Castles in Germany: Medieval Fortresses, Burgen, Festung, and Schlosser, Part 1

German Medieval Castles and Fortresses

(Burgen, Festung und Schlosser)

(Author's artwork)

My version of Albrecht Durer's Medieval German Knight with a castle (also known as a Schloss, Berg or Festung).  

Oil on canvas, 16 X 20.

My father served with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) at 3 (F) Wing, Zweibrücken, Germany, (1959-1963),

and often took our family castle hunting throughout our time in Europe.  This generated a huge interest for me in

exploring and examining these historic time capsules.  After I joined the Army, I too had the extraordinary privilege

of serving with Head Quarters Canadian Forces Europe (HQ CFE) based at CFB Lahr, from 1981 to 1983, and with

4 CMBG also based at CFB Lahr, from 1989 to 1992.  I have explored, photographed, painted pictures and

documented castles from one end of Europe to the other, and you will find other pages describing some of them

on this website.  This page is specifically dedicated to medieval castles in Germany, and some of their history as a

supplement to the other pages on castles near Zweibrücken, Baden-Soellingen, and Lahr on this web site.  I hope

you find them interesting.

Canadian Forces Europe (CFE) consisted of two formations in what was known as West Germany before the Berlin

Wall fell in November 1990.  These formations included Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Lahr with 4 Canadian

Mechanized Brigade Group (4 CMBG) (1957-1993), and No. 1 Canadian Air Division (1 CAD), RCAF, at CFB

Base Baden-Soellingen and CFB Base Lahr, which later became No. 1 Canadian Air Group (1 CAG).  Both

formations were closed in 1993 with the end of the Cold War.  Many Canadian families took the opportunity to

explore and tour the countryside surrounding these communities, and some of these castles may be very familiar to you.

The 12th century castle near Lahr named Hohengeroldseck, and a secondary castle overlooking it, Schloss

Lutzelhardt near Seelbach were two that most would have visited.  There are many more and the aim of this page

is to tell you a bit some of them that stand further afield.

Burgruine Hohengeroldseck, Seelbach.  The castle, of which the approximately 10 m high outer walls (lower castle)

and the main building (upper castle) have been preserved, was built around 1260 as the family seat of the Lords of

Geroldseck.  After an eventful history, it was destroyed by French soldiers in 1688.

(Lahr Historical Society Photo)

Lahr: Burg Hohengeroldseck, as it appeared before its destruction in the 1689.  The castle was built ca 1270 on the

Seelbacher Schönberg mountain between Schutter and Kinzigtal in the Ortenau, not far from Offenburg and Lahr.

Hohengeroldseck was a state of the Holy Roman Empire, and it served as the family seat of the Lords of Geroldseck,

initially under Walther I von Geroldseck.  

Lahr: Profile of Hohengeroldseck before its destruction.

The Geroldseck family had initially built a small castle, first mentioned in 1139, on the edge of the Gengenbach

monastery area (called Rauhkasten, and later Alt-Geroldseck).  The family prospered in the 13th century and chose

a more suitable location to build a more impressive fortification, c1250/60.  c1260, they supported the Bishop of

Strasbourg, who shortly afterwards was overthrown by the Strasbourg citizens in a battle in 1262 and died shortly

afterwards.  Ownership of the castle began to divide in 1277, through inheritances, and again in 1301 and in 1370.

Claims on the castle were made by the Counts of Moers-Saar Werden, resulting in the Geroldsecker War of 1433

in which they were unsuccessful.  In 1434 and 1470 the ownership of the castle was further partitioned.  c1473/1474,

the city of Strasbourg besieged the castle without success.  In the power struggle between the Habsburgs and the

Electoral Palatinate, the castle was again besieged, captured and occupied until 1504, by Count Palatine Philipp.

The castle was administered by the Margraves of Baden until c1534, when the Geroldsecker family was again

permitted to inhabit the castle.  When Dautenstein Castle was converted into a Renaissance castle in 1599, the

Geroldsecker family moved there.  When the Geroldsecker family died out in 1634, the castle came into the

possession of the Counts of Cronberg (Taunus).  In the Palatinate War of Succession, the castle was set on fire

when the French left in 1689.  A planned expansion to the fortress did not take place in the following period,

with the exception of a few earthworks.  In 1692, the ruins were awarded to the Barons von der Leyen.

The earliest contruction work done on Geroldseck Castle took place in the 13th century.  The castle was built

with two strong residential buildings in the form of a large double palace.  Much of the building is Gothic in form,

including windows and door walls, dating some of the work to the 14th century.  Few of the original 13th century

works have survived, and those are mainly in the lower parts of the building.  In 1390 the complex was destroyed

by lightning.  No reliable information is available about the extent of the restoration after the castle was partly

destroyed again in 1486. Hohengeroldseck was destroyed for the final time by the French in 1689 and has been in

ruins ever since.  From 1883 repair work has been carried out on the castle ruins.  At the beginning of the 1950s,

a new spiral staircase was installed in the tower of the rear hall. Since 1958, the castle has been maintained by an

association based in Seelbach.

Access to the castle is gained through a Renaissance era or early Baroque gate to a bastion, then through the late

medieval (heavily restored) main gate and then by an older gate into the lower courtyard.  The lower castle

extends as a wide court around the oval core castle, which is raised on a porphyry rock.  A defendable well

house with its outer walls seems to date from the 14th century.  The well shaft is estimated to be 65 m deep, but

is partially filled at present.  The remains of a building with a stair tower belong to the 16th century, as do the

remains of a building in the southeast corner of the lower castle.  An older cistern there was vaulted.  An exposed,

lower-lying forge with a sandstone trough dates from the time before the partial destruction in 1486.  There are

additional traces of the wall in the ground above the gate chamber.

One of the two palas buildings in the main castle is in good condition, the other is only preserved in sparse, heavily

restored remains.  Inside, on the high mantle wall between the two palace buildings, there was a low kitchen,

flanked by two round stair towers that opened up the palace buildings.  In addition to the stair tower, which has

been preserved up to the eaves of the stone roof, the well-preserved palace building also shows many structural

details such as rectangular windows, pointed arched windows, chimneys, a possible toilet niche and the remains

of a stair gable.  The main building of the palace is believed to have taken place in the 14th century.  The remains

of the initial 13th century castle are few, although elements can be seen in the lower masonry.

(Hugo Schneider Map)

Hohengeroldseck Schlossberg, Seelbach, Germany, ground plan.

(Bully's from Hohengeroldseck Photo)

Aerial view of Hohengeroldseck.

For those Canadian families who lived near 4 (F) Wing Baden-Soellingen, No. 1 Canadian Air Division (1 CAD),

RCAF, later No. 1 Canadian Air Group (1 CAG), there are many castles close to the what was CFB Baden-Soellingen before it closed in 1993.  Burg Hohenbaden would be one of them most would be familiar with.

(Muck Photo)

Baden-Baden: Burg Hohenbaden (Alten Schloß Baden-Baden), was the seat of the Margraves of Baden in the

Middle Ages.  They named themselves after the castle, which gave the state of Baden its name.  The castle was built

as the first dominion center of the Margraves of Limburg after the relocation of their rule to the Upper Rhine on the

western slope of the rocky mountain Battert above what was then called Baden.  The construction of the upper castle,

the so-called Hermannsbaus, by Margrave Hermann II (1074–1130) is assumed to have started around 1100.  From

1112 the Margraves of Baden named themselves after the castle. Under Margrave Bernhard I of Baden (1372–1431)

the Gothic lower castle was built, which was expanded by Margrave Jakob I (1431–1453) to become the representative

center of the margraviate.

The most important component is the Bernhard Building (around 1400), whose column on the ground floor with a

coat of arms carried by angels once supported the mighty vault.  In its heyday, the castle had 100 rooms.  In the

same century, Margrave Christoph I expanded the New Castle, which was begun in 1370, in the city of Baden and

moved the residence there in 1479. The old castle then served as a widow's residence, but in 1599 it was destroyed

by fire.  The ruins were not structurally secured until after 1830.  It was later looked after by the State Palaces and

Gardens of Baden-Württemberg.

The old castle has belonged to Wolfgang Scheidtweiler since 2017. From its tower you have a good panoramic

view of Baden-Baden and a distant view of the Rhine plain and the Vosges. The castle courtyard of the ruin is

also worth seeing. The castle and tower can be visited free of charge. There is a restaurant in the castle. The castle

is a popular starting point for hikes on the Battert with its scenic, protected climbing rocks and a protected forest.

A large wind harp stands in the ruins of the great hall of the old castle.

The harp, which was set up in 1999, has a total height of 4.10 meters and 120 strings, it was developed and built

by the local musician and harp maker Rüdiger Oppermann, who called it the largest wind harp in Europe. The nylon

strings are stimulated by the draft to produce the basic notes C and G. From 1851 to 1920 there was a small wind

harp in the knight's hall of the old castle.  (Baden-Württemberg I. Die Regierungsbezirke Stuttgart und Karlsruhe.

München 1993)

Ground plan of Burg Hohenbaden.

Burg Hohenbaden in the 15th century, illustration by Wolfgan Braun.

(Stadtwiki Photo)
Aerial view of Burg Hohenbaden.

(Martin Dürrschnabel Photo)

Burg Hohenbaden.

(Muck Photo)

Schloss Hohenbaden.

German Medieval Castles

There are more than 25,000 documented castles and palaces (Burgen and Schlosser) in Germany.  This page focuses

on the medieval castles with a few photos and some of the documentation describing their history anda few pieces of

my artwork.  More detailed information can be found on Wikipedia.  If I missed any that you think should be included,

please let me know.

Burg Eltz, near the Mosel River, Germany, Oil on canvas, 18 X 24.  (Author's artwork, from photos taken 8 Oct 1981, 9 July 1982, and May 2008)

(Author Photo, May 2008)

Burg Eltz, near the Mosel River Germany.  Of more than 500 castles in the Rhineland Palatinate region this is one

of only three to have survived the many wars and destruction in the region mostly intact since the 11th century.

The Eltz family occupied the castle in the 12th century, and then continued to make renovations and additions for

centuries afterwards. For this reason it wasn’t fully completed until between 1490 and 1540.  The 80-room castle

is still occupied today, and looks much as it would have hundreds of years ago.  The castle is one of the few in the

area that survived the Thirty Years’ War.  The French did not destroy the castle thanks to its location, and some

skilled diplomacy on the part of the landowners.

It is a good walk to get to, up and down a number of hills and forest tracks through a beautiful area and a

breathtaking view of the castle.  Burg Eltz is one of the hundreds of castles examined by the author while

researching material for the book "Siegecraft".  Burg Eltz is, in this author's opinion, the most interesting of them all.  

(Francisco Conde Sánchez Photo)

Eltz Castle (Burg Eltz) is a medieval castle nestled in the hills above the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier.

It is still owned by a branch of the same family (the Eltz family) that lived there in the 12th century, 33 generations

ago.  Bürresheim Castle, Eltz Castle and Lissingen Castle are the only castles on the left bank of the Rhine in Rhineland-

Palatinate which have never been destroyed.

The castle is surrounded on three sides by the Elzbach River, a tributary on the north side of the Moselle.  It stands

on a 70-metre (230 ft) rock spur, on an important Roman trade route between rich farmlands and their markets.

The Eltz Forest has been declared a nature reserve by Flora-Fauna-Habitat and Natura 2000.

The castle is a so-called Ganerbenburg, a castle belonging to community of joint heirs.  This is a castle divided

into several parts, which belong to different families or different branches of a family; this usually occurs when

multiple owners of one or more territories jointly build a castle to house themselves.  Only wealthy medieval

European lords could afford to build castles or equivalent structures on their lands; many of them only owned

one village, or even only part of a village.  This was an insufficient base to afford castles.  Such lords usually

lived in "knight's houses", which were fairly simple houses, scarcely bigger than those of their tenants.  In some

parts of the Holy Romain Empire of the German Nation, inheritance law required that the estate be divided among

all successors.  These successors, each of whose individual inheritance was too small to build a castle of his own,

could build a castle together, where each owned one separate part for housing and all of them together shared the

defensive fortification.  In the case of Eltz, the family comprised three branches and the existing castle was enhanced

with three separate complexes of buildings.

The main part of the castle consists of the family portions.  At up to eight stories, these eight towers reach heights

of between 30 and 40 metres (98 and 131 ft).  They are fortified with strong exterior walls; to the yard they present

a partial framework.  About 100 members of the owners' families lived in the over 100 rooms of the castle.  A

village once existed below the castle, on its southside, which housed servants, craftsman, and their families supporting the castle.

