High-water marks

By Frank van Steenbergen

Flood-level marks on the Chapel of St Maximinus

Postcard from Klotten on the Mosel River in Germany.  With the statue of St Maximinus in a small, dedicated chapel. St Maximinus was the 5th bishop of Trier, where Christianity arrived early in history.

Maximinus was a gifted and brave man.  Born in southern France in the early fourth century., he was called to Trier to pursue religious study, eventually around 332 becoming the bishop of this northern outpost of the Roman Empire. These are the formative years of Christianity with rivalries between competing schools, in particular the Arian factions. Maximinus hosted bishop Saint Athanasius from 336-338, who had to leave his seat in Alexandria in Egypt under pressure from the Arian faction, who had their different interpretation of the Holy Trinity, seeing Jesus not as equivalent to God. They also constituted a different power group seeking control over dogma and leadership.

Saint Athanasius was a great admirer of the early desert fathers, who sought silence and hardship to be close to God.  Inspired, Maximinus sent out some of his close disciples to follow hermit lives along the Mosel further north. These became the Saint Castor and Saint Potentinus of Karden, close to Klotten.

Maximinus later also became entangled in the Arian controversy and for a while was forced to leave Trier. One legend from that time has it that Maximinus when ordained to Rome had his pack donkey slain by a bear. When Maximinus spotted the culprit bear he instructed him to now carry the burden. He had the bear obey him until he set him free, making the bear promise never to harm anyone. Ultimately also Maximinus was restored to his position in Trier.

St, Maximinus with his pack bear

The little chapel in Klotten shows Maximinus with the bear tamed by his word. He is also the saint to which people turn to pray to avoid torrential rains: events that would destroy crops and houses, but also would trigger floods in the Mosel. Amazing his chapel in Klotten is situated in what is the flood plain of the Mosel River. The high-water marks on the chapel show the water levels of the floods of 1920, 1924, 1925, 1955 and 1993 – inundating the building. Saint Maximinus stands there unphased as if ready anytime to defy such destructive events.

From the Book of Rain

flood klotten High water maximinus  
August 12, 2023  
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