Histories Greatest Castles: Germany
Updated: Dec 26, 2022
Today we will be taking a look at just a few of the amazing castles that Germany has to offer.
Neuschwanstein Castle: www.neuschwanstein.de
Neuschwanstein was opened to the public in 1886, seven weeks after the death of King Ludwig II . The shy king had built the castle to withdraw from the public - now his refuge has become a crowd puller. Neuschwanstein is one of the most visited palaces and castles in Europe today. Around 1.4 million people visit "the castle of the fairy tale king" every year. In summer , on average, more than 6,000 visitors a day throng through rooms intended for a single resident. In connection with the alpine climate and light, this leads to considerable stress on the valuable furniture and textiles, which we make every effort to preserve. The idyllic location of Neuschwanstein is unique. However, movements in the foundation area have to be constantly monitored and the steep rock walls have to be secured again and again. The harsh climate also attacks the limestone facades, which repeatedly requires renovation measures.
Burg Eltz: https://burg-eltz.de/en/homepage
Eltz Castle (German: Burg Eltz) is a medieval castle nestled in the hills above the Moselle between Koblenz and Trier, Germany. It is still owned by a branch of the same family (the Eltz family) that lived there in the 12th century, thirty-three generations ago. Bürresheim Castle, Eltz Castle and Lissingen Castle are the only castles in the Eifel region which have never been destroyed. The castle is surrounded on three sides by the river Elzbach, a tributary on the north side of the Moselle. It is 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.
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 Holy Roman Empire under Frederick Barbarossa, 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 subject 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 original 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 reclaim 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 November. Visitors can view the treasury, with gold, silver and porcelain artifacts and the armory of weapons and suits of armor.
Hohenzollern Castle: https://www.burg-hohenzollern.com/
Hohenzollern Castle is the ancestral seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern. The third of three hilltop castles built on the site, it is located atop Mount Hohenzollern, above and south of Hechingen, on the edge of the Swabian Jura of central Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The first castle on the mountain was constructed in the early 11th century. Over the years the House of Hohenzollern split several times, but the castle remained in the Swabian branch, the dynastic seniors of the Franconian-Brandenburgian cadet branch that later acquired its own imperial throne. This castle was completely destroyed in 1423 after a ten-month siege by the free imperial cities of Swabia.
The second castle, a larger and sturdier structure, was constructed from 1454 to 1461, which served as a refuge for the Catholic Swabian Hohenzollerns, including during the Thirty Years' War. By the end of the 18th century it was thought to have lost its strategic importance and gradually fell into disrepair, leading to the demolition of several dilapidated buildings. The third, and current, castle was built between 1846 and 1867 as a family memorial by Hohenzollern scion King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Architect Friedrich August Stüler based his design on English Gothic Revival architecture and the Châteaux of the Loire Valley. No member of the Hohenzollern family was in permanent or regular residence when it was completed, and none of the three German Emperors of the late 19th and early 20th century German Empire ever occupied the castle; in 1945 it briefly became the home of the former Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, son of the last Hohenzollern monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Among the historical artifacts of Prussian history contained in the castle are the Crown of Wilhelm II, some of the personal effects of King Frederick the Great, and a letter from US President George Washington thanking Hohenzollern relative Baron von Steuben for his service in the American Revolutionary War.
With over 350,000 visitors per year Hohenzollern castle is one of the most visited castles in Germany. The castle is privately owned by the House of Hohenzollern, with two-thirds belonging to the Brandenburg-Prussian branch, and the balance to the Swabian branch. Since 1952, the Princess Kira of Prussia Foundation has used the castle for an annual summer camp for children. Whenever Prince Georg and his family are staying at the castle, the Prussian flag flies over the castle, while the flag of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen is used by the Swabians. In 2015, parts of the 2016 thriller-horror film A Cure for Wellness were filmed at the castle, closing it from 13 to 24 July 2015. Hohenzollern Castle as well as Peckforton Castle in England were also used in the filming of the 2017 TV adaption of The Worst Witch.
Reichsburg Castle: https://reichsburg-cochem.de/
It is generally assumed that Cochem Castle was built around the year 1000 by the palatinate count Ezzo, son and successor to palatinate count Hermann Pusilius. The castle was first mentioned in a document in 1051 when Richeza, Ezzo’s oldest daughter and former Queen of Poland, gave the castle to her nephew palatine count Henry I. Even when Ezzo’s family ceased to be palatinate counts, Cochem remained connected to the title of the palatinate counts. Years later, in 1151, king Konrad III put an end to a dispute concerning the succession by occupying the castle with troupes. Like this, he finally took control of the castle, which became an imperial fiefdom. Thus, Cochem became an imperial castle in the time when the Staufer dynasty reigned in Germany. From this time on, imperial ministers – with the title of “Lord of the castle” – were installed to administer the castle and the surrounding properties.
In 1294, king Adolf of Nassau pawned the castle and the city of Cochem as well as the surrounding imperial property of about 50 villages to Boemund I of Trier in order to pay for his coronation as German emperor. But neither Adolf nor his successor, King Albrecht I of Austria could redeem the pledge. For this reason the archbishops of Trier kept Cochem as a hereditary fiefdom until 1794. Under the reign of Archbishop Balduin (1307-1354) the old castle was enlarged and fortified. From 1419, the Lords of the castle were replaced by local magistrates. When the troupes of King Louis XIV (called Sun King) invaded the Rhine and the Moselle area in the war of succession of the Palatinate, Cochem castle, too, was occupied in 1688. After the town had been completely occupied by French troupes in March 1689, the castle was set on fire, undermined and blown up on May 19th of 1689.
The French Sun King’s troops almost completely destroyed the town of Cochem. The castle remained in ruins until 1868, when a Berlin business- man, Mr. Louis Ravené, bought the castle grounds and the ruins. Shortly after his purchase he began to rebuild Cochem Castle incorporating the remains of the late Gothic buildings into the main castle structure. The entire structure was rebuilt in the then popular Neo-Gothic architectural style. This style corresponded to the romantic ideals in vogue in Germany in the 19th century. The trend at the time throughout Germany was for nobility or other wealthy persons to purchase and refurbish castle ruins as family summer residences. The Ravené family followed this trend and used the castle as a family summer residence.
Today the castle is still well-equipped with Renaissance and Baroque furniture, which was carefully collected by the Ravené family. Since 1978 the castle has been owned by the town of Cochem and is run by “Reichsburg Cochem Ltd.” Cochem Castle, situated on an outstanding hill more than 100 metres above the river Moselle, is a popular tourist attraction.
Heidelberg Castle: https://www.schloss-heidelberg.de/
In the 13th century, the Counts Palatine near the Rhine and later Electors built their first Heidelberg residence above Heidelberg. Over the centuries, a representative castle developed from the fortified medieval castle. Today, Heidelberg Castle with its Renaissance palaces is one of the most important cultural monuments in Germany. The highlight of Palatinate architecture was the creation of the famous castle garden "Hortus Palatinus" at the beginning of the 17th century. In the 17th century, the Palatinate was involved in the Thirty Years' War and the Palatinate War of Succession. French troops blew up the mighty walls in several attempts. In the 18th century, the electors lost interest in the severely damaged palace and moved their residence to Mannheim. The poorly repaired castle buildings fell into disrepair and burned down in 1764 after two lightning strikes.
For travellers, painters and poets around 1800, the remains of Heidelberg Castle, picturesquely situated above the Neckar, were the epitome of a romantic ruin. They immortalized the atmospheric monument in poems, songs and pictures. Awareness of preserving the historic castle ruins only slowly developed. The French Count Charles de Graimberg, who lived in exile in Germany, played an important role in this. Around 1900 the so-called “Schlossstreit” broke out: Experts heatedly discussed a possible reconstruction of Heidelberg Castle. A mighty castle, destroyed and reawakened from its slumber to its former glory, met the taste of many contemporaries. But the representatives of monument preservation prevailed in the end. It was decided to "preserve" the castle as a ruin. Only the Friedrichsbau was supplemented and refurnished in the style of historicism.
Burg Frankenstein: https://www.frankenstein-restaurant.de/
Viktor Frankenstein and his self-created monster - almost everyone immediately has an image in mind. Anyone who hasn't read the book knows at least one of the film adaptations of this genre classic. There are many historical indications that Mary Shelley's world-famous novel "Frankenstein, or Modern Prometheus" actually has its origins in Frankenstein Castle. The well-known Frankenstein Castle stands on a 370 m high foothills of the Langenberg and is located south-east of the Darmstadt district of Eberstadt in the district of the municipality of Mühltal. It is the northernmost of a series of castles and castle ruins on the western edge of the Odenwald and looks down on the Rhine plain.
The exact time when Frankenstein Castle was built is uncertain. The castle was first mentioned in 1252 in a document by Conrad II. Reiz von Breuberg and his wife Elisabeth von Weiterstadt. The noble family of the Lords von und zu Frankenstein arose from their marriage. The phrase "super castro in frangenstein" ("on the castle on the Frankenstein") shows that the castle had already been built and was being used at that time. Most historians assume it was built around 1240. Around the year 1400 the influence of the Frankensteins increased. The castle was extended and modernized by an outer bailey. In 1402, together with Nieder-Beerbach, she became an imperial fief and thus independent of the powerful Counts of Katzenelnbogen.
The Frankenstein family was doing very well economically. In the 16th century a lot was built and expanded. During this time, Frankenstein Castle reached the dimensions it still has today. In 1670 the barons of Frankenstein withdrew to Franconia (Ullstadt) and bought a new dominion there after Landgrave Ludwig VI. von Herren-Darmstadt had bought Frankenstein Castle for 109,000 guilders, including the lordship. However, the landgrave prioritized the Frankensteins' territorial possessions rather than looking after the castle. As a result, the castle slowly fell into disrepair and served as a home for the invalids and a place of refuge during the wars of conquest of Louis XIV of France until the 18th century.
The rumors about hidden treasures and the destructive thirst for action of the treasure hunters were not good for the castle either. Walls were torn down and cellars destroyed - so unfortunately not much was left of the outer bailey. The then wife of the castle administrator then caused the core castle to be destroyed with her greed for money. The complete inventory, the lead of the roofs, the bricks and wooden stairs were monetized. The farmers of the neighboring villages also used the castle as a cheap quarry until there was hardly one stone left on the other. Grand Duke Ludwig III. tried to breathe new life into Frankenstein Castle in the middle of the 19th century - more or less successfully. It has been restored inaccurately and inaccurately, floors have been added that never existed.
In fact, it was not until the 20th century that construction started again. Since Frankenstein Castle was and is a popular hiking and excursion destination, the panorama restaurant with a viewing terrace was built at the end of the 1960s and finally opened its doors on September 9, 1970. A few years later, US soldiers created the annual Halloween festival at Frankenstein Castle. To this day, Germany's largest Halloween festival takes place every year at Frankenstein Castle. Today numerous events such as weddings, company celebrations, birthdays or public celebrations take place at the castle and in the restaurant. Frankenstein Castle has established itself as an attractive excursion destination and high-quality event catering.
Frankenstein Castle has survived many eras, as can be clearly seen from the various structural sections. The southern core castle, the oldest part, is protected by thick walls with battlements and battlements. Here the farm and residential buildings were located around a narrow courtyard and the well house. The well that has been preserved is covered today. The outer walls of the mostly half-timbered buildings also represented the outer walls of the castle and were therefore very thick. In order to better protect the castle's kennel, another ring wall was later built. The gate tower, in front of which there was a moat with a drawbridge, was the main entrance to the actual castle for a long time. The ditch has now been filled in, but the rollers and impact stones of the drawbridge can still be seen in the gate tower. On the vulnerable south side, a powder tower was built in front of it, which is open to the castle so that the enemy can continue to fire should he take the tower. Around the 16th century, the main bailey was expanded to include an outer bailey for reasons of space. At the end of this century, after a few modifications, Frankenstein Castle reached its final form. Apart from the chapel built in 1474, there is nothing left in the outer bailey today.
Nuremburg Imperial Castle: https://www.kaiserburg-nuernberg.de/index.htm
The Imperial Castle is Nuremberg's landmark. Since the Middle Ages, its silhouette has represented the power and importance of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and the prominent role of the imperial city of Nuremberg. Nuremberg, first documented as a royal estate in 1050, was an important base for their imperial and domestic power politics during the time of the Salian and Staufer kings and emperors. The castle and town formed a preferred place of residence for the traveling rulers who held court days and imperial meetings here.