Platteltz, a Romanesque keep, is the oldest part of the castle, having begun in the 9th century as a simple manor

with an earthen palisade.  By 1157 the fortress was an important part of the empire under Frederick Barbaross,

standing astride the trade route from the Moselle Valley and the Eifel region.  In the years 1331–1336, there

occurred the only serious military conflicts that the castle experienced.  During the Eltz Feud, the lords of Eltzer,

together with other free imperial knights, opposed the territorial policy of the Archbishop and Elector Balduin von

Trier.  The Eltz Castle was put under siege and possible capture and was bombarded with catapults by the

Archbishop of the Diocese of Trier.  A small siege castle, Trutzeltz Castle, was built on a rocky outcrop on the

hillside above the castle, which can still be seen today as a few ruined walls outside of the northern side of the

castle.  The siege lasted for two years, but ended only when the free imperial knights had given up their imperial

freedom. Balduin reinstated Johann again to the burgrave, but only as his subjects and no longer as a free knight.

In 1472 the Rübenach house, built in the Late Gothic style, was completed.  Remarkable are the Rübenach Lower

Hall, a living room, and the Rübenach bedchamber with its opulently decorated walls.

Started in 1470 by Philipp zu Eltz, the 10-story Greater Rodendorf House takes its name from the family's land

holding in Lorraine.  The oldest part is the flag hall with its late Gothic vaulted ceiling, which was probably

originally a chapel. Construction was completed around 1520.  The (so-called) Little Rodendorf house was finished

in 1540, also in Late Gothic style. It contains the vaulted "banner-room".  The Kempenich house replaced the o

riginal hall in 1615.  Every room of this part of the castle could be heated; in contrast, other castles might only

have one or two heated rooms.

In the Palatinate War of Succession from 1688 to 1689, most of the early Rhenish castles were destroyed.  Since

Hans Anton was a senior officer in the French army to Eltz Üttingen, he was able to protect the castle Eltz from destruction.  Count Hugo Philipp zu Eltz was thought to have fled during the French rule on the Rhine from 1794

to 1815.  The French confiscated his possessions on the Rhine and nearby Trier which included Eltz castle, as well

as the associated goods which were held at the French headquarters in Koblenz.  In 1797, when Count Hugo Philipp

later turned out to have remained hidden in Mainz, he came back to the reclaim of his lands, goods and wealth.

In 1815 he became the sole owner of the castle through the purchase of the Rübenacher house and the landed

property of the barons of Eltz-Rübenach.

In the 19th century, Count Karl zu Eltz was committed to the restoration of his castle.  In the period between 1845

and 1888, 184,000 marks (about 15 million euros in 2015) was invested into the extensive construction work, very

carefully preserving the existing architecture.  Extensive security and restoration work took place between the

years 2009 to 2012.  Among other things, the vault of flags hall was secured after it was at risk of partially

collapsing walls and the porch of the Kempenich section.  In addition to these static repairs, almost all the slate

roofs were replaced.  Structural problems were remedied in the ceiling and wood damage was repaired.  In the

interior, heating and sanitary facilities, windows and fire alarm system were renewed, and also historic plaster

was restored.  The half-timbered facades and a spiral staircase were renovated at the costs of around €4.4 million.

The measures were supported by a €2 million grant from an economic stimulus package provided by the German

federal government.  The state of Rhineland-Palatinate, the German Foundation for Monument Protection and

the owners provided further funds.

The Rübenach and Rodendorf families' homes in the castle are open to the public, while the Kempenich branch

of the family uses the other third of the castle.  The public is admitted seasonally, from April to October.  Visitors

can view the treasury, with gold, silver and porcelain artifacts and the armory of weapons and suits of armour.

From 1965 to 1992, an engraving of Eltz Castle was used on the German 500 Deutsche Mark note.

(de Fabianis, Valeria, ed. (2013). Castles of the World. New York: Metro Books)

(Johannes Dörrstock Photo)

Burg Eltz, morning view.

(Author Photo)

Burg Eltz.

(Blueduck4711 Photo, 17 July 2010)

Mayen: Schloss Bürresheim is a medieval northwest of Mayen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany.  It is built on rock in

the Eifel mountains above the Nette.  Bürresheim Castle, Eltz Castle and Lissingen Castle are the only castles on the

left bank of the Rhine in Rhineland-Palatinate which have never been destroyed.  It was inhabited until 1921 and is

now a museum operated by the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage, Rhineland-Palatinate.

(Vincent van Zeijst Photo)

Schloss Bürresheim.

(Wolfenkratzer Photo)

Schloss Bürresheim, aerial view.

(Asio otus Photo)

Burg Altena is a medieval hill castle in the town of Altena in North Rhine-Westphalia.  Built on a spur of Klusenberg hill, the castle lies near the Lenne in the Märkischer Kreis.  The castle was built early in the 12th century by the Counts of Berg.  They eventually abandoned Altena and moved their residence to Hamm.

The castle may have been built by the brothers Adolf and Everhard von Berg around the year 1108 after Henry V granted them land in the Sauerland for their loyal services.  They built their castle on Wulfseck Mountain, naming it Wulfeshagen, later Altena.  This is one of the several legends of the establishment of the county of Altena and the building of the castle.

After the acquisition of the parish land of Mark near the city of Hamm in 1198, the counts of Altena took Mark Castle as their primary residence and called themselves the Counts of the Mark.  They only occasionally inhabited Altena Castle, and from 1392 onward it was only used as a residence for the county bailiff (Amtmann).  Count Engelbert III of the Mark gave the small settlement at the base of the mountain the rights of liberty (such as self-governance).  In 1455 the castle burned down and was only re-erected partially.

In the Brandenburg-Prussian era, the castle became a garrison until it was sold to the town of Altena in 1771.  In the following years an almshouse and a workhouse was established there.  This existed until 1840.  From 1766 to 1811 there existed a criminal court and prison in the castle.  By 1834 the castle had greatly deteriorated and needed to be rebuilt.  Due to lack of funds, however, this was not carried out.  The Johanniter Order set up a hospital in the buildings.

Due to the 300 year-anniversary of the membership of the County of Mark to Brandenburg-Prussia in 1909 plans for a reconstruction of the castle began.  In 1914 this was completed, apart from the outer bailey and lower gatehouse.  There was a controversial debate about the modes of reconstruction, where the preference of historic designs over the medieval and early modern architecture was criticised.  In 1918 the last works were completed.

In 1914, Richard Schirrmann established the world's first youth hostel within the castle, which is still in use today (Jugendherberge Burg Altena).  The original rooms are a museum today.  The youth hostel continues to run at a location on the lower castle court yard, opened in 1934.  Today the castle is symbol of the town of Altena and a tourist attraction.  The entry ticket is also valid for the nearby Deutsche Drahtmuseum (German Wire Museum).  During the first weekend of August a yearly Medieval Festival takes place in the castle and town.  Part of the castle is used as a restaurant.  (Ernst Dossmann: Auf den Spuren der Grafen von der Mark. 3. Auflage. Mönning, Iserlohn 1992)

(Dr. Gregor Schmitz Photo)

Burg Altena, aerial view.

(Frank Vincentz Photo)

Burg Altena. view from Lüdenscheider Straße.

(Asio otus Photo)

Burg Altena. view from Bismarckstrasse.

(Crossbill Photo)

Burg Balduinseck (Baldeneck) is a ruined hilltop castle in Hunsrück.  It stands 300 m above sea level on a hill about 20 meters above the confluence of the Wohnrother Back and the Schumbach to the Mörsdorger in the district of Buch in the Rhine-Hunsrück district in Rhineland-Palatinate.  Archbishop Baldwin of Trier acquired the site in 1325 after a truce arranged with Ritter Richard and Ritter Wirich, leading to the right to build a castle on it.  The castle was built in spite of a number of interruptions, in 1331.  Its purpose was primarily to counted Kastellaun Castle in the county of Sponheim.  Its construction appears to have taken inspiration from Western models, particularly the French donjon style.

The castle was built on a narrow rock spur, and served as the official seat of the Trier administrative district of the same name.  When the seat was moved to Zell in the 16th century, the castle became largely insignificant.  Owners and administrators often changed, because Balduinseck always remained part of the Trier electoral state.  In 1675 the office building was leased.  In 1711 the castle fell into neglect and in 1780 it was declared dilapidated.  It does not appear to have suffered damage from any of the numerous wars.

The castle ruin is about 55 meters long and up to 20 meters wide in an east-west direction.  The outer walls of the 18-meter-high, four-story residential tower are well preserved and give the ruin its distinctive appearance.  The residential tower has a footprint of 22.7 × 14.4 meters, the walls are up to 2.5 meters thick.  A spiral staircase on the left side of the main entrance and nine chimneys are preserved, extending over three floors.  The fourth floor has no chimneys and was therefore probably used as a storage room and for military purposes.  In front of the large main chimney on the ground floor, which is let into the east wall, the remains of a fountain are still present.  In addition to the chimneys, the openings for wall cupboards as well as the white interior plaster and a white stripe of the former exterior plaster between the third and fourth floors have been preserved.

After a fire in 1425, the interior of the residential tower was redesigned.  Most of the open fireplaces have been converted into closed, smoke-free tiled stoves in favor of more effective heating.  The upper floors remained unheated and were only used as storage rooms.

The specialty of the castle is the location of the residential building that was completed first.  Contrary to the usual structure of a castle, the residential tower, which was equipped with a defensive core on the east side, stands behind the neck ditch, directly on the attack side.  Such an arrangement can be found in other castles built by Baldwin of Luxembourg.

In front of the residential tower are the remains of a subsequently erected round tower in the west and the circular wall that was finally built, where a round shell tower open to the castle courtyard is structurally integrated into the south side of the masonry.  In addition, the old driveway with neck ditch and the associated bridgehead can still be seen.  To the east there are the remains of a second trench with the foundation walls of an advanced tower.

Parts of the foundation were so badly damaged that they could no longer withstand the pressure of the masonry.  Cracks proved that the entire structure was weakening.  It was considered to be in acute danger of collapsing.  Therefore, the ruin was subjected to comprehensive security building measures from summer 2009.  The work was divided into five construction phases and was completed in 2014.  (Alexander Thon, Stefan Ulrich u. Achim Wendt: "... where a mighty tower defiantly looks down".  Castles in the Hunsrück and on the Nahe, Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2013)

(Rabax63 Photo)

Burg Balduinseck.  Main entrance to the tower house on the west side; to the right is the entrance to the spiral staircase

(Rabax63 Photo)

Burg Balduinseck.

(Frank Martini Photo)

Lissingen: Burg Lissingen is a well-preserved former moated castle dating to the 13th century.  It is

located on the River Kyll in Gerolstein in the administrative district of Vulkaneifel in Rhineland-Palatinate.  From

the outside it appears to be a single unit, but it is a double castle; an estate division in 1559 created the so-called

lower castle and upper castle, which continue to have separate owners.  Together with Bürresheim and Eltz, it has

the distinction among castles in the Eifel of never having been destroyed.  Lissingen Castle is a protected cultural

property under the Hague Convention.

The castle is located on the edge of Lissingen, a district of the city of Gerolstein, close to the river Kyll.  It was

originally surrounded by the river and on the south and west sides by a moat.  The moat has been filled in and

streets created on the site, but traces of the original water defenses are visible on the river side of the castle.

Lissingen and neighboring Sarresdorph most likely originated as a Roman settlement.  Evidence of this is based

on archeological finds from an excavation in one of the courtyards of the lower castle before the First World War,

and also by its proximity to the former Roman settlement of Ausava, a horse-changing station on the road between

Treves and Cologne that today is the section of Gerolstein called Oos.

After the Germanic influx of the 5th century, the former Roman settlements came under the control of the Frankish

kings and later became demesne of the Merovingians and Carolingians.  In the 8th and 9th centuries, during the

Carolingian era, Lissingen and Sarresdorph were both possessions of Prüm Abbey or of its estate of Büdesheim.  

Following attacks on the abbey by Normans in the 9th century, fortified towers and later castles were built to

protect it.  The castle at Lissingen took its present form as a defensible complex of buildings during the heyday

of chivalry in the High Middle Ages.  The first documentary mention of Lissingen Castle dates to 1212, as a

possession of the Ritter (knight) von Liezingen.  In 1514, Prüm Abbey enfeoffed Gerlach Zandt von Merl with

Lissingen.  In 1559, the castle was then divided into two sections, the upper and the lower castle.

In 1661–63, Ferdinand Zandt von Merl almost completely rebuilt the lower castle.  By incorporating three

medieval residential towers, he created an imposing manorial residence.  There was a small annexed chapel,

which is mentioned in 1711 and 1745 as the oratory of the von Zandt family.  This was surrendered in the early

20th century.  After Anton Heinrich von Zandt’s death in 1697, Wilhelm Edmund von Ahr was the owner of the

castle.  He doubled the size of the inhabited part of the castle.

In 1762, the elector of Trier (as procurator of Prüm Abbey) enfeoffed Josef Franz von Zandt zu Merl with Lissingen.

A few years later, in 1780, as an Imperial Knight of the Holy Roman Empire, the latter became Freiherr of Lissingen,

a small autonomous territory.  Lissingen retained this status until the abolition of the Feudal system, and the castle

was greatly extended, in particular by the addition of a much larger tithe barn and stables.

