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Castles of Germany: IV

Updated on May 25, 2012

German Castles

A merciful French general; a king's fascination with Versailles; a story of Frankenstein; and more, are covered in our fourth look at some of these majestic castles of Germany: Heidelberg Castle, Herrenchiemsee, Burg Frankenstein, Burghausen, Schloss Colditz, Burg Bentheim, and Löwenburg.

If you enjoyed this page, check out Castles of Germany, continued with Castles of Germany: II, and then Castles of Germany: III, and finish up with Castles of Germany: V.

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle

Located in Heidelberg on the Königstuhl hillside, Heidelberg Castle is a large and famous castle ruin in Germany. The first castle was built in the early 1200's and was expanded into two castles years later, but the upper castle was destroyed by a fire which was sparked off by lightning. By 1650, Heidelberg was a large grand castle, but had succumbed to the ravages of war and fire, with a later fire once again sparked by lightning.

Not much is known about the early stages of the second lower Heidelberg Castle seen today. The castle was built sometime between 1934 and 1303, and it is not entirely known who built this castle. A document by Matthäus Merian der Ãltere, a Swiss engraver, credits Elector Ludwig V as the possible builder.

In 1401, Rupert III was so dissatisfied with the size of Heidelberg Castle, that he greatly extended the castle, and added defenses, turning the modest sized castle into a grand fortress.

During the reign of Louis V, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Heidelberg was visited and praised by Martin Luther when he was in Heidelberg to defend his Ninety-Five Theses.

Heidelberg Castle was first attacked in the Thirty Years War, and was greatly damaged. General Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, also known as the Monk in Armour, and general of the Holy Roman Empire, successfully took the castle and kept possession until 1633 when the Swedes took the castle. General Tilly retook Heidelberg Castle two years later. The Holy Roman Empire had control of the partially ruined castle until the end of the Thirty Years War, when it was given to Charles Louis, it's new ruler.

In the late 1600's, on the orders of King Louie XIV, the French took Heidelberg Castle, and set it on fire. They were bent on destroying the town of Heidelberg also, but the merciful French general, René de Froulay de Tessé, told the townspeople to set small fire in their homes so that the accumulating smoke will give the illusion of the entire town ablaze.

In 1960, Johann Wilhelm von Pfalz-Neuburg rebuilt Heidelberg Castle so well that when the French troops tried to take the castle again, they were completely unsuccessful. To convince Johann Wilhelm to give up the castle, the French troops destroyed the town, and Wilhelm capitulated. The French then destroyed Heidelberg Castle with mines.

Heidelberg Castle suffered looting throughout the years, and plans were made to completely dismantle the castle, but it was slowly becoming a famous ruin. Efforts turned towards saving the castle, with the Count Charles de Graimberg being the first person credited with spearheading the conservation effort.

In the mid 1800's Heidelberg Castle was becoming a popular tourist attraction. The castle was even visited by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), who wrote a glowing report of Heidelberg Castle in his travel book A Tramp Abroad. Today, Heidelberg Castle boasts over three million visits a year.

Large photo of Heidelberg Castle above courtesy of Cory Wendorf.

Herrenchiemsee

Herrenchiemsee
Herrenchiemsee

Located on the Herreninsel, the largest island on the Chiemsee in Bavaria, the Herrenchiemsee was the most expensive residence of King Ludwig II. In 1873, Ludwig II acquired the Augustinian Monastery and remodeled this monastery into what is called the Altes Schloss. In 1878, building began on the Neues Schloss, which is considered to be the main building of Herrenchiemsee.

The Neues Schloss, or New Palace of Herrenchiemsee was designed after Versailles, and murals throughout the palace show King Ludwig II's fascination with King Louie XIV. One of the most famous rooms in Herrenchiemsee is the Hall of Mirrors, a grand hall that is larger than the one in the Palace of Versailles. King Ludwig II died before Herrenchiemsee was completed, and many of these incomplete sections were demolished.

While Herrenchiemsee has numerous impressive rooms and ornate décor, the porcelain chandelier in the dining room is the largest of its kind. Herrenchiemsee was also built with many amenities such as running water and bathrooms. The palace is also not the easiest place to get to, because of it's location, the only way to get to the palace is via ferry boat, but it is definitely worth the trouble.

The Palace gardens are filled with romantic and fantastical statues of fair maidens, dragons, and heroes, as well as beautifully placed fountains. The palace gardens were intended by King Ludwig II to be much larger, but the plans were not implemented after the king's death. Herrenchiemsee also houses the King Ludwig II Museum, which details his life and includes many ornate pieces from all three of Ludwig II's royal palaces.

If you'd like to visit Herrenchiemsee, click here for information.

Large photo of Herrenchiemsee above courtesy of Allie Caulfield.

Burