretation: ?

Classifications:

Hynek: ?
ALSACAT: Possible "Saint-John fires" pagan feast, possible non-event.

Sources:

[Ref. jv1:] JACQUES VALLEE:

Jacques Vallée indicates that in Thann, Alsace, a chapel was built in 1160 after three lights had been observed over a fir tree.

[Ref. fl1:] FERNAND LAGARDE - "LUMIERES DANS LA NUIT" GROUP:

Thann has its legend of lights.

On the death of Théobaldus or Ubaldus, also called Dieboldus, pious bishop who lived in Umbria until 1161, his loyal servant tried to take the ring from his right thumb, a gift from his master. He pulled over, but he realized with horror that the joint of the finger was still in his hand.

Considering that it was the will of God, he took the road to his country after enclosing the sacred object in the knob of his stick. Heading to the Netherlands, he was surprised by the night at the foot of the castle of Engelburg; overcome by fatigue, he fell asleep after putting his stick against a tree. Wanting to continue his journey, he tried to hand his stick, but low and behold he found it impossible to move the stick that had become one with the tree and the earth. In vain, he tried to unscrew the knob to remove the precious object; he got scared and ran around to call farmers and loggers to his aid. They flocked in large numbers to see the miracle.

The Lord of Engelburg, Count Engelhard or Frederick of Pfirt the Young, saw, from the window of the castle, three lights that rose above a large tree in the forest. Suspecting that something was quite unusual, he ran with all his servants, and found there a crowd of people who flocked from far away.

He vowed to build a chapel to the glory of God at this place; then he took the stick (the knob is left unscrewed) and was able to take it.

Remembering this memorable event, the town of Thann has a tree in his insigna, and there was a tree on coins minted from 1418 to 1628.

This story appears in many books. We quote the Joanne guide of 1868, various guides, Legends of Alsace mysterious Editions Tchou, etc.

It is interesting to note that the BAVIC line orthotenic defined by A. Michel passes through the town of Thann.

[Ref. cp1:] CHRISTIANE PIENS:

In the year1160 a miracle occurred in Thann (Haut-Rhin). A servant of the deceased Théobaldus of Umbria walked to the Netherlands with, locked in a knob of his cane, the right thumb of his master. One night, he fell asleep at the foot of the castle of Engelburg in Alsace. When he awoke, he was unable to take the stick, which seemed to be tuck to the tree, and unable to undo the precious hilt. He became frightened and called farmers and loggers for help who contemplated the wonder. The Lord of Engelburg noticed from a window of the castle three lights that rose above a tall pine tree in the forest. Realizing that something unusual was going on, he ran with his servants to also witness the miracle. He vowed to build a chapel, after that the stick could be removed. Around this chapel, grew the city of Thann that carries a tree in its insigna in memory of this event.

The author indicates at the end of the chapter that the source is F. Lagarde and the Lumières Dans La Nuit group, "Mystérieuses Soucoupes Volantes", Albatros, 1973, pp. 283-284.

[Ref. mb1:] MICHEL BOUGARD:

The author indicates that it is in 1160 that appeared "three strange lights above the town of Thann (Alsace)" and a chapel was built on the site of the apparition to commemorate the "miracle".

[Ref. fr1:] MICHEL FIGUET AND JEAN-LOUIS RUCHON:

In 1160, three weird lights were observed above the city of Thann (Alsace).

[Ref. ri1:] ROBERT ITURRALDE:

A luminous cross was seen in 1118 between Gisors and Neautles-Sa-Martin. A similar event took place in Thaun [sic] Alsace, where a chapel was built in 1160 after three lights had been observed over a fir tree. As we see, the presence of UFOs right away creates a religious feeling with a sense of wonder, and our consciousness is neatly manipulated to see a reality that it not real, only a projection of a higher intelligence.

[Ref. ls1:] "LEON SUDJOYQUE":

1160 or 1161 – Thann (Alsace).

Three weird lights appeared above the city of Thann, a chappel was built at the place of the appearance to commemorate the miracle.