As a result of the French Revolutioin, in 1794 the region of the left bank of the Rhine, including the estate of

Lissingen Castle, came under French administration.  The Eifel became a Prussian possession in 1815.  In the

years that followed, both sections of the castle changed hands several times, until they were reunited in 1913

under a single owner, who developed the property into a large agricultural operation.  The construction of a small

power plant, which began operation in 1906, had an appreciable effect on the economic operation of the castle.

This provided electricity for the castle, approximately 50 houses in the settlement of Lissingen, and the local train

station.  Private power generation ended in 1936, when the Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk took over

service to Lissingen.

In 1932, a Cologne brewery owner by the name of Greven acquired the property, which had been affected by the

international economic crisis.  He developed the large agricultural infrastructure on the south side of the castle,

including in 1936 a new cowshed with a milking parlor, a milk processing plant, a refrigerated storage area and

one of the first milk bottling plants in the Eifel.  During the Second World War, the castle served as a billet for several Wehrmacht regiments and as command post for the German General Staff.  Towards the end of the war,

it was used as a temporary prison for highly ranked military captives.

After the war, the Greven family resumed dairy and livestock farming operations.  Until 1977, the lower castle

was operated as an agricultural enterprise by a leaseholder.  However, the estate ceased to be economically viable

as a farm.  The castle buildings, especially the gatehouse of the upper castle and the entire lower castle, were

increasingly neglected and fell into disrepair.  Investment in the buildings resumed only after both sections of the

castle came into the hands of new owners.

In 1987 the lower castle was acquired by Karl Grommes, a patent attorney from Koblentz.  He has carried out

wide-ranging restoration work and added furniture, household effects, and workshops, with the intention of

restoring the appearance of the entire ensemble to provide insights into life and work in such a castle and on its

grounds.  As of 2011, the following parts of the castle are open to visitors: the picturesque old courtyard of the

lower castle, the main house with cellar, kitchen, and living spaces, the tithe barn and other outbuildings, and the

estate, with numerous relics of the past.  There are permanent exhibits on sleighs, carriages, church weathervanes,

and historical building materials.  After five years as a traveling exhibition, the Eifel Museums special exhibition

Essens-Zeiten (Mealtimes) has been permanently housed at the castle.  In addition, the lower castle is available

for gastronomic and cultural events, such as marriages, conferences, art projects, and exhibitions.  It has a bakery

with a historical brick oven, a restaurant, and a civil registry office.

The upper castle was acquired by Christine and Christian Engels in 2000.  It is a private residence but can be

visited by appointment.  As of 2011 some rooms are available as vacation rentals.  The whole castle complex is

divided into two parts: firstly, the lower castle, which includes various buildings, courtyards, open areas, and also

the attached land or meadow; and secondly, the upper castle, which also includes buildings, a courtyard, and open

areas.  Today the palatial manor house is in Renaissance style.  It was created in 1661–63 by combining three

medieval residential towers into a single angled structure.  The oldest architectural remnants in the castle are to

be found in the cellar of this building and in the vaults under the large terrace in front of it, and may date to the

Carolingian era.  On the ground floor, in addition to reception and dining rooms, there is a rustic estate kitchen.

Above this floor is a mezzanine level with appreciably lower ceilings, which formerly housed the actual living

spaces for the owners.  The upper floor above that contains three high-ceilinged formal rooms with remarkable

sandstone chimneypieces.

The castle mill was originally a freestanding building outside the castle defenses.  It was integrated into the castle

complex only in the course of later extensions that resulted from the division of the castle. The mill ground wheat

for flour; the miller paid 5 malter of grain, 6 guilders and 8 albus in rent and for water usage.  In addition, the lords

of the castle were permitted to have their grains ground free at any time with no flour kept back by the miller.

By the early 20th century, electricity was being generated at the mill using the water; this was the origin of the

later power plant.  Around 1920, a large wood-fired stone oven, a so-called Königswinter oven, was installed,

which provided the bread needed by the many people living and working at the castle.  The oven has been restored

and is again in use, providing baked goods for purchase and for consumption at the castle.

On the western side of the castle there is still a large meadow area, bordered in part by the Oosbach stream and in

part by a millstream that branches off from it.  The Oosbach originally fed the moats and later provided water to

drive the mill and the electrical generator. In addition the water was used for the animals, to farm fish, and for

firefighting.  The millstream has largely been preserved and it has been possible to briefly reactivate it.  The meadow

area has been restored to showcase various biota and sculptures and provide locations for relaxation and nature

observation. In 2004 it was featured in the Trier garden show.

The lower castle grounds also include the historic approach to the castle (the Im Hofpesch path and the millrace

path, both with old trees along them) and the upper stretch of the millstream and the sluice that diverts the water

from the Oosbach.  (Peter Bartlick. Geschichte der Burg Lissingen. Gerolstein, 2010)

Ground Plan of Burg Lissingen.

(Wolfenkratzer Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Lissingen.

(Haselburg-müller Phoro)

Burg Breuberg, also called Kernburg (core castle) was probably founded around or shortly after 1200 by the imperial abbey of Fulda under Abbot Markwald I, to secure Fulden properties in the Odenwald.  It is one of Germany's best preserved castles.   c1200 the bailiwick was taken over by the Lords of Lützelbach, who then called themselves Lords (Herren von) of Breuberg.  Only the keep and the late Romanesque portal of the main castle can be dated to the earliest construction phase of the castle.  Residential buildings from this time have not survived, although individual walls from earlier buildings could be built in the buildings of the core castle.

In 1323, the male family line of the house of Breuberg died out with Eberhard III of Breuberg.  From the 14th century, the castle was expanded many times, making it today a journey through the building styles of the last 850 years.   Half of the property went to Konrad von Trimberg, a quarter each to the Counts of Wertheim and the Lords of Weinsberg.  The fragmentation of the property becomes clear in the complicated ownership structure of the following time: In 1336 three quarters of the castle belonged to Wertheim, Trimberg and the Lords of Eppstein each held an eighth.  In 1337 a partition agreement was signed in which it was recorded which party belonged to which parts of the castle and who had to maintain them.  Essential parts like the well were maintained jointly.

In 1446, Count Wilhelm of Wertheim sold Count Philipp the Elder of Katzenelnbogen his share of the castle for 2400 Gulden.  The castle played an important role in territorial policy from Wertheim's side, which is why the counts endeavored to gradually acquire it in full.  But it was not until 1497 under Count Michael II that this succeeded with the purchase of the last stake.  A little more than 50 years, between 1497 and 1556, the Counts of Wertheim owned the castle completely.  Many construction measures took place during this time, especially the adaptation for the use firearms with the construction of the gun turrets and the cannon platform (Schütt).  New buildings were erected in the castle, such as the Wertheim armory (1528) and parts of the gateway . Breuberg thus became a small Wertheim residence, but also a fortress against the ambitions of larger sovereigns such as the Landgraves of Hesse, the Archbishops of Mainz or the Electoral Palatinate.  The town of Neustadt was founded as a settlement below the castle as early as 1378.

After the Count of Wertheim died out in 1556, the castle was divided again.  It was then half owned by the Counts of Erbach (from 1747 on the Erbach-Schönberg line ) and the Counts of Stolberg-Königstein.  At the beginning of the 17th century, the stolberg-Königstein part of the castle fell to the Counts of Löwenstein-Wertheim (later Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg ).

During the Thirty Years' War, Breuberg Castle changed hands several times.  Half of the fortress belonged to sovereigns with different loyalties.  With the advance of Gustaf to Franconia, the Protestant Counts of Erbach took over the castle completely.  The Swedes used Count Gottfried von Erbach as commandant, who damaged the opposing party so much that the County of Erbach later had to pay high compensation.   He died in 1635, and was buried in the castle chapel, where his sarcophagus was rediscovered in the 19th century.  In the course of the advance of the imperial army after the Battle of Nördlingen, ownership changed back to the Löwensteiners with Count Ferdinand Carl von Löwenstein as commander.  In 1637, the Swedes under Jakob von Ramsay, governor of the Hanau Fortress, tried to besiege the castle but were unsuccessful.  The Schwedenschanze north of Wolferhof is a reminder of the event.  In 1639 the Erbachische Rat, Dr. Backyards was shot by a Löwenstein mercenary as he waited outside the gate to be admitted.  In 1644 the Counts of Erbach were able to recapture Breuberg in a surprise attack and kept it occupied until the Peace of Westphalia.

In the larger armed conflicts of modern times, such as the Palatinate and Austrian War of Succession, the fortress was still secured by troops.  However, the castle quickly lost its importance as the seat of power.  It was used as an administrative and official seat, which was only moved to Neustadt in the first half of the 19th century.  Before that, the castle served briefly from the Napoleonic period and belonged to the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt from 1810 to around 1850.  It served as the seat of the Breuberg district, the predecessor of the Neustadt district.  After that, a toy factory was housed in the castle at the end of the 19th century.  A manufacturer from Mainz had African animals made from wood there.  Since he had a brother in the USA, these were shipped and sold in New York in the USA.  This ended with the First World War.  The castle stood empty for a short time, but remained in the possession of the Erbach (later Erbach-Schönberg, Protestant) and Löwenstein-Wertheim (later the Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg line, Catholic).

In 1919, the German Youth Hostel Association, which had belonged to the Hitler Youth from 1940 , acquired the castle, making it the property of the German Reich.  During the Second World War, slave laborers were housed there, commemorated by a plaque at the entrance gate and incisions in Cyrillic script on the keep. 1946, Breuberg Castle became the property of the newly founded State of Hesse by order of the military government.  The castle continues to serve as a youth hostel, and was renovated in 1987.

The oldest part of the castle complex is the main castle on a pentagonal floor plan with remains of the moat and the curtain wall, the cuboid keep and the columned portal at the gate of the main castle.  The ring wall the inner castle with characteristic small cuboids should also belong to the earliest times.  With 1900 m², the core castle is unusual for the 13th century.  The mean value for this time is around 1000 m².  The later buildings from the 15th to 17th centuries were placed on top of the older wall. Because no battlements were bricked up, it was concluded that the curtain wall had none.  (Elmar Brohl: Fortresses in Hessen. Published by the German Society for Fortress Research eV, Wesel, Schnell and Steiner, Regensburg 2013)

The high house of Breuberg.  Merian engraving from Topographia Franconiae 1648.

(Tomgoebel Photo)

Burg Breuburg.  Entrance to the outer bailey and gateway.

(BlueBreezeWiki Photo)

Bad Dürkheim: Hardenburg stands on the eastern edge of the Palatinate Forest near the Rhineland-Palatinate town of Bad Dürkheim.  It is one of the largest castle ruins in the western Rhineland-Palatine.  Hardenburg Castle dominates the green hills along the road which follows the Eisenach River through the thick forested mountains of the Pflazer Wald Nature Park between Bad Durkheim and Kaiserslautern.  The fortress castle at Hardenburg (not to be confused with Hardenberg in Lower-Saxony) was first constructed by the Counts of Leiningen-Hardenburg, on land belonging to the Benedictine monastery at Limburg a few miles away when Count Friedrich I of Leiningen wasgranted governorship of the abbey by King Phillip of Swabia in 1205.  The abbots initially protested the building of the castle, but relented to the protectorship in 1249.

As the Leiningen family grew in stature and power (England’s Queen Victoria was a half-sister of Prince Karl of Leiningen in later days), the original 13th Century fortress was reconstructed in the Renaissance period into the large castle it appears today.  It was built in red stone, typical of the area like the Burg Frankenstein ruin further west.  Hardenburg Castle is probably best known for its “ball tower” with cannon balls imbedded in its stone masonry to impress any attackers of its impregnability to artillery.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t really.  The castle was taken by Napoleon’s army and most of its buildings were destroyed in 1795, leaving the great walls remaining.  The Princes of Leiningen had already moved their primary residence to a more comfortable Baroque palace in Bad Durkheim.

A vaulted ceiling cellar and some other rooms are most of what remains of the living quarters of the castle.  A distinctive feature of the castle is the great broad formal terrace of the former residence over-looking the wooded canyon of the Eisenach.  It is located 30 minutes from Kaiserslautern.  There is a road leading to a parking area near the ruin, and a hiking trail leads up from the village below from the parking lot of the modern town hall.  The approach to the castle is fairly unique as the walking trail leads through a tunnel under the walls and along the slope above the river road below.  The castle is open daily with a nominal admission charge.  (Alexander Thon, ed. (2005), Wie Schwalbennester an den Felsen geklebt : Burgen in der Nordpfalz (in German) (1. ed.), Regensburg: Verlag Schnell und Steiner)

Hardenberg, 1580.  Oldest known view of the castle.  "Kurpfälzischen Sketchbook" (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart)

(Wolkenkratzer Photo)

Hardenburg, Bad Dürkheim.

(Muck Photo)


(Anaconda74 Photo)

Hardenburg, Bad Dürkheim.

