Castles of Germany: III
German Castles and their history
A haven for outcasts; a castle built on transported clay so that land ownership can be claimed; and the childhood home of the Ludwig II can be found on this page.
The Castles featured on this page are: Ronneburg, Burg Hohenneuffen, Burg Hohenzollern, Wartburg, Burg Hohenschwangau, Schloss Babelsburg, and Schloss Mespelbrunn.
Located in Main-Kinzig, Ronneburg Castle sits atop a basalt mount. Built in the 13th century, Ronneburg Castle was sold to the Archbishop of Mainz in 1313, who mortgaged the castle out to the Knights of Rockenburg. Several rooms and buildings were added to Ronneburg Castle while in the hands of the Knights of Rockenburg.
Beginning in the 15th century, and with the aid of the Ysenburg-BÃ¼dingen family, Ronneburg Castle became a haven for Protestants, Gypsies, and Jews. In 1736, Ronneburg Castle became a place of pilgrimage for the congregation of the Protestant Moravian Church under the influence of the Count of Zinzendorf. Eventually, the castle couldn't hold the vast number of pilgrims, and a new site was chosen.
Medieval Festival at Ronneburg
Located in Thuringia, Germany, Wartburg Castle overlooks Eisenach, the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach. Built in 1067, the land atop the mountain was just outside that belonging to Ludwig der Springer, so he transported clay from his lands to the top of the mountain on which he built Wartburg so he could claim the castle was built on his land.
In 1207, Wartburg became famous for its Minstrel Contest and drew people from all over to compete. The songs of Minstrel's Contest are important literary works of the Middle Ages, although the original works have not been found, the variations still exist. This Wartburg Contest became so famous through history that even fictitious characters are said to have performed there!
In 1211, St. Elisabeth of Hungary was sent to Wartburg to train as consort for Ludwig IV of Thuringia. She became famous for her charity work and when she died at the tender age of 24, she was canonized as a saint.
In 1521, Martin Luther sought refuge at Wartburg after refusing to recant his views laid out in the 95 theses at the general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire. Martin Luther stayed hidden in Wartburg for nearly a year under the alias Junker JÃ¶rg (Knight George), and it was here that he translated the New Testament into German.
Wartburg underwent many renovations throughout its history, but most notably was that after 1952 when the castle was restored to look as it did in the 16th century. Entrance to the castle is still via drawbridge, and the Great Hall is the oldest part of the castle. The South Tower was built in 1318 and houses the castle dungeon.
The Wartburg armory used to house around 800 pieces of ancient pieces including the armour of King Henry II of France and items once belonging to Frederick the Wise, however, these priceless artifacts were taken by the Soviets in 1946, and only a few pieces have been returned. The Russian Government has promised to try to locate these treasures and return them to Wartburg. For visitor's information go to German Places/Wartburg.
Located on the Hohenneuffen Mount in the Swabian Alb (Swabian Highlands) of Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg, Burg Hohenneuffen was built some time in the 1100's. The earliest records show Count Manegold von Sulmetingen as the owner of Burg Hohenneuffen, and later became the family seat of the Lords of Neuffen.
In the 15th century, fortifications are added to Hohenneuffen Castle and in 1534, Duke Ulrich von WÃ¼rttemberg takes the castle without a battle. Duke Ulrich von WÃ¼rttemberg further expands the castle, turning Hohenneuffen Castle into a formidable stronghold. In 1635, Hohenneuffen Castle is surrendered to imperial troops in the Thirty Years War, but only after all the other fortresses in WÃ¼rttemberg have already fallen. Because Hohenneuffen Castle was surrendered first to Duke Ulrich von WÃ¼rttemberg without battle, and later to the imperial troops, the castle holds the distinction of never being conquered.
In the late 16th century Hohenneuffen Castle became a prison, and was used in this way for many years. By the mid 18th century Hohenneuffen Castle had become a dilapidated fortress and in 1801, the stronghold is abandoned and parts of the castle was used as a quarry. Today, Hohenneuffen Castle is the largest ruin in southern Germany and is host to tours, concerts, and popular medieval festivals. For visitor's information, visit this Hohenneuffen Castle website.
Large photo of Hohenneuffen Castle courtesy of Drobnikm
Located on Mount Hohenzollern overlooking Hechingen, Burg Hohenzollern was first built in the 11th century, but was completely destroyed in 1423. Building began in 1454 on a larger castle, and served the Swabian Hohenzollern family well. In 1634, the castle fell to WÃ¼rttemberg troops in the Thirty Years War. Later, the Habsburgs (or Hapsburg) Royal house controlled the castle until 1798, when the last Austrian owner left.
