Doudeg Fra – Walferdange, Luxembourg - Atlas Obscura

Doudeg Fra

Walferdange, Luxembourg

This cryptic monument honors a mysterious dead woman, despite her identity being lost centuries ago. 

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Alongside an old Roman and Celtic road in Luxembourg stands a marker honoring a mysterious figure known as “the Dead Woman.” Also known as Doudeg Fra or La Femme Morte, the origins of this marker aren’t entirely clear.

One theory is that the site was a location for an ancient sanctuary dedicated to the Roman goddess Diana or to the Alma Mater, a religious symbol of fertility.

Another interpretation of the “Dead Woman” is that it represents Elisabeth of Görlitz (1391–1451). In 1388, King Wencelaus pledged the territory of Luxembourg for his debts against his cousin Jobst of Moravia. After his death in 1409, his widow Elisabeth of Görlitz had been the only Pawnee of Luxembourg. To pay off the debts of her deceased husband, Elisabeth had to sell Luxembourg to the Duke Philippe of Burgundy in 1441.

According to ancient records from the Heiliggeist Monastery, the sale took place at the exact location of the Dead Woman monument using a traditional sales ritual called “hand hitting,” where the seller holds a branch and a handful of soil in their hand and a buyer must hit the seller’s hand until they drop the branch and soil. Legend says that immediately after the sale was completed, Elisabeth of Görlitz said “Now I am a dead woman.” It’s unclear what Elisabeth meant by this and whether her use of the word “dead” should be understood to mean she was “done,” “ineffectual,” or “worthless.” According to tradition, it’s custom to leave offerings of branches at this location and place them with the words “This is for the dead woman.”

Until the middle of the 20th century, Doudeg Fra was marked by a crucifix perched on several stone blocks. However, in 1982 this was replaced by the current marker, which features a carved crucifix scene.

Know Before You Go

The monument sits alongside a hiking trail and has an information placard, picnic table, and trash can nearby. It's a nice place to stop for a picnic with a bit of history. There is trailhead parking only a few minutes away at Huesepad trailhead.

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June 1, 2023

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