(Martin Falbisoner Photo)

Burghausen: (Burg zu Burghausen) seen from the Austrian side of the River Salzach.  Between 1392 and 1503,

the fortifications were extended around the entire castle hill.  When the work was completed, Burghausen Castle became

the strongest fortress of the region.  Burghausen Castle in Burghausen, Upper Bavaria, Germany, is the longest castle

complex in the world (1.051 km).

The castle hill was settled as early as the Bronze Age.  The castle (which was founded before 1025) was transferred

to the Wittelsbach family after the death of the last count of Burghausen, Gebhard II, in 1168.  In 1180 they were

appointed dukes of Bavaria and the castle was extended under Duke Otto I of Wittelsbach.  With the first partition

of Bavaria in 1255, Burghausen Castle became the second residence of the dukes of Lower Bavaria, the main

residence being Landshut.  The work on the main castle commenced in 1255 under Duke Henry XIII (1253–1290).

In 1331 Burghausen and its castle passed to Otto IV, Duke of Lower Bavaria.

Under the dukes of Bavaria-landshut (1392-1503), the fortifications were extended around the entire castle hill.

Beginning with Margarete of Austria, the deported wife of the despotic Duke Henry XVI (1393–1450), the castle

became the residence of the Duke's consorts and widows, and also a stronghold for the ducal treasures.  In 1447

Louis VI, Duke of Bavaria, died in the castle as Henry's prisoner.  Under Duke Georg of Bavaria (1479–1503) the

work was completed and Burghausen Castle became the strongest fortress of the region.

After the reunification of Bavaria in 1505 with the Landshut War of Succession, the castle had military importance,

and due to the threat of the Ottoman Empire, it was subsequently modernised.  During the Thirty Years; War, Gustav

Horn was kept imprisoned in the castle from 1634 to 1641.  After the Treaty of Teschen in 1779, Burghausen

Castle became a border castle.  During the Napoleonic Wars the castle suffered some destruction.  The 'Liebenwein

tower' was occupied by the painter Maximilian Liebenwein from 1899 until his death.  He decorated the interior in

the Art Nouveau style.

The Gothic castle comprises the main castle with the inner courtyard and five outer courtyards.  The outermost

point of the main castle is the Palas with the ducal private rooms.  Today it houses the castle museum, including

late Gothic paintings of the Bavarian State Picture Collection.  On the town side of the main castle next to the

donjon are the gothic inner Chapel of St. Elizabeth (1255) and the Dürnitz (knights' hall) with its two vaulted halls.

Opposite the Dürnitz are the wings of the Duchess' residence.

The first outer courtyard protected the main castle and also included the stables, the brewery and the bakery.  The

second courtyard houses the large Arsenal building (1420) and the gunsmith's tower.  This yard is protected by the

dominant Saint George's Gate (1494).  The Grain Tower and the Grain Measure Tower were used for stabling and

to store animal food; they belong to the third courtyard.  The main sight of the fourth courtyard is the late Gothic

outer Chapel of St. Hedwig (1479–1489).  The court officials and craftsmen worked and lived in the fifth courtyard,

which was once protected by a strong fortification.  In 1800 this fortification was destroyed by the French under

Michel Ney.  The Pulverturm ("Powder Tower", constructed before 1533) protected the castle in the western valley

next to the Wöhrsee lake, an old backwater of the river.  A battlement connects this tower with the main castle.

(Alexander Z Photo)

Berghausen Castle, maincourt from the 11th century.

(Bwag Photo)

(Alexander D. Photo)

Berghausen Castle, panoramic view.

(Werner Hölzl Photo)

Berghausen Castle, night view.

(Werner Hölzl Photo)

Berghausen Castle, night view.

(Christian Michelides Photo)

Burghausen Castle at night.


(Jürgen Regel Photo)

Gelnhausen: Imperial Palace, (Kaiserpfalz Gelnhausen, Pfalz Gelnhausen  or Barbarossaburg), located on the

Kinzig river, in the town of Gelnhausen, Hesse.  It was founded in 1170, and like the town whose creation was closely

linked to the palace, goes back to Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa).  The palace enabled the expansion of imperial

territory along an important long-distance highway, the Via Regia.

Construction of the palace likely took place a few years before the official founding of the royal town in 1170.

There may have been an earlier castle on the site that belonged to the Counts of Selbold-Gelnhausen.  The

construction of the palace was probably managed by the Counts of Büdingen, who erected the castle of Büdingen

as their own residence nearby.

In 1180, the imperial palace at Gelnhausen was the venue for the great imperial court or Hoftag of Gelnhausen, at

which Henry the Lion was put on trial in his absence and his imperial fiefs redistributed.  In the years that followed,

further imperial courts were convened at Gelnhausen.  The now ruined palas may have been built for use as an

assembly hall.  Evidence of a large number of different stonemasons engaged in the construction suggests a

relatively large number of labourers working on the building site at the same time and thus a rapid pace of construction.

During the Hohenstaufen era, the palace was an Imperial Castle (Reichsburg), had a burgrave and Burgmannen.

Its estate included Büdingen Forest, which the castle's occupants still retained timber rights (for construction and

firewood) until the 19th century.  The decline of the palace began as early as the 14th century when, in 1349, Emperor

Charles IV (HRR) enfeoffed it, together with the town, to the Counts of Schwarzburg and never reclaimed it.  In

1431, the Count of Hanau and Count Palatine Louis III procured the palace and town from Count Henry of

Schwarzburg.  At the end of the 16th century, the Counts of Isenburg in Birstein took over the burgrave's office,

but did not reside at the castle.  During the Thirty Years' War, the town and palace were severely damaged and

Imperial and Swedish troops razed down its main building.

After the extinction of the House of Hanau in 1736, Gelnhausen fell to the Landgraves of Hesse-Kassel.  The

palace was then used as a quarry until 1811.  The castle chapel had to be partly demolished due to its dilapidated

condition.  Around 1810, the palace became one of the first buildings from the epoch of Romanesque architecture

in Germany that attracted the interest of art-loving scholars.

At the end of the 19th century and during the 20th century, the first safety measures were carried out to preserve

the remains of the palace for posterity.  Likewise, it was not until the end of the 19th century that the previously

independent municipality of Burg was dissolved and integrated into the town of Gelnhausen.  Today, the palace

belongs to the state of Hesse and is managed by the Administration of State Castles and Gardens for Hesse.

Along with its attached castle museum, it is open to the public.  (Waltraud Friedrich: Kulturdenkmäler in Hessen.

Main-Kinzig-Kreis II.2. Gelnhausen, Gründau, Hasselroth, Jossgrund, Linsengericht, Wächtersbach. Published

by the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Hessen, Theiss, Wiesbaden/ Stuttgart, 2011)

Kaiserpfalz Gelnhausen reconstruction.

(Presse03 Photo)


(Tobias Helfrich Photo)

Goslar: Imperial Palace (Kaiserpfalz Goslar) stands in the historic town of Goslar in Lower Saxony.  It is

the administrative centre of the district of Goslar and is located on the northwestern slopes of the Harz mountain

range.  Iron ore has been common in the Harz region since Roman times; the earliest known evidences for quarying

and smelting date back to the 3rd century AD.  The settlement on the Gose creek was first mentioned in a 979 deed

issued by Emperor Otto II.  It was located in the Saxon homelands of the Ottonian dynasty and a royal palace (Königspfalz)

may already have existed at the site.  It became even more important when extensive silver deposits were discovered

at the nearby Rammelsberg, today a mining museum.

When Otto's descendant Henry II began to convene Imperial synods at the Goslar palace from 1009 onwards, Goslar

gradually replaced the Royal palace of Werla as a central place of assembly in the Saxon lands.  This development

was enforced by the Salian (Franconian) emperors.  Conrad II, after his election as King of the Romans, celebrated

Christmas 1024 in Goslar and had the foundations laid for the new Imperial Palace (Kaiserpfalz Goslar) the next year.

Goslar became the favourite residence of Conrad's son Henry III who stayed at the palace about twenty times.  Here

he received King Peter of Hungary, as well as the emissaries of Prince Yaroslav of Kiev, and here he appointed

bishops and dukes.  His son and successor Henry IV was born here on 11 November 1050.  Henry also had Goslar

Cathedral built and consecrated by Archbishop Herman of Cologne in 1051.  Shortly before his death in 1056, Emperor

Henry III met with Pope Victor II in the church, emphasizing the union of secular and ecclesiastical power.  His heart

was buried in Goslar, his body in the Salian family vault in Speyer Cathedral.  Only the northern porch of the cathedral

has survived, as the main building was torn down in the early 19th century.

Under Henry IV, Goslar remained a centre of Imperial rule; however, conflicts intensified such as in the violent

Precedence Dispute at Pentecost 1063.  While Henry aimed to secure the enormous wealth deriving from the

Rammlesberg silver mines as a royal demesne, the dissatisfaction of local nobles escalated with the Saxon Rebellion

in 1073–75.  In the subsequent Great Saxon Revolt, the Goslar citizens sided with anti-king Rudolf of Rheinfelden,

who held a princely assembly there in 1077, and with Hermann of Salm, who was crowned king in Goslar by

Archbishop Siegfried of Mainz on 26 December 1081.  This brought Goslar the status of an Imperial City.

In the Spring of 1105, Henry V convened the Saxon estates at Goslar, to gain support for the deposition of his father

Henry IV.  Elected king in the following year, he held six Imperial Diets at the Goslar Palace during his rule.  The

tradition was adopted by his successor Lothair II and by the Hohenstaufen rulers, Conrad III and Frederick Barbarossa.

After his election in 1152, King Frederick appointed the Welf duke Henry the Lion Imperial as the Vogt (bailiff) of

the Goslar mines.  In spite of this appointment, the dissatisfied duke besieged the town.  A a meeting in Chiavenna

in 1173, the duke demanded his enfeoffment with the estates in turn for his support on Barbarossa's Italian campaigns.

When Henry the Lion was finally declared deposed in 1180, he had the Rammelsberg mines destroyed.

Goslar's importance as an Imperial residence began to decline under the rule of Barbarossa's descendants.  During

the German throne dispute, the Welf king Otto IV laid siege to the town in 1198, but had to yield to the forces of his

Hohenstaufen rival Philip of Swabia.  Goslar was again stormed and plundered by Otto's troops in 1206.  Frederick II

held the last Imperial Diet here; with the Great Interregnum upon his death in 1250, Goslar's Imperial era ended.

When the Emperors withdrew from Northern Germany, civil liberties in Goslar were strengthened.  Market rights

date back to 1025.  A municipal council (Rat) was first mentioned in 1219.  The citizens strived for control of the

Rammelsberg silver mines and in 1267 joined the Hanseatic League.  In addition to mining in the Upper Harz region,

commerce and trade in Gose beer, later also slate and vitriol, became important.  By 1290 the council had obtained

Vogt rights, confirming Goslar's status as a free imperial city.  In 1340 its citizens were vested with Heeschild rights

by Emperor Louis the Bavarian.  The Goslar town law set an example for numerous other municipalities, like the

Goslar mining law codified in 1359.

Early modern times saw both a mining boom and rising conflicts with the Welf Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg,

mainly with Prince Henry V of Wolfenbüttel, who seized the Rammelsberg mines and extended Harz forests in 1527.

Though a complaint was successfully lodged with the Reichskammergericht by the citizens of Goslar, a subsequent

gruelling feud with the duke lasted for decades.  Goslar was temporarily placed under Imperial ban, while the

Protestant Reformation was introduced in the city by theologian Nicolaus von Amsdorf, who issued a first church

constitution in 1531.  To assert independence, in 1536 the citizens joined the Schmalkaldic League against the

Catholic policies of the Habsburg emperor Charles V.  The Schmalkaldic forces occupied the Wolfenbüttel lands of

Henry V, but after they were defeated by Imperial forces in 1547 at the Batle of Mühlberg, the Welf duke continued his reprisals.

In 1577 the Goslar citizens signed the Lutheran Formula of Concord.  After years of continued skirmishes, they

finally had to grant Duke Henry and his son Julius extensive mining rights which ultimately edged out the city

council.  Nevertheless, several attempts by the Brunswick dukes to incorporate the Imperial city were rejected.

Goslar and its economy was hit hard by the Thirty Years' War, mainly by the Kipper und Wipper financial crisis

in the 1620s which led to several revolts and pogroms.  Facing renewed aggression by Duke Christian the Younger

of Brunswick, the citizens sought support from the Imperial military leaders Tilly and Wallenstein.  The city was

occupied by the Swedish forces of King Gustavus Adolphus from 1632 to 1635.  In 1642 a peace agreement was

reached between Emperor Ferdinand III and the Brunswick duke Augustus the Younger.  The hopes of the Goslar

citizens to regain the Rammelsberg mines were not fulfilled.

Goslar remained loyal to the Imperial authority, solemnly celebrating each accession of a Holy Roman Emperor.

While strongly referring to its great medieval traditions, the city continuously decreased in importance and got

into rising indebtedness.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stayed at Goslar in 1777.

First administrative reforms were enacted by councillors of the Siemens family.  In spite of this, the status of

Imperial immediacy was finally lost, when Goslar was annexed by Prussian forces during the Napoleonic Wars

in 1802, and confirmed by the German Mediatisation the next year.  Under Prussian rule, further reforms were

pushed ahead by councillor Christian Wilhelm von Dohn.  Goslar was temporarily part of the Kingdom of

Westphalia upon the Prussian defeat at the 1806 Battle of Jena-Auerstedt.  Goslar finally was assigned to the newly

established Kingdom of Hanover by resolution of the Vienna Congress.  The cathedral was sold and torn down

between 1820 and 1822.  Goslar again came under Prussian rule after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.  It became

a popular retirement residence (Pensionopolis) and a garrison town of the Prussian Army.  The Hohenzollern kings

and emperors had the Imperial Palace restored, including the mural paintings by Hermann Wislicenus.

After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Reich Minister Richard Walther Darré made Goslar the seat of the

agricultural Reichsnährstand corporation.  In 1936, the city obtained the title of Reichsbauernstadt.  In the course

of Germany's rearmament, a Luftwaffe airbase was built north of the town and several war supplier companies

were located in the vicinity, including subcamps of the Buchenwald and Neuengamme concentration camps.

Nevertheless, the historic town escaped strategic bombing during the Second World War.

Goslar was part of the British occupation zone from 1945, and the site of a displaced persons camp.  During the

Cold War era, because the city stood near the inner German border, it was a major garrison town for the West

German army army, border police and French Forces in Germany.  After the fall of the Berlin wall, the barracks

were vacated and a major economic factor was lost.  The Rammelberg mines were finally closed in 1988, after a

millennial history of mining.  (Wikipedia)

(Natalia19 Photo)

The wide gates of Goslar.

(Anaconda74 Photo)

Goslar, Lower Saxony, Artillery tower "Zwinger", built in 1517.  The walls are up to 6,5 meters thick.  On the right

is an earthen rampart which surrounded the older stone wall as protection against gun fire.

(Oliver Abels Photo)

Greifenstein: Burg Greifenstein lies in the village of Greifenstein in the county of Lah-Dill-Kries in Middle

Hesse.  The castle stands on a hill in the Dill Westerwald and commands a good view over the Dill valley. At 441 m

(1,447 ft) above sea level, it is the highest castle in the county of Lahn-Dill and a very visible landmark.

The hill castle was first recorded in 1160.  In 1298 it was destroyed by the counts of Nassau and Solms, along with

Lichtenstein, which was not rebuilt.  In 1315 it was enfeoffed by the House of Habsburg (Albert I had purchased the

castle from Kraft of Greifenstein) to the Counts of Nassau.  After having several owners, it had deteriorated by 1676.

It was then converted into a Baroque schloss by William Maurice of Solms-Greifenstein.  After the counts moved

to Braunfels in 1693, the site fell into ruins.

In 1969 the castle ruins were gifted to the Greifenstein Society, who have since looked after the preservation of the

site, which is open to the public and incorporates a restaurant.  Since 1995, its restoration has also been supported

by the Federal Republic of Germany, because it has been classified as a Monument of National Significances

(Denkmal von nationaler Bedeutung).

The circular walk across the castle terrain leads to a gaol with torture implements, weapons and a wine cellar, living

rooms and a twin-towered bergfried accessible via a spiral staircase.  On the pointed roof of the Brother Tower

(Bruderturm) there is a gryphon (Greif, a reference to the name of the castle), which serves as a weather vane.

There is a peal of three bells in the tower, with strike tones of F#1, A1 and C2.

Attractions include the Village and Castle Museum (Dorf- und Burgmuseum), one of the few double chapels in

Germany.  The Chapel of St. Catherine was built in 1462 as a fortified church in the Gothic style.  When the castle

was converted into the Baroque style the castle courtyard was filled with earth with the result that, today, the chapel

is below ground level.  It contains frescoes and arrow slits, as well as casemates with vaulted ceilings and fighting

rooms.  The Baroque church built above the fortified chapel from 1687 to 1702 is richly decorated with stucco and

is of the Italian Early Baroque period.  The upper and lower churches are linked by a staircase.  Walks around the

castle and an educational herb garden make the site a popular destination.  (Rudolf Knappe: Mittelalterliche Burgen

in Hessen: 800 Burgen, Burgruinen und Burgstätten. 3rd edn., Wartberg-Verlag, Gudensberg-Gleichen, 2000)

Burg Greifenstein, Matthäus Merian, 1655.

(Michael J. Zirbes Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Greifenstein.

(Karlunun Photo)

Burg Greifenstein.

(peter schmelzle Photo)

Guttenberg: Burg Guttenberg is a late medieval hilltop castle on the Neckarmühlbach, a district of

Haßmersheim in Neckar-Odenwald-Kreis in Baden-Württemberg.  The castle was never destroyed and has been

continuously inhabited for almost 800 years, from the Gemmingen-Guttenberg line of the Barons of Gemmingen

since the middle of the 15th century.  The facility houses the Greifenwarte as well as a castle museum and a restaurant.  Guttenberg Castle is located near Horneck am Necker, across from Gundelsheim with Horneck Castle

and is north of Bad Wimpfen on a mountain spur between the Neckar and Mühlbachtal valleys.

On 1 May 1393, Archbishop Konrad II of Mainz donated a new chapel in Mühlbach, prope castrum nominatum

Gutenberg, near Guttenberg Castle.  This was the first mention of the castle, which dates from the first half of the

13th century.  It belonged to the Lords of Weinsberg as a fief of the bishops of Worms.  The von Weinsbergs may

have built the castle on behalf of their liege lord.  The Bishop of Worms was concerned with securing customs

revenue on the long-distance routes in his territory.

In a document dated 2 December 1449, the Bishop of Würzburg confirmed that he was the guardian of the sons of

the deceased Imperial Treasurer Konrad IX.  von Weinsberg sold Guttenberg Castle, along with the associated

villages on the Neckar river, including all rights, uses and affiliations for 6000 Rhenish guilders to Hans Rich von

Gemmingen.  With this purchase, Hans the Rich, became the founder of the Gemmingen-Guttenberg line, which

still owns the castle today.  With the partition agreement of 1 February 1518, Hans' grandson Dietrich von Gemmingen inherited the new headquarters of the family.  Under him, the castle played a role in the Reformation

period, including a providing a place for a religious conference in the Eucharistic controversy of the reformers.

There is no evidence of a siege in the Middle Ages, and the castle was not damaged in the German Peasants' War.  

During the Thirty Years' War, the Catholic troops under Lieutenant General Johann T'Serclais vaon Tilly defeated

the Protestant army under the Margrave of baden in May 1622, in the costly Battle of Wimpfen (1,500 to 2,000 dead

on each side).  In the Palatinate War of Succession, King Louis XIV of France systematically devastated the Electoral

Palatinate and the adjacent areas in 1689.  Although troops always marched through the region, Guttenberg Castle

was spared in all wars due to fortunate circumstances.

The castle passed through the hands of various branches of the Lords of Gemmingen-Guttenberg.  Philipp von

Gemmingen (1702–1785), who was favoured in an inheritance division, survived his only son, so that the castle

came to the branch Bonfeld-Lower Castle.  Beginning with the sons of Ludwig Eberhard von Gemmingen-

Guttenberg (1750–1841), the castle was owned by a condominium of several shareholders until 1932 .

The tourism at the castle was founded by Gustav von Gemmingen-Guttenberg (1897–1973), who took over the

castle's forestry operations in 1923 and founded the sawmill in Neckarmühlbach.  In 1949 he set up the castle

museum and in 1950 the castle tavern, which was expanded in the following year, in the porch.  The arrival of the

German police station in 1971 is also due to Gustav von Gemmingen-Guttenberg.  After the Greifenwarte moved

in, the number of tourists visiting the castle increased considerably.  In 1972 the castle tavern was expanded to

include a self-service restaurant.  Gustav von Gemmingen's son Christoph von Gemmingen-Guttenberg (1930–1999)

and his wife Gabriele continued the administration and expansion of the castle.

On the street leading west of the castle through the outer bailey, there are buildings dating from the 15th to 17th

centuries.  The long, two-story quarry stone building from the 15th century is the main structure.  The adjoining low,

partly timber-framed building directs the view to the gate with the two towers, the entrance gate to the outer bailey

in the old days.  The path still leads past the castle chapel into the valley.  The pointed arch, by a secured gate dates

from the 2nd half of the 15th century and was closed by two wooden rotating leaves.  The second gate opposite,

through which one can visit the castle today, also had its rotating wing on the side facing the outer bailey.  The

outer bailey behind its wall was therefore lockable and did not serve to protect the inner bailey.  The wall surrounding

the outer bailey was only opened in modern times because of the driveway on both sides.

On the way to the main gate of the castle, the mighty shield wall and the 40 m high keep, are impressive.  They

are located behind the Zwingermauer with a late Gothic round arch frieze that surrounds the entire inner castle.

The older wall probably from the 13th century.  It was built with five round towers in the 2nd half of the 15th

century, under the Lords of Gemmingen. The shield wall is made of quarry stone masonry.  A section in the old

curtain wall was renewed in the 14th century, and increased in strength at different time intervals.

The basement of the keep, made of roughly hewn humpback blocks, tdates from the 2nd quarter of the 13th century.

A short flight of stairs leads from the battlement above the shield wall to the entrance floor.  The room with an toilet

niche and traces of a fireplace was habitable for a gate guard.  The defence level above has window niches on all

four sides with closable openings for small guns.  The two unused floors below the entrance floor had no other

function at the time of construction than to raise the tower.  This keep never served as a dungeon.  The keep with

its high entrance was not designed to be a place of retreat in the event of an attack, but was a place of observation

for the castle guard.  The two stories above the cornice were added in the late 15th century, after the castle passed

to the Lords of Gemmingen.

The stone bridge over the neck ditch leads to the main gate, dated to 1572, originally ended a few meters in front

of the gate and was lengthened in old times by a drawbridge which has now disappeared .  The weakly fortified

main gate was built in the late 16th century into the outer wall built in the 15th century.  The second gate was

added in the 15th century in the older Zwingermauer, which is still visible at this point.  The narrow inner courtyard

is bounded in the south by the shield wall, in the east and in the west by the residential buildings.

Soon after 1449, a four-story residential building was built behind the western curtain wall.  This building, preserved

in its outer walls, was modernized in the 16th century and received a baroque portal in 1741.  The former residential

building, which now houses the castle museum, is still in this state today.

On the site of a smaller previous building, probably dating from the 14th century, the new eastern residential building

was built in the 16th century. The masonry of the building, which was modernized in the Baroque period, partly

comes from these old buildings.  A new wing was added to the building in the 18th century, along with a baroque

staircase from 1776.  The stone balustrade that surrounds the roof of the keep also dates to the late 18th century.

Since then, the lords of the castle used the keep as an observation tower, with a view over the Neckar valley to

Hornberg Castle and Horneck Castle.  The medieval hilltop castle with its keep from the Staufer era was modernized

again and again still today it is a center of the extensive family of the lord of the castle.

While the private rooms of the castle owners are in the eastern residential building, the castle museum is in the

western one.  Here the visitor is provided with information bout knighthood and medieval jurisdiction.  The keep

can be climbed during the opening hours of the museum and offers a wonderful view over the Neckar valley.  

Guttenberg Castle is widely known for the accommodation of its bird sanctuary, the Greifenwarte.  (Georg Ulrich

Großmann, Hans-Heinrich Häffner: Guttenberg Castle on the Neckar . 1st edition. Schnell + Steiner, Regensburg 2007)

(Johannes Bökh Photo)

Burg Guttenberg, southwest gatehouse.

(Alexander Migl Photo)

Burg Guttenberg.

(p.schmelzle Photo)

Harburg: Burg Harburg is an extensive mediaeval castle complex dating from the 11th-12th century in Harburg, Bavaria,

in the Donau-Ries district.  Originally a Staufer castle, now it is owned by the princely House of Oettingen-Wallerstein.

The first record of the castle is dated 1150, when the Staufer Henry Berengar wrote a letter to his aunt Bertha of

Sulzbach, Empress of Byzantium.  Harburg Castle was likely built in the 11th century, because at the end of this

century Cuno de Horeburc (Kuno of Harburg), a noble man, was well known.  In 1530 the historian Hieronymus

was a clerk at Harburg Castle.

Burg Harburg is a completely preserved hill castle with a remarkable building complex dating from the Middle

Ages.  In the 15th century the fortress was extended with residential buildings.  From the 16th to the 18th century

further extensions completed a prince's residence (ceremonial hall, castle church).  A fairly unique element is the

particularly well-preserved, late-medieval ring wall with defensive corridor.  (Jürgen Dendorfer (2004), "Adelige

Gruppenbildung und Königsherrschaft. Die Grafen von Sulzbach und ihr Beziehungsgeflecht im 12. Jahrhundert."

Studien zur Verfassungs- und Sozialgeschichte (in German), München)

(Tilmann2007 Photo)

Burg Harburg.

(Tilmann2007 Photo)

Burg Harburg.

(Tilmann2007 Photo)

Burg Harburg.

(Rikiwiki2 Photo)

Burg Harburg.

(El-mejor Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Harburg.

(Axel Heindemith Photo)

Nörten-Hardenberg: Burg Hardenberg is a castle ruin in the district of Northeim in Lower Saxony.  Burg Hardenburg

is first mentioned in 1101, and was built by the Electors of Mainz.  Their Ministeriales (or Burgmann) were the lords

of Rosdorf, who were expelled in 1287, followed by the lords of Thüdinghausen (near Moringen) who took on the name

knights of Hardenberg.  The family acquired further properties near Nörten-Hardenberg, as well as in other regions of

Northern Germany.  Since 1409 Hardenberg Castle has been split between two family branches.  The castle was partly

destroyed by a thunderstorm in 1698, and abandoned in 1720, becoming a ruin.  In 1778 the Hardenberg family became

counts, whose most prominent member was Karl August von Hardenberg, Prime Minister of Prussia.  They still own

the estate.  Since 1710 the family has lived in the nearby manor house.  In 1700, they founded the Hardenberg-

Wilthen distillery, today Germany's second largest liquor producer.  

Burg Hardenberg, 1648, Merian.

(Dewi König Photo)

Burg Hardenburg, Nörten-Hardenberg.

(Dewi König Photo)

Burg Hardenburg, Nörten-Hardenberg.

(Lumpeseggel Photo)

Burg Hardenburg, Nörten-Hardenberg.

(Carlos-X Photo)

Burg Hardenburg, Nörten-Hardenberg.

(Geak Photo)

Schwabish Gmund: Burg Hohenrechberg (High Rechenberg), ruins of a medieval Spur castle, south of Schwabisch

Gmund, near the district of Rechenberg in Ostalbktreis, in Baden-Württemberg.  The castle ruins stand 644.2  m above

sea level, on the western shoulder of the Rechberg witness mountain, one of the Three Kaiser Mountains on the northern

edge of the Swabian Alb.

The most likely builder of the castle was Ulrich von Rechenberg, first mentioned in a document in 1179. The

Hohenrechberg Castle was built between 1200 and 1250.  It was mentioned for the first time in 1355.  Hohenrechberg

Castle served as a Staufer Dienstmannenburg, and was the ancestral seat of the later Counts of Rechberg.  It formed

the historical and administrative center of their dominion.

From 1448 to 1450 soldiers from the imperial cities of Schwäbisch Gmünd and Schwäbisch Hall plundered the area

around the castle, but did not dare to attack it.  During the Peasants' War in 1525, the Hohenrechberg was spared

from the pillaging farmers.  However, the castle residents could not prevent the Lorch and Adelberg monasteries and

the nearby Hohenstaufen Castle from being burned down.  In 1546 the Schmalkaldische Bund moved up in front of the

castle, but it remained intact.  In contrast, Schwäbisch Gmünd was taken.

The castle was rebuilt and expanded several times.  Until 1585 the rulers ruled directly from their ancestral castle.  

The castle was occupied by the French in 1648 during the Thirty Years' War and in 1796 during the French Revolutionary

Wars.  They did not destroy it, but in 1865 the castle was ruined by a fire caused by lightning.

The ruin has been an outstanding sight on the Staufer road since 1977.  Up until 1986, the castle was owned by the

noble family.  At that time it was sold to a private citizen in Göppingen.  The irregular, polygonal castle complex has

a ring wall with humpback blocks, a Hohenstaufen palaces next to the rectangular projecting gate and a 30-meter-deep

castle well.  The castle chapel has not been used since 1806.  (Walter Ziegler: Stauferstatten im Stauferland, Walter Ziegler

(Ed.), Konrad Theiss Verlag, 1977)

(Tuweri Photo)

Burg Hohenrechberg, view from the East.

(Skyscraper Photo)

Burg Hohenrechberg, aerial view.

(Rake Photo)

Burg Hohenrechberg.

(Pwagenblast Photo)

Burg Hohenrechberg, winter view.

(AlterVista Photo)

Neckarzimmern: Burg Hornberg is a partially ruined castle located on a steep outcrop above the Neckar valley above the village Neckarzimmern, between Bad Wimpfen and Mosbach.  It is the largest and oldest castle in the valley.  

The original castle was built in the 11th century.  It is notable as the stronghold of Götz von Berlichingen, who bought it in 1517 and died there in 1562.  The castle was bought by Reinhard of Gemmingen in 1612 and remains in possession of the Gemmingen-Hornberg family today.  It was uninhabited from 1738 and left to decay until 1825, when it was partially restored. It has housed a museum since 1968.  It also housed students from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources for an annual summer exchange program.  (G. H. Bidermann: Burg Hornberg, Wohnsitz des Ritters Götz von Berlichingen, Rüstzeugschau 1980. Journal Verlag Schwend GmbH, Schwäbisch Hall 1980)  Visited 9 April 1990.

(Bgabel Photo)

Burg Hornberg.

(Castellan Photo)

Burg Hornberg.

(Muck Photo)

Burg Hornberg, keep, stair tower, and on the right the Palas of the Lords of Berlichingen.

(Muck Photo)

Burg Hornberg.

Burg Hornberg, c1600.

(Aerial Video Capture Photo)

Burg Hornberg, aerial view.

(Holger Uwe Schmidt Photo)

Burg Hornberg.

(MoselcountyBürgermeister1 Photo)

Perm: Kasselburg is a ruined hill castle on a 490-metre-high basalt massif in Pelm near Gerolstein in the county

of Vulkaneifel in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate.  The Kasselburg's 37-metre-high, double tower, functioned

as a gate tower and tower house.  Its origins are not precisely clear.  Up until the present day, it had been assumed

that the lords of Blankenheim had built it shortly after 1335.  Structural investigations, however, have shown that

the tower underwent several phases of construction and is not just the work of one architect.  The gate probably lost

its guarding function with the expansion of the castle from 1452.  YThe large outer bailey, with its burgmann houses

and domestic buildings, date from that period.

The double tower is open to the public and has a good view of the surrounding area but, despite its size, is not a

bergfried (fighting tower).  The latter, built around 1200, is smaller and stands in the eastern part of the inner bailey.

It has a square ground plan and was turned into a tower house in the 14th century.  A nearly 33-metre-long palas,

which dates to the 14th century is part of the inner court.  The castle was built in the 12th century.  Its owners may

have been the lords of Castel, but this is not entirely certain.  The castle was first mentioned in 1291 as the Castilburg.

In 1314, it is called Castelberch.

The owners prior to 1335 are unknown, although Gerhard V of Blankenheim became its owner following a division

of inheritance in that year and thus founded the Blankenheim-Kasselburg line.  In 1406, this line of Blankenheims,

which had been elevated to the countship, died out with Count Gerhard VII.  The castle then passed by marriage to

William I of Loen and thus to Heinsberg.

Other owners followed, including the Counts of the Mark, Dukes of Arenberg Prince-Electors of Trier.  Many

special interest groups have claimed the Kasselburg for themselves throughout history, so that in 1674 the Imperial

Chamber Court of Wetzlar was called upon to put an end to the property disputes.  When the judges awarded the

castle to the dukes of Arenberg, the buildings soon served as barracks for the Duke of Arenberg's artillery troops.

This marked the beginning of the decline of the castle.  In the 18th century it was still temporarily the seat of an

Arenberg forester, but by 1744 it was described as dilapidated.

After France seized the castle in 1794, it went to the Prussians in 1815.  An impulse to rescue the ruin came

unexpectedly from King Frederick William IV in 1838.  After a visit he initiated repair work, and after the completion

of the railway line from Cologne to Trier, the railway company donated 1,000 talers to open up the then already famous

double tower in order to offer its passengers a view.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the state historic preservation authorities carried out further restoration.  The

Castle Administration of Rhineland-Palatinate, who took over Kasselburg in 1946, also had conservation measures

carried out. In the meantime, the site has been placed under the care of the Directorate for Castles, Palaces and Ancient

Monuments of the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage Rhineland-Palatinate, since 1998 the successors to the

former Castle Administration.  (Michael Losse: Kasselburg. Beitrag in: Hohe Eifel und Ahrtal (Joachim Zeune (ed.)).

Konrad Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart, 2003)

(Wolfenkratzer Photo)

Kasselburg, aerial view.

(Wolfenkratzer Photo)

Kasselburg, aerial view.

(Felix König Photo)


(Pascal Dihe Photo)


(Johannes Robalotoff Photo)

Königstein: Festung Königstein im Taunus.  The castle Königstein is part of the Hessian town of the same name in Hochtaunuskreis in Hess.  It is one of the largest castle ruins in Germany, standing 407  m above sea level on the western edge of the old town of Königstein.  The north and west slopes of the castle hill are forested, further to the west there are undeveloped landscape areas.  The Falkenstein Castle ruins are in the northeast, about 1.5 kilometers as the crow flies, and Kronberg Castle lies to the southeast, about 4 kilometers as the crow flies.

There is a legend that King Clovis came (c4th to 5th Century) to this castle site and a virgin appeared who convinced him to become a Christian.  After he became one, he founded a castle there, although none of this is documented.  The oldest building remains on the castle hill from an older settlement date from the 10th or 11th century.  The oldest parts of the inner castle, the so-called herringbone masonry, dates to the first half of the 12th century.  The Nürings, who died out in 1172, were the possible builders.  After the end of the Staufer period, the castle underwent an energetic expansion under the Falkensteiners.  The lower floors of the keep date from the first decades of the 14th century.  It has been raised several times over the years and is now 34 meters high.  The castle served, especially from the beginning of the 14th century, to protect the important trade route between Frankfurt and Cologne.

The castle has been rebuilt and expanded many times over the centuries.  In addition to the adaptation to the developing defence technology, the expansion into a Renaissance-era residential palace for the count of Königstein was promoted.  In the 16th century, Count Eberhard IV von Eppstein and Ludwig zu Stolberg built the three mighty rondelles on the eastern flank, as well as the façade on the eastern side of the inner castle.

When the count family died out, the castle fell to the Electorate of Mainz in 1581, when it was used for military purposes.  Archbishop Johann Philipp von Schönborn initiated the last major expansion phase between 1660 and 1670, including the angular bastions on the south side.

In the First Coalition War, the French army under Custin, took Mainz on 21 October 1792 , and a few days later Königstein.  After the reconquest of Frankfurt on 2 December  by Prussian troops, part of the French forces withdrew to the Königstein Fortress, closely followed by the Prussians under the orders of General Friedrich Ludwig zu Hohenlohe.  Hohenlohe occupied Oberursel, Falkenstein Castle, the city of Koenigstein and began bombarding the fortress from Falkenstein on 6 December.  On 8 December, bombs thrown into it (the origin of which remains unclear) caused a fire in the city, which destroyed 80% of the houses.  Since the fortress did not surrender even after being bombarded, it was enclosed.  On 8 March 1793, the defenders finally surrendered.  The 421 men and 14 officers captured were brought to the Ehrenbreitstein fortress.

In 1793 clubists, actual or supposed supporters of the Mainz Republic, were imprisoned in the cellars of Mainz Castle, among them Caroline Böhmer, who later became the "Romantic Museum" Caroline Schelling.

During the coalition war, the castle was severely damaged in 1796, mainly due to a failed attempt at demolition.  The destruction seen to day is likely to be largely due to the Königstein population, who obtained building materials for numerous houses in the present old town after 1796.  The Duke of Nassau, to whom the castle fell after the Reichsdeputationshaupschluss, decided against rebuilding and allowed the demolition to continue for another twenty years.

While the sovereignty of Königstein passed to Prussia in 1866, the castle remained the private property of Duke Adolph, who later became the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.  He built his own small castle (today Königstein District Court) at the foot of the mountain (southeast corner).  His daughter, Hilda von Nassau, gave the fortress ruins to the city of Königstein in 1922.

The castle, which is now owned by the city of Königstein, is open to visitors all year round.  Both the castle tower and most of the cellars are accessible.  One of the preserved vaulted cellars (the armoury cellars ) can also be rented for private events.  In the old town of Königstein there is a castle museum with finds and a model of the castle.  (Fortresses in Hessen. Published by the German Society for Fortress Research eV, Wesel, Schnell and Steiner, Regensburg 2013)

Festung Königstein ground plan.

Königstein, view from the northeast, 1633.

Königstein, profile view from the northeast, 1791.