[Ref. va1:] JACQUES VALLEE AND CHRIS AUBECK:

1161, Thann, Alsace, France
Three lights in the sky

Three lights or luminous objects were observed by the Lord of Engelburg over the village of Thann, in Alsace, in 1161. A servant of Ubald, bishop of Ombrie, had stolen a relic from the Saint's body, hiding it in his walking stick, which he planted in the ground next to a pine tree. Three aerial lights were seen coming over the top of the tree. The next morning the servant found his stick immobilized and was unable to pick it up. This impressed people so much that they built a chapel to commemorate the 'miracle.'

Each year in Thann, on the 30t h of June, three fir-trees (in reference to the three lights) are cremated in front of the main church in celebration of this foundation legend. The celebration is known as the "cremation des trois sapins" and still occurs today.

Source: Johannes Andreas Schenck, Sanctus Theobaldus (Freiburg, 1628).

[Ref. ud1:] "UFODNA" WEBSITE:

In 1160:

Thann, Alsace, France

Hynek rating: DD

The sources are indicated as: "Vallee, Jacques, Anatomy of a Phenomenon, Henry Regnery, Chicago, 1965."

[Ref. ru1:] "RENCONTRE UFO" WEBSITE:

Three lights 1 160
1161 Thann (Alsace, France)

Three strange lights appeared above the town of Thann, a chapel was built on the site of the apparition to commemorate the miracle.

Skynet and Ufologie
Christiane Piens
Les Ovni du passé
Marabout Pub. 1977 page 47.

[Ref. ta1:] "THINK ABOUT IT" WEBSITE:

Date: 1161

Location: Thann, Alsace, France

Time:

Summary: Three lights or luminous objects were observed by the Lord of Engelburg over the village of Thann, in Alsace, in 1161. A servant of Ubald, bishop of Ombrie, had stolen a relic from the Saint’s body, hiding it in his walking stick, which he planted in the ground next to a pine tree. Three aerial lights were seen coming over the top of the tree. The next morning the servant found his stick immobilized and was unable to pick it up. This impressed people so much that they built a chapel to commemorate the ‘miracle.’ Each year in Thann, on the 30th of June, three fir-trees (in reference to the three lights) are cremated in front of the main church in celebration of this foundation legend. The celebration is known as the “cremation des trois sapins” and still occurs today.

Source: Johannes Andreas Schenck, Sanctus Theobaldus (Freiburg, 1628)

Discussion:

In Thann, every June 30, near the Saint Theobald Collegiate the traditional feast of "The cremation of the three fir trees" takes place.

The three fir trees that are burned are supposed to remember three lights that shone in the night of June 30, 1161.

According to the legend, the town of Thann takes its origin in a miracle attributed to "Saint Theobald", Bishop of Gubbio, Umbria, Italy. (Ubaldo or Ubald (1085? - 1160) was the Dean of St. Augustine of Gubbio, then bishop, and was proclaimed a saint in 1192. He is the man revered in Thann under the name of "Saint Theobald".)

The legend is as follows. On May 16, 1160, Ubaldo dies in Gubbio, Umbria, Italy. He had spent his life serving god by exemplary piety and boundless charity. Feeling he would soon die, the holy man told his servant: "When I'm on my deathbed, you will take the gold ring off my right thumb and you will carry it forth to your home country as a reward for your faithful services." Ubaldo had distributed all his possessions to the poor and wanted to give something valuable to his faithful servant.

The servant was from the Netherlands, or Lorraine, depending on the version. He did what his master had commanded him, but was amazed to see that when trying to remove the ring, the bishop's thumb went off with it. It is said that such was the will of god, so he shut the precious relic in the sack of his stick and set off immediately to return to his home country.

After an arduous journey through the Alps and the Sundgau (southern Haut-Rhin in Alsace), he arrived on the 1st July 1160 at the current location of Thann. Exhausted, he lay at the foot of a tall tree against which he put his stick (other versions say he planted his stick in the ground) and he fell asleep.

The sun was about to rise when he woke up, and he quickly stood up to resume his trip and cross the mountain through nearly Urbès. But a prodigy occurred: he was unable to remove the stick from the tree he rested it against. Troubled and trembling, he alerted the nearby hamlet's residents and they gathered around him.

