The Bruche valley

In the stpes of Oberlin

Wall paintings in Fouday Protestant church © Office de tourisme de la Vallée de la Bruche

Wall paintings in Fouday Protestant church © Office de tourisme de la Vallée de la Bruche

Neuviller-la-Roche - Wildersbach - Rothau - Solbach - Fouday - Waldersbach - Belmont - Bellefosse

The Upper Bruche valley has an exceptionally varied heritage, thanks to its location between Alsace and Lorraine), its seigniorial and its administrative divisions, as well as the coexistence of four different religious denominations (Jews, Catholics, Protestants and Mennonites).
In this valley, the Ban de la Roche County was a French-speaking Protestant enclave and a place of religious tolerance. The Pastor, Jean-Frederic Oberlin, who lived there, remains an emblematic figure and the convictions and devotion of many men have left a rich heritage to the valley.



Start by visiting the Lutheran church of Neuviller-La-Roche. Built in a Neo-Romanesque style in 1859, it still has all the original furnishings. The walls have Bible verses, painted by Riegel, a painter from Strasbourg around 1919-1930..


Take a small mountain road up to Wildersbach where you will find a church in the rue de l'Eglise. Probably built on the site of a prayer room in 1861, it has kept all the original furnishings (alter, pulpit and benches), just like the church of Neuviller-la-Roche. Its tower-porch was built later on in 1891 or 1892.


3km away, visit the imposing Protestant church of Rothau. Built in 1863 and inspired by the Piedmontese Renaissance, this building is one of the rare churches in France to be in a hemicycle shape with a raised front, like the open-air theatres in antiquity. The interior is also quite unusual, with a circular gallery, a Stiers-Mockers organ dating from 1867, and a pulpit on the facade. One may also see in the vestry, an altar cut in sandstone that dates from 1762.


Continue on the D1420 up to Fouday. There, in the main street you'll find a church. It is topped by the last Romanesque bell of the Schirmeck region, kept by the pastor Oberlin who readapted the church in 1777. Inside, do not miss its mural paintings that date from the 14th and 15th centuries and restored in 1998. In the graveyard next to the church you'll find the tombs of Oberlin, his son Henri-Gottfried and, among some other famous people, Louise Scheppler's.


If you stop over at the church in Solbach, you'll see a campanile, a bell-tower just next to the church. Inside, the architecture is very sober, designed in 1860 in a very different style to the one created by Jean Georges Stuber a century earlier.


To get to the next stop, go back to Fouday, then take the D57 towards Waldersbach. In the village, take the time to visit the Oberlin Museum, 25, Montée Oberlin. This former vicarage, renovated in 2002, still hosts precious collections that recount the life of this remarkable 18th century pastor. An interactive museography is designed for adults as well as teenagers and children, with activities specially developed for them.


A few steps away from the museum, visit the Protestant church, where the pastors Jean Georges Stuber and Jean-Frederic Oberlin successively ministered for 12 and 59 years. Outside the church, you'll find the tomb of Oberlin's wife, marked by a funerary monument in the wall. Coming in, you'll notice the tomb where Stuber's wife lies as well as a commemorative monument and a medallion with the head of Oberlin, made by Ohmacht, a German sculptor.


The Bellefosse church is the most recent church of Oberlin's parishes. Built in 1913 by the architect Salomon, who also designed the Temple Neuf church in Strasbourg, it occupies the site of the first school in the village.

Good to know!
Bellefosse was the village of Louise Scheppler. For 50 years she was Oberlin's coworker. She was born in 1763, on a farm further down from the church. A plaque on the wall of the town hall recalls her persevering work as a teacher for under-sixes and as the head of one of the first nursery schools.


Finish your visit of the churches in the valley by the church in Belmont, built on the relics of a 12th century chapel. It was altered many times before being entirely rebuilt by Jean Georges Stuber in 1762. Among the must-sees in the church are two columns representing two faces, with one pulling out its tongue!

Good to know!
It was in Belmont, a few steps away from the church, that one day in September 1769, Oberlin met the young Sarah Banzet. Moved by the care Oberlin showed for small children's education, she gathered the small children of the village in her living room, which was known as her “stove”, in order to teach them how to knit and to tell them stories... This gave Oberlin the idea of creating what he called “knitting stoves” that would later become nursery schools.



In Salm, a 4 mile footpath will lead you through the Mennonite heritage in this area. Discover the exceptional history of a peaceful community attached to the land, from the Anabaptist graveyard to the Kupferschmitt farm.
Find out the details at



With a remarkable vision for the world, Jean-Frederic Oberlin was a popular leader in Alsace in the 18th century. In 1768, he became the pastor of Waldersbach, on the request of his predecessor, Jean Georges Stuber. In this deprived mountainous region, with few land resources, the inhabitants were poor and isolated. Walking in Stuber's footsteps, Oberlin spent his life trying out new methods that left strong marks on the inhabitants' and later generations' lives. Looking for answers to everyday life in the Bible, the pastor created a model of society that led him to build road infrastructures, develop a farming and textile industry, improve health conditions, create « public services » and most of all educate young children. Many activities and organizations were created, and enabled the inhabitants to deepen their faith as well as improve their ways of living.


Site Internet créé par
l'agence web Adipso
localisée à Strasbourg, Alsace