(Fritz-Gerald Schröder Photo)

Königstein: Festung Königstein also known as the Saxon Bastille stands above the town of Königstein near Dresden in Saxon Switzerland, on the left bank of the River Elbe.  It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe and sits atop the table hill of the same name.  The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress.  The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces.  In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.  The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia, dating to the year 1233, in which a witness is named as "Burgrave Gebhard of Stein".  At that time the region was split between the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Bishopric of Meissen.  The medieval castle belonged to the Kingdom of Bohemia. Its first full description as Königstein ("King's Rock") occurred in the Upper Lusatian Border Charter (Oberlausitzer Grenzurkunde) of 1241, that Wenceslas I "in lapide regis" (Lat.: at the rock of the king) sealed.  In this charter the demarcation of the border between the Slavic Gauen of Milska (Upper Lusatia), Nisani (Meißen Depression) and Dacena (Tetschen region) was laid down.  Because the Königstein lay left of the Elbe, it was independent of the three aforementioned Gauen.

The fortress was expanded by order of the Bohemian kings, into a fortified site that dominated the north of their territories, controlling the Elbe above Pirna.  As the Elbe became more intensively used as a trade route, and an outpost of the strategically important Dohna Castle located in nearby Müglitz. After the king and later emperor, Charles IV had Eulau Castle, which dominated the southern region, destroyed in 1348 by townsfolk from Aussig, he spent from 5 to 19 August 1359 on the Königstein and signed the authority for shipping rights.  The castle was pledged several times in the 50 years that followed, including to the Donins.  Because this family were enemies of the margraves of Meißen, the latter finally captured the castle in 1408 during the Dohna Feud that had been raging since 1385. The transfer of ownership of the castle to the Margraviate of Meißen did not take place until 25 April 1459.  It was finally completed once the Saxon-Bohemian border had been settled in the Treaty of Eger.  Unlike the other rock castles in Saxon Switzerland the Königstein continued to be used by the Saxon dukes and prince-electors for military purposes.  At one stage the Königstein was also a monastery.  In 1516, Duke George the Bearded, a fierce opponent of the Reformation, founded a Celestine abbey on the Königstein, the Kloster des Lobes der Wunder Mariae.  It closed again in 1524, and after the death of Duke George, Saxony became Evangelical.

It is likely that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century.  The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century.  In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle.  Up until that point, the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.  During the construction of the well some 8 cubic metres of water had to be removed from the shaft every day.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony.  The hitherto very jagged table hill was now surrounded with high walls.  Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg  (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus).  The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which inter alia the John George Bastion (Johann-Georgenbastion) was built in front of the Johann-Georgenburg.

The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel (Königsteiner Weinfass), the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres.  It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs.  The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition.

Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started. Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau.  St. John's Hall (Johannissaal) built in 1631 was converted in 1816 into the New Armoury (Neues Zeughaus).

In 1819 the Magdalenenburg castle was turned into a provisions magazine that was fortified to withstand bombardment. The old provisions store became a barracks.  The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855.  After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts (Batteriewälle) were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came.  This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger there.  It was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings. The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison.  Its actual military significance was rather marginal, although generals such as John Everard of Droste and Zützen (1662–1726) commanded it.  For example, Prince-Elector Frederick Augustus II could only watch helplessly from the Königstein during the Seven Years' War, when right at the start of the war in 1756 his army surrendered without a fight to the Prussian Army at the foot of the Lilienstein on the other side of the Elbe.  The commandant of the fortress from 1753 was the electoral Saxon Lieutenant General, Michael Lorenz von Pirch.  In August 1813 the clash at Krietzschwitz took place in front of its gates, an engagement that proved an important precursor to the Battle of Kulm and the Battle of Leipzig.  In October 1866 Alexander von Rohrscheidt (1808–1881) was nominated as commandant of the fortress.  It lost its military value with the development of long-range guns at the beginning of the 19th century.  The last commandant of Königstein Fortress was Lieutenant Colonel Heinicke who commanded it until 1913.  The fortress had to guard the Saxon state reserves and secret archives during times of war.  In 1756 and 1813 Dresden's art treasures were also stored at the Königstein.  During the Second World War the large casemates of the fortress were also used for such purposes.

The fortress was never conquered, it had too much of a chilling reputation after it had been expanded by Elector Christian I.  Only the chimney sweep, Sebastian Abratzky, managed to climb the vertical sandstone walls in 1848. The Abratzky Chimney (Abratzky-Kamin) named after him is a grade IV (based on the Saxonsystem) climbing route that may still be climbed today.  Because climbing over the wall is banned, climbers must abseil down the adjacent wall again after climbing it.

Until 1922 the fortress was the best-known state prison in Saxony.  During the Franco-Prussian War and the two world wars the fortress was also used as a prisoner of war (PW) camp.  In the First World War, the castle was used as a PW camp (Oflag) for French and Russian officers.  In the Second World War it again served as an Oflag (Oflag IV-B), for British, French, Polish and other Allied officers.

After the Second World War the Red Army used the fortress as a military hospital.  From 1949 to 1955 it was used as a so-called Jugendwerkhof for the re-education of delinquent youths and those who did not fit the image of a socialist society.  Since 29 May 1955, the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.  The museum has been managed as a satellite of the Bundeswehr Military History Museum in Dresden since 1990. (Immer weniger Besucher in Festung Königstein, Freie Presse dated 10 February 2011)

(Reneman Photo)

Quarter cannons on gun carriages. Kartouwes in front of the John George Bastion on the Königstein Fortress.

(Reinhard Kraasch Photo)

Festung Königstein, entrance.

The Fortress of Königstein from the North-West (Benarto Bellotto, National Gallery of Art, Washington)

(Rainer Lippert Photo)

Lauf an der Pegnitz: Burg Lauf (Wenzelschloss), was originally a medieval fortress in the town of Lauf an der Pegnitz near Nürnberg. The German name Wenzelschloss ("Saint Wenceslas' Chateau") is derived from the statue of Saint Wenceslas, on the facade of the entrance gate. The castle was built by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV in 1356, on the ruins of an older castle.  The dominant feature of the castle is the hall of arms.  In 1934, under a layer of old paint 112 coats of arms of noblemen of the Crown of Bohemia were discovered.  It is a significant collection of Bohemian, Moravian and Silesian secular and ecclesiastical heraldry.

Lauf stands in an area called the Bohemian Palatinate, which was once part of the Bohemian crown lands.  In 1373 Emperor Charles IV ceded the castle along with parts of the Bohemian Palatinate to Otto V, Duke of Bavaria in exchange for the Margraviate of Brandenburg.  Charles' son Wenceslaus IV lost the rest of the Palatinate in 1401.

(Krzysztof Photo)

Wenceslas Castle with wooden footbridge.

(LoKiLeCh Photo)

Thallichtenberg: Burg Lichtenberg is a ruin of a spur castle, with a length of 425m (1,394 ft), marking it as the

largest castle ruin in Germany.  It is located in the district of Kusel in the Rhineland-Palatinate.  

The castle was built around 1200 and was owned until 1444 by the counts of Veldenz; after which it fell into the

ownership of the new dukedom of Palatinate-Zweibrücken.  Under the new rule, Burg Lichtenberg became the

administrative seat of Zweibrücken until the move of the administration to Kusel in 1758.  The castle remained

under the duchy until the dissolution of the Duchy of Zweibrücken in 1792.

This part of Germany west of the Rhine river was occupied by French Revolution troops in 1792, and in 1795, the

French dissolved the old borders and created new administrative districts, placing Lichtenberg Castle in the Saar

Department.  The town of Kusel was burnt down by French revolution troops in 1794.  Lichtenberg Castle was

plundered numerous times during the ensuing chaos that came with the French occupation, and in 1799, a fire caused

by the castle's inhabitants destroyed much of the castle.

With the defeat of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the subsequent withdrawal of French troops from

Germany, in 1816 the area west of the Rhine was given to the Duke of Saxony-Coburg-Gotha and became the

Princedom of Lichtenberg.  Tthis rule was short-lived, and in 1834 the princedom was sold to Prussia.  Lichtenberg

Castle fell into disrepair and ruin until, in 1895, the whole castle complex was placed under historical monument

protection.  At the end of the Second World War, the Prussian government fell, and in 1945 the district of Birkenfeld,

in which Lichtenberg Castle lay, became a part of the new state of Rhineland-Palatinate.  In 1971 the castle was handed

over by Rhineland-Palatinate to the district of Kusel, and restoration work began.  Some of the restorations include

the reconstruction of the tithe barn and the repair and roofing of the bergfried.

The horseshoe tower has been the meeting place for the University of Kaiserslautern since 1987.  The tower on the

southeast corner of the official administrative office also houses a restaurant, the Knight's Hall, and in the administrative

office building extension, a youth hostel.  In the lower bailey is a church that still conducts services for the parish of

Thallichtenberg.  From the bergfried, one can see the Remigiusberg monastery church and ruins of the nearby

Michelsburg castle, as well as the Potzberg hill.  (Visited 26 March 1983)

(Triodus23 Photo)

Burg Lichtenberg.

(Presse03 Photo)

Münzenberg: Burg Münzenberg is a ruined hill castle in the Wetteraukreis, Hesse.  It dates from the 12th century,

and is one of the best preserved castles from the High Middle Ages in Germany.

The first lord of nearby Arnsburg, Kuno von Arnsburg, served Emperor Heinrich IV as a Ministerialis in 1057.

c1064 he married Gräfin Mathilde of the House of Bilstein.  Their daughter, Gertrud (b. c1065, d. before 1093)

married Eberhard von Hagen (1075-1122), lord of Burg Hayn near Frankfurt, who moved his seat to Arnsburg and

changed his name to "von Hagen und Arnsburg".  Under Eberhard's son, Konrad I (1093-1130) the family became

the most powerful in the Wetterau and the Rhine-Main region.  Konrad II exchanged properties with Fulda Abbey,

receiving the land around Münzenberg Castle.  His son, Kuno I (1151-1207), from 1156 styled himself von Münzenberg,

implying that by then a castle had been built at Münzenberg and the earlier one at Arnsburg had been vacated.

A striking feature of Münzenberg Castle is that it has two tall bergfried defensive towers.  Such a tower is a typical

feature of castles in the region, but there is usually only one, forming the strongest point of the castle.  The bergfrieds

at Münzenberg are both round, the taller one being 29 meters high.  The two bergfrieds stand at opposite ends of the

inner ward, called the Kernburg.  The inner ward is completely surrounded by an outer ward with an outer curtain

wall, providing defence in depth.  (Gärtner, Otto (1998). Kloster Arnsburg in der Wetterau (German). Verlag Karl

Robert Langewiescher Nachfolger Hans Köster KG)

Burg Münzenberg, ground plan, 1850.

Münzenberg (Mintzenberg), Topographia Hassiae, Matthäus Merian, 1655.

(Johannes Robalotoff Photo)

Burg Münzenberg.

(Johannes Robalotoff Photo)

Burg Münzenberg.

(Carsten Steger Photo)

Burg Münzenberg.

(Immanuel Giel Photo)

Neuleiningen: Burg Neuleiningen is a castle ruin on the eastern edge of the Palatinate Forest in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in the Bad Dürkheim district.  It was built in 1238-41 by Count Frederick III of Leiningen.  The French

destroyed it in 1690 and it has lain in ruins since that time.  The castle is located on a foothill of the Haardt on the

northeastern edge of the Palatinate Forest.  Its eponymous village is grouped around the castle, high above the left

bank of the Eckbach at an elevation of about 300 metres above sea level.  Near the castle is the Old Vicarage (Alte

Pfarrey), which was first recorded in 1524 and which houses a gourmet restaurant today.

Its name, like that of its sister castle, Altleiningen five kilometres to the southwest, is derived from the Frankish

noble family, the counts of Leiningen who rulled the territory of Leiningerland.  The castle was built following a

division of inheritance around 1240 by Count Frederick III of Leiningen.  Together with, Battenberg Castle, 1,400

metres to the south, the castle controlled the entrance to the Eckbach valley.  Passing between various lines of the

family, the castle remained the property of the Leiningens for over 200 years.  In 1468, Prince-Elector Frederick the

Victorious of the Palatinate became involved in inheritance disputes amongst the Leiningens and seized possession of

the castle by force.  In 1508, after passing through several intermediate arrangements, an agreement was reached:

the castle would be divided between the Bishopric of Worls and the counts of Leiningen-Westerburg.

In 1525, during the Peasants' War, the castle was opened to the rebellious farmers without a fight and, having been

hosted by Countess Eva (1481–1543) in a friendly and generous way, the farmers left without causing great damage.

The castle only suffered minor damage in the Thirty Years' War.  During the War of the Palatine Succession, however,

invading French troops razed the entire site in 1690.  Its two owners, Leiningen-Westerburg and the Bishopric of

Worms, could not agree to rebuild the castle in the period that followed, with Leiningen being for, and Worms being

against, the idea.  In 1767, Charles of Leiningen-Westerburg finally sold the Leiningen half to Worms.

In the wake of the French Revolution, the castle ruins were seized by secular authorities and passed in 1804 into the

hands of the municipality of Neuleiningen, who, sold it just four years.  In 1874, Charles Emich of Leiningen-

Westerburg bought it back again for his family.

The castle is quadrangular, with a rectangular ground plan and bergfried towers projecting beyond the curtainwalls.