By the 18th century, Hohenzollern Castle was abandoned and left to fall into ruins. Much of the castle was torn down, resulting in the chapel being the only remnant of the medieval Hohenzollern Castle.
In 1846, Hohenzollern Castle was rebuilt by order of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The castle architect was the famous Friedrich August StÃ¼ler, with the sculptures being the work of Gustav Willgohs. Hohenzollern Castle was designed in the beautiful German Romanticism style as the perfect medieval knights castle; however, the newly rebuilt castle did not serve as a residence until 1945, when the last Prussian Crown Prince Wilhelm and his wife, Crown Princess Cecilie, made it their home. The royal couple are also buried at Hohenzollern Castle.
In 1978, Hohenzollern Castle was damaged by an earthquake, and repairs weren't complete until the late 1990s.
Hohenzollern Castle is one of the most visited castles in Germany, and houses several rare artifacts, including Crown of Wilhelm II, a uniform of Frederick the Great, and a letter of thanks from US President George Washington thanking Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben, a chamberlain of the Hohenzollern family, who served as General George Washington's Chief of Staff at the end of the American Revolutionary War. Baron von Steuben also taught the Continental Army the essentials of military drill and discipline.
Located in the village of Schwangau, Burg Hohenschwangau was built on the remains of the 12th century Schwanstein fortress that was built by knight. King Maximilian II of Bavaria, father of Ludwig II, had Hohenschwangau Castle built as a family summer residence, and his two sons spent many years there. Building began on the castle in 1833, under the supervision of architect Domenico Quaglio.
In 1864, King Maximilion II died, and his son King Ludwig II succeeded to the throne. He stayed at Hohenschwangau Castle while building began on his own castle Neuschwanstein, in 1869. In 1886, King Ludwig died, and his mother, Queen Marie was left alone at Hohenschwangau Castle until her death in 1889. In 1905, the late Queen's brother-in-law, Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria, had electricity installed in the castle, as well as an elevator. A year after his death, Burg Hohenschwangau became a museum.
In 1933, the castle was home to a royal family once again, and became the summer residence of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, and those after him.
Hohenschwangau Castle is open to tours and is definitely worth the visit, especially since you can visit nearby Neuschwanstein Castle also.
Large photo of Burg Hohenschwangau courtesy of KL Mircea.
Beautiful Buildings of FÃ¼ssen
Located in Potsdam,and considered the main castle in the beautiful Babelsberg Park, building began on Schloss Babelsberg in 1834 as a summer residence for Prince William and his wife, Augusta of Saxony-Weimar. Princess Augusta had plans for a neo-Gothic style castle, and even had a few plans shipped in from England for the castle, but King Frederick William III didn't want to bankroll another large castle, so approved only a small English style cottage.
Building began on the "cottage" by famous architect, Karl Friederich Schinkel, who built the neo-Gothic style cottage into the side of a hill. Knowing that Prince William and his wife would never settle for a mere cottage, Schinkel planned the castle to be built so that it could be added to in phases. The first phase of Babelsberg Palace was finished built between 1834 and 1835, and the second phase, carried out by Ludwig Persius and Heinrich Strack, who made several changes to Shinkel's plans, was built between 1844 and 1849. Even after Prince William succeeded to the throne, Babelsberg Palace remained his favorite summer residence.
The castle Park of Babelsberg is as famous as the castle itself, and has numerous buildings, monuments, and smaller castles built upon it's grounds, as well as beautiful landscaping and fountains. Babelsberg Palace and it's Castle Park is considered part of the Postdam World Heritage Site.
Large photo of Schloss Babelsberg above courtesy of J BalÃ¡zS.
Located in the town of Mespelbrunn in the Elsava Valley within the Spessart Forest, Schloss Mespelbrunn was built in the early 1400's as a modest home. Because Spessart forest was a have to bandits and ruffians, the large home was fortified in 1427, and slowly began to emerge as a castle instead of a modest family home. Knight Hamann Echter also built a moat around the castle, using the nearby pond, and added towers.
Years later, Mespelbrunn Castle was remodeled to look more like a manor house instead of a castle. With additions built by Knight Peter Echter, and on one of the columns you see his coat of arms, and also that of his wife Lady Adelsheim. The widows in the grand and imposing Knight's Hall were painted by Countess Antoinette Ingelheim, which show the various coat of arms of her family, along with the family tree of her husband.
Luckily, because of it's location, Mespelbrunn Castle is in excellent condition inside and out, having escaped damage in war. Mespelbrunn Castle also boasts a library with documents dating as far back as the 13th century. Today the castle is the property of the family of the counts of Ingelheim.
Large photo of Mespelbrunn above courtesy of Wolfgang Staudt.