For this purpose, the Staufer built an extensive palace complex on the castle rock - over older buildings - which still characterizes the appearance of the imperial castle today. To manage the imperial estate and to maintain order, they appointed a burgrave who resided in the front area of the complex (the so-called burgrave castle). In 1191 the office of burgrave passed to the Counts of Zollern.
Thanks to the close connection to the kingdom and the location at the crossroads of important trunk roads, Nuremberg quickly developed into an important center of transit trade and export trade as well as a financial center. The freedom letter of Emperor Friedrich II from 1219 favored the civil autonomy of the municipality at the expense of the burgrave's rights and tasks. The development into an independent imperial city was consolidated with the end of the Staufer family in 1254. The city finally emerged victorious from the bitter disputes with the Zoller burgraves, who acquired extensive territories in Franconia and formed new centers of power first in Cadolzburg and later in Ansbach: in 1422, Emperor Sigismund gave it responsibility for the castle for the good of the king and rich. The people of Nuremberg probably also had a hand in this when Ludwig VII of Bavaria-Ingolstadt had the burgrave's castle attacked and burned down in 1420. In 1427, the city acquired the remains of the burgrave's castle from burgrave Friedrich VI, who found a new field of activity as elector of Brandenburg. Since that time, the entire castle complex has been owned by the city.
In the late Middle Ages, Nuremberg was considered the "most distinguished and best-situated city in the empire" . The city was the scene of numerous imperial assemblies, and from 1356 the "Golden Bull" of Emperor Charles IV stipulated that every newly elected ruler must hold his first court day in Nuremberg. Nuremberg thus became one of the centers of the empire – alongside Frankfurt as the place where the king was elected and Aachen as the place where the king was crowned.
Most emperors stayed here several times: Louis IV "the Bavarian" 74 times , Charles IV 52 times. However, the castle lost its importance. The town hall, completed in 1340, replaced it as a conference venue, and since Ludwig the Bavarian emperors have preferred the comfort of patrician houses. In 1423, Sigismund also gave the city the imperial insignia, a sign of special trust. The Habsburg Frederick III. and his son Maximilian I. were the last emperors to reside in the castle and town for a longer period of time. Her successor , Charles V , also broke with the tradition of holding his first court day in Nuremberg: because of epidemics raging in Nuremberg, he moved it to Worms and then came to Nuremberg for the first time in 1541 on his way to the Regensburg Reichstag. The acceptance of the Reformation in 1524 led to estrangement between the Protestant city and the Catholic emperors. After the Thirty Years' War, the Reichstag was finally moved to Regensburg in 1663.
After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and the incorporation of Nuremberg into the Kingdom of Bavaria, the castle found new interest as a monument of German history. From 1833, King Ludwig I had it redesigned by the architect Carl Alexander von Heideloff in order to be able to live there as sovereign. However, the interior decoration in the sense of a romantic neo-gothic did not meet the taste of the king, which is why he interrupted the construction work in 1835. It was not until his son Maximilian II that August von Voit completed the furnishing of a royal apartment between 1851 and 1858. In 1866, the Hohenzollerns seized the imperial castle: Ludwig II had to grant King Wilhelm I of Prussia joint use of the "castle of his fathers" after the defeat in the war of 1866. Kaiser Wilhelm II lived in the castle several times and did not fail to call himself the "Burgrave of Nuremberg".
After the end of the monarchy in 1918, the historicist design of the Palas and Bower was no longer popular. In 1934, under Rudolf Esterer, a revision began that was to eliminate the neo-Gothic in favor of the supposed original state, but at the same time - with a view to future Nazi party rallies of the NSDAP - was to create a "principal apartment" for high-ranking guests of the Reich. The castle should not only be "preserved as a monument, but should also take its old place in the life of the nation" (Heinrich Kreisel). Esterer believed that past and present could be brought together by removing the neo-Gothic furnishings and using "timeless German craftsmanship". In 1945 almost the entire Imperial Castle lay in ruins, but important Romanesque and late Gothic components remained almost undamaged. Immediately after the war, Rudolf Esterer rebuilt the complex almost as he had designed it before the war in the spirit of "creative preservation of monuments". The permanent exhibition was redesigned in 2013 by the Bavarian Palace Administration in cooperation with the Nuremberg Museums. In the new presentation of the castle, not only the existence and function of the imperial castle in their historical context are clearly explained, but also interesting and stimulating information about the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and the role of Nuremberg in the late Middle Ages is conveyed to visitors of all ages.
