Sitting on a small island in the Rhein just barely northwest of Bingen, the Mäuseturm (or mouse-tower) is one of my favorite bits of historic architecture I’ve encountered so far. Historical evidence suggests that it was built in the first half of the 14th century, but local legend connects it to the 10th century Bishop Hatto.
Bishop Hatto was the stereotypical greedy nobleman of the area. Though he was already quite wealthy and supported by the Church, he decided it was a good idea to supplement his income by demanding tribute from ships passing along this area of the Rhein. Naturally, building a small, adorable tower on an island was the best way to accomplish this. After a few years of basically robbing his subjects, a season of terrible storms wiped out the entire region’s crops. Instead of helping his famished and suffering people, Bishop Hatto continued to charge ships and lived comfortably with his excessive fortune.
The villagers were desperate. A large group traveled to implore the Bishop’s help, but being the quality character he was, Bishop Hatto laughed and said he’d rather share his stores with the mice.
As if that wasn’t enough, he then led the angered villagers into a barn with the promise of food, locked the barn, and set it on fire.
None of the villagers survived.
However, in the subsequent blaze, thousands upon thousands of mice which had been living in the barn and nearby storehouses quickly scattered and began to search for food elsewhere. They made it all the way to Bishop Hatto’s palace, where they started to devour everything he had. Panic-stricken, Hatto (incorrectly) assumed that mice couldn’t swim and set sail for his tower on the Rhein to escape the furry swarm descending upon him. They followed.
The same mice Bishop Hatto claimed to prefer over his villagers trapped him inside and ate him alive.
I think the two main lessons here are:
1) don’t be greedy/generally inhuman, and
2) MICE CAN SWIM.