Contrary to earlier views, the castle was built to the same pattern as French castles of the early 13th century in the

Île-de-France style.  Its design was not copied from an existing castle; instead, it combined a French design with local

building traditions.  Most striking are its four, round towers and the large number of very narrow arrow slits

(Schlitzscharten), for archers armed with bows and crossbows.  These Schlitzscharten are amongst the earliest examples

on German soil.  Thus, apart from Lahr Castle, of which little remains, Neuleiningen is the oldest quadrangular castle

in Germany.

The internal elements from the first phase of construction have been totally lost and can only be made out here and

there from excavations.  The present remains date to the 14th to early 17th centuries.  The most striking feature of

the castle is the stepped gable of the palas on the north side which, in its present guise, goes back to Landgrave Hesso

of Leiningen (before 1435–1467).  In the southeast corner the cellar of the Leiningen-Westerburg residence of around

1508 has survived.  This is where the Burgschänke inn was established in the second half of the 20th century.

Today, the southeast tower is an observation tower that is open to the public.  The two upper storeys of this tower have

been turned into a small local history museum that exhibits the stoneware products of an old local factory that closed in

1932, as well as other handicrafts.

The local village, which is connected to the castle both geographically and historically, was built around the same time

(13th century).  The village's historic buildings are fairly numerous, with only a few parallels in the region.  From the

observation tower of the castle there is an outstanding view of the Upper Rhine Valley to the east, the mountains of

the Palatinate Forest to the south and west and the massif of the Donnersberg to the northwest.  At the foot of the hill

village of Neuleiningen is the hamlet of Neuleiningen-Tal and several neighbouring villages.

(Immanuel Giel Photo)

(El Grafo Photo)

Kulmbach: Plassenburg is an impressive castle in Bavaria,  first mentioned in 1135.  The Plassenberg family

were ministeriales of the counts of Andechs (later the dukes of Andechs-Meranien) and used as their seat the

Plassenburg.  The House of Guttenberg, a prominent Franconian noble family, traces its origins back to 1149 with

a Gundeloh v. Blassenberg (Plassenberg).  The name Plassenburg is derived from Guttenberg and was adopted by a

Heinrich von Blassenberg around 1310.  From 1340, the Hohenzollerns governed their territories in Franconia from

the Plassenburg castle until 1604.  The Plassenburg was both a fortress and residence for the Hohenzollerns.

It was destroyed in 1554 at the end of the second Margravian War (1552–1554), when it was held by Margrave Albert

Alcibiades. The Plassenburg was later rebuilt by the architect Caspar Vischer as an impressive stronghold and as a

huge palace. In 1792, Margrave Alexander sold the Plassenburg to his cousin, the King of Prussia.  A combined

Bavarian and French army under the command of Jérôme Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, besieged the Plassenburg

in 1806.  In 1810, Kulmbach became Bavarian and the castle was used as a prison and as a military hospital.  During

the Second World War, the Organization Todt used the Plassenburg as a training camp and recreation home.  Today,

it is a museum and a venue for cultural events.  It contains a significant collection of Prussian military artifacts and portraits.

Plassenburg Castle was first mentioned in 1135, when it was described by Count Berthold II of Andechs as comes de

Plassenberch.  Presumably he was also the founder of the castle, which was built to the west of an earlier fortified

farmstead.  To begin with, the castle was a central supporting stronghold for the Meranian rulers of the Upper Main

and Franconian Forest.

After the death of the last Andechs-Meranian, Duke Otto VIII, his brother-in-law divided his inheritance.  Plassenburg

Castle, along with Kulmbach, Berneck, Goldkronach, Wirsberg, Trebgast, and Pretzendorf (now Himmelkron) went

to Herman III and Otto III, the Counts of Weimar-Orlamünde.  The two sons of Herman II (died 1247) and Beatrix of

Andechs-Merania initially ruled together as "Lords of Plassenburg".  After 1278 they divided the inheritance of their

father, whereupon Otto III was given sole possession of the domain of Plassenburg and the territory around Weimar.

Otto III died in 1285 and the Plassenburg appeared soon afterwards in the hands of his son Otto IV.  His son in turn,

Count Otto VI of Orlamünde, who was the only Orlamünde since 1323 who was described as "Lord of Plassenburg",

pledged this lordship together with the Plassenburg, Kulmbach, Trebgast and Berneck in 1338 to Burgrave John II of

Nürnberg.  As a result, after Otto VI's death in 1340, Plassenburg fell to the Burgraves of Nürnberg from the House

of Hohenzollern.

Gradually, Plassenburg Castle developed into a new centre of power for the Hohenzollerns.  At the time of Burgrave

Frederick V of Nürnberg (who reigned 1357–1397), the Plassenburg had already outstripped the Cadolzburg, which

was a traditional burgravial residence.  In 1397 Burgrave Frederick V stepped down from the business of government

and chose the Plassenburg as his retirement home.  The Hohenzollerns' territory in Franconia was divided between his sons, John III and Frederick VI, later to be the Elector of Brandenburg, in accordance with the Dispositio Fridericiana

of 1385.  Thus, the Plassenburg became the centre of power for the so-called Principality of the Mountains (Fürstentum

ob dem Gebirg), later the Margraviate of Brandenburg-Kulmbach.  After the death of John III in 1420, his estate fell to

his brother, Frederick, who, in 1421, created the office of "Captain of the Mountains" to rule his domain.  Plassenburg

remained the administrative centre of this hilly principality until after the middle of the 16th century.

The imprisonment of the Countess Barbara of Brandenburg in March 1493, began the sad chapter of Plassenburg

Castle as a family prison.  This reached a peak in February 1515 when Margrave Casimir of Brandenburg-Kulmbach

locked up his father, Margrave Frederick I of Brandenburg-Ansbach, in a tower room at Plassenburg from which he

could not leave for 12 years.  In 1542, Margrave Albert II of Brandenburg-Kulmbach moved the Residenz of the

Margraves of Brandenburg-Kulmbach for the first time from Plassenburg, which continued to serve primarily as a c

ountry fortress to Bayreuth from then on.  (Wolfgang Schoberth, Doris Leithner: Text und Kommentar zu, Die

Gefangenen auf der Plassenburg“. Reihe: Buchners Schulbibliothek der Moderne, H. 22. Buchner, Bamberg 2005)

Plassenburg, engraving, Mattäus Merian, 1656.

(Benreis Photo)


(Luidger Photo)

Runkel: Burg Runkel is a ruined hill castle dating from the High Middle Ages, located in the city of Runkel in the

Landkreis (District) of Limburg-Weilburg in the state of Hesse.  Nestled in the valley of the Lahn River, the town and

castle are, i 3.75 mi (6.04 km) east of Limburg an der Lahn, 18.6 mi (29.9 km).  The hill fort is situated at 492 ft (150 m)

above sea level and rises about 115 ft (35 m) to 131 ft (40 m) above the valley of the Lahn.

Run – kall” is the Celtic word for a rock mountain, and as the hill had already attracted their attention, they may have

given it its name.  In 1159, Sigfridus de Runkel was mentioned in documents, but the castle had been built a little earlier

by a man with the same name, probably on the orders of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa.  It served to

protect the strategic pass between Weilburg and the southern side of the region.  At the time of the castle was built,

there was just a ferry.  The bridge was not built until the Late Middle Ages.

Around 1250, a dispute over the sale and inheritance of the property arose between Siegfried V von Runkle and his

cousin, Heinrich (died 1288).  In 1276, as a result of their quarrel, the cousin was driven from the castle.  He moved to

the other side of the Lahn River, where he built the Schadeck Castle as Trutzburg and created the Westerberg line.

Dietrich III von Runkel enlarged his Herrschaft in 1376 to the Zehnten ( tithing districts) of Schupbach and Aumenau

and built a more modern castle next to the original building.  Dietrich IV (died after 1462), gained the Grafschaft of

Wied, by marrying Anastasia the Wied-Isenburg heiress, which began the Wied-Runkel line and increased his influence

in the region.  In 1440, the building of the stone bridge over the Lahn River was commissioned but, because of a dispute

over the proceeds from the duties and tolls, it was not finished until 1448.  In 1543 Philipp Melanchthon, a Protestant

reformer, visited the castle as the guest of Count Johann IV von Wied-Runkel (died 1581), the nephew of the

Archbishop of Cologne, Hermann of Wied.

In 1595, a new dispute began over the castle, this time between the two lines, Wied-Isenburg and Wied-Runkel, and

the County of Wied was divided between them.  Wilhelm IV von Wied-Runkel was given the “Obere Grafschaft Wied"

(Upper County of Wied), including Runkel and Dierdorf, while his nephew Johann Wilhelm von Wied Runkel was

left with the “Niedere Grafschaft Wied"(Lower County of Wied ), including Wied, Braunsberg and Isenburg.  As a

result, Runkel became the center of the Upper County of Wied.

In 1634, during the Thirty Years' War, the Croats under the command of an Imperial General, Graf von Isolani, burned

the city and castle of Runkel.  The Upper Castle was left in the ruins while the Lower Castle was rebuilt in 1642.  In

1692 Friedrich von Wied-Runkel left to his grandson Maximilian Heinrich von Wied-Runkel the Upper County of

Wied, especially enlarged with Isenburg, which had belonged to the Lower County of Wied until then, and the County

of Wied-Runkel was born.

In the eighteenth Century, the castle often changed its name and banners as the armies of various countries moved

back and forth across the valley of the Lahn.  The banners flew above the Castle for the Electorate of Hannover in

1719, the Electorate of Saxony in 1758, the Kingdom of France in 1759, and the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt in

1796 (after a night-long fight with the French in the streets of Runkel).  In 1791, the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold II,

raised the County of Wied-Runkel to the rank of principality.

Under the Treaty of the Confederation of the Rhine (Rheinbundakte), the Principality lost its independence in 1806 and

went to the newly created Duchy of Nassau on the other side of the Lahn River.  The Duchy had been carved out of the

old Grand Duchy of Cleves and Berg (whose remaining lands went to Prussia in 1813) but it lasted for only 60 years

before it was annexed in 1866 by Prussian.  In the beginning, for several years, Prince Karl Ludwig Friedrich Alexander

von Wied, demoted to a minor nobleman, was the administrator of the new District of Runkel for his superiors, the

Dukes of Nassau.

Prince Karl was one of the last two surviving male members of the House of Wied-Runkel.  He died in March 1824,

followed a month later by his childless brother, Prince Friedrich Ludwig.  The Wied-Runkel line went into the night

with the brothers, leaving the Castle to the Wied-Neuwied line and its head, Prince Johann Karl August von Wied,

their father's third cousin.

Today, the castle is owned by Maximillian, Prince of Wied who lives at Neuwied Castle.  Runkel castle houses a

museum, a chapel, an archive and the private wing of the owner's great uncle Metfried, Prince of Wied.  The Upper

Castle is still in ruins and inaccessible to visitors but it is still possible to enter the main keep.  The castle consists of

an upper or main castle and a lower castle.  The Upper Castle has been in ruins since it was destroyed in the Thirty

Years' War, but it is still walkable.

At the highest point of the rock, above the existing structure, in the Lahn bridge ( built between 1440 and 1448 ), is

the keep, which can be climbed.  Standing around the mighty ruins of the palace, the keep and another former

residential buildings form the appearance of a shield wall on the Lahn side.  At both ends, each tower is about 131.25

feet (40 meters ) wide, with the same height and thickness of the Keep. It is unusual for a castle to have three keeps so

it can be said that the Runkel Castle is a rarity.

The Lower Castle, after the destruction of the Thirty Years' War in the 17th and 18th Centuries, was rebuilt and

expanded.  It now consists of two or three-story buildings, one of which, shaped like an U, connects with the Upper

Castle to form an enclosed courtyard.  The other buildings, formerly used for farming, are located within a courtyard,

which is surrounded by a circular wall.  Unlike the Upper Castle, the buildings of the Lower Castle are well preserved

and, for most of the time, are still in use today.

A museum, a chapel, archives and the offices of the Princes of Wied are located in the Lower Castle.  Metfried, Prince

of Wied (brother of Friedrich Wilhelm, Prince of Wied) and his family occasionally are in residence.  Other parts of

the buildings are also either inhabited or in use.  One is a storage room for agricultural vehicles.  At the Upper Castle,

the visitors can visit the parts that are not under reconstruction.  From the castle’s observation deck, there is an excellent

view of the city of Runkel, the medieval Lahn Bridge (Lahnbrücke) and, on the other side of the Lahn River, the

Schadeck Castle, which is still preserved.  In addition to the heritage preservation, the castle has received the status

of “Protected” in the case of war under the Hague Convention.  (Michael Losse, Die Lahn, Burgen and Schlösser (The

Lahn River, Castles and Forts), (Petersburg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2007)

Burg Runkel and Burg Schadeck in 1655, from the Topographia Hassiae by Matthäus Merian.

(KlausFoehl Photo)

Burg Runkel.

(Bytfisch Photo)

Burg Runkel.

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