Wernigerode Castle: https://www.schloss-wernigerode.de/
Wernigerode Castle was originally a medieval castle that was supposed to secure the way of the German emperors of the Middle Ages on their hunting trips to the Harz Mountains. A first castle complex was built over the town of Wernigerode at the beginning of the 12th century. The complex has undergone various profound changes throughout its history. At the end of the 15th century it was greatly expanded in the late Gothic style, as evidenced by two curtain arched windows in the castle courtyard. During the 16th century, the castle was rebuilt into a Renaissance fortress, which can still be seen today in the Renaissance staircase tower. Severely devastated in the Thirty Years' War, Count Ernst zu Stolberg-Wernigerode began in the late 17th century with the baroque conversion of the remains of the castle into a romantic residential castle in the form of a round castle.
The meteoric political rise of Count Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode, which made him the first senior president of the Prussian province of Hanover from 1867, later the German ambassador in Vienna and finally Bismarck’s deputy as vice-chancellor of the German Reich and deputy Prussian prime minister, is the Reason for the major historical renovation that was carried out from 1862 to 1885. The castle thus became a leading building of North German historicism. In this style, the architect Carl Frühling created an impressive castle ensemble with a great long-distance effect and an immense wealth of detail on the inside. The artistic principle of the conversion is expressed in the interior and exterior architecture. When circumnavigating the building, every 45° there is a new exterior silhouette.
The castle, together with the three associated gardens and parks (pleasure garden, zoo, terraced gardens) has been a nationally valuable cultural monument since 1999 and part of the Saxony-Anhalt state project Garden Dreams®. Parts of the palace have been open to the public since 1930. Inside, almost 50 rooms can be visited in two tours. Since 1998, the castle has developed into the first German center for art and cultural history of the 19th century, covering the period from 1803 to 1918.
Hohenschwangau Castle: https://www.hohenschwangau.de/en
Hohenschwangau Castle was mentioned the first time in records of the 12th century. Until the 16th century its owners were the knights of Schwangau. During the following time it changed hands a couple of times and was partially destroyed during different wars. In 1832 the later King Maximilian II., father of King Ludwig II., acquired the ruin and had the castle rebuilt according to original plans. After its completion it used to be the summer and hunting residence of the Bavarian royal family. In his whole life, the famous Bavarian King Ludwig II. spent a few weeks each summer in Hohenschwangau. Since 1923 the Wilttelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds owns Hohenschwangau Castle.
At the age of 18, Crown Prince Maximilian of Bavaria discovered the scenic Hohenschwangau castle ruins, known at the time as "Schwanstein", on a hike. Spontaneously he decided to buy and rebuild it. Between 1833 and 1837 he had a romantic castle built on the remains of the medieval castle. He entrusted his art teacher, the architecture and theatre painter Domenico Quaglio (1787-1837) with the construction management. With Hohenschwangau Castle, he created a model for many other buildings. The interior and exterior design, the furnishings of the rooms and the more than 90 wall paintings are coordinated and blend into a harmonious whole. The complex, as created by Maximilian and his artist-architect, has been preserved as an extraordinary architectural monument from the Romantic era. In 1842 Maximilian married Princess Marie of Prussia. Marie (1825 - 1889), a niece of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. and granddaughter of King Friedrich Wilhelm II. She loved Hohenschwangau and the contrasting landscape of the area. The Bavarian royal family spent many weeks a year in Hohenschwangau. The castle chronicle, written by the respective castellan, enumerates princely guests, reports on festivals, splendid jousting, mountain fires glowing from far and wide, and excursions and "parthias" of the royal family. While Maximilian, a passionate hunter, used the stays for hunting trips in the area, Queen Marie preferred mountain hiking and fishing. Anyone interested in the life of their son, King Ludwig II, his being, his almost mystical imagination and his buildings, can in Hohenschwangau guess the origin of his interests in legends and myths. Here the enthusiastic king found many stimuli in his childhood.
There are many more castles that are all over Germany. I chose these ones because they are some of my favorites.
There is a ton more information on each of these castles but I didn't want to overload this post.