The lord of the nearby castle, Count Engelhardt of Ferrette, joined them because from his window, he had seen three bright lights above the tree that held the stick - or three trees, depending on the version. Considering that it was a divine intervention, he promised to build a chapel there, to the glory of god and St. Theobald.

Another version says that the servant had left his stick in his hand, and when he wanted to resume his journey, he found that the stick had taken root and at its upper end three lights had sprung. They were then seen by Count Engelhard of Ferrette from his Engelbourg castle.

A second miracle then occurred: the stick could be lifted without difficulty and the sack opened, so the relic was remove and brought to the church of the neighboring hamlet of Vieux-Thann. It was later exposed at the chapel the Count built on the site of the miracle.

There were other "miracles" attributed to Theobald; which attracted pilgrims in increasing numbers. The chapel became too small and was then replaced by a larger and beautiful church, which gradually was surrounded by houses. A hamlet, then a village, then a town formed what is now the town of Thann.

The relic preserved in the church in a precious crystal monstrance has long been taken for the legendary thumb, but tests the nineteenth and twentieth centuries proved that it was actually a fragment of hardened skin. In 1975, the body of St. Theobald kept in a glass shrine in Gubbio was thoroughly checked and it was found that the fragment of skin was taken from the outside of the right atrial of Ubaldo probably a long time ago.

Several historians, however, ensure that the relic arrived in Thann between 1303 and 1310 only, or may be between 1307 and 1310. It was only in 1310 that the first local church was built. Another historian shows that the so-called "Saint Thiebaut" worshipped in Thann has nothing to do with the bishop of Gubbio, he was an archbishop of Vienna of the same name, and confusion occurred later.

The cremation the fir trees is a very old tradition already attested in a written document in 1458. The term "cremation" is relatively recent. In the nineteenth century, it was called "burning" or "incineration" of "fagots." In German, the term "Fackeln" (torches or candles) was used; which reflects an undeniable link with pagan St. John fires.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII decided in his "Inter gravissimas" rule that Thursday, October 4, 1582 would be followed immediately by Friday, October 15, 1582, to compensate for the lag of about three days per 400 years between the official calendar and the astronomical reality, a gap accumulated over the centuries. It is therefore possible that the burning of the fir trees was actually a reinterpretation of Saint John fires: they are lit on June 21, normally. With the change of the calendar we get the offset from June 30, as before 1700, it was considered that the offset is of 10 days (it increases by one day every millennium).

The Feast of St. John is a pre-Christian tradition, usually consisting of large fires. It goes on nowadays in almost all towns in the country of Thann where fir tree wood from the nearby forests is burned. To Christians, the party is supped to celebrate John the Baptist on June 24, but its pagan origin is linked to the summer solstice. It is close to the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere; which takes place most frequently on June 21, but exceptionally June 19, June 20, and rarely on June 22.

It is therefore possible that the Count of Ferrette had just seen Saint John fires.

One thing seems pretty certain: then there is absolutely nothing reliable in this story, and nothing that justifies calling this a UFO sighting report.

Above:

Print of the Engelbourg castle before its destruction.


Above:

Remains of its dungeon now called "The Witch's Eye".

In the 1968 Joanne guide "Itinéraire général de la France: Vosges et Ardennes" [jo1], cited as source by [fl1], I did not find a mention of the legend.

Evaluation:

Possible "Saint-John fires" pagan feast, possible non-event.

Sources references:

* = Source is available to me.
? = Source I am told about but could not get so far. Help needed.

File history:

Authoring:

Main author: Patrick Gross
Contributors: None
Reviewers: None
Editor: Patrick Gross

Changes history:

Version: Create/changed by: Date: Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross March 12, 2014 Creation, [jv1], [fr1], [ls1], [ri1], [va1], [ud1].
1.0 Patrick Gross March 12, 2014 First published.
1.1 Patrick Gross May 23, 2014 Additions [mb1], [ru1], [ta1].
1.2 Patrick Gross August 18, 2014 Additions, [fl1], [cp1]. In the Discussion, addition of the paragraph "In the 1968 Joanne guide..."

Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict



 Feedback  |  Top  |  Back  |  Forward  |  Map  |  List |  Home
This page was last updated on August 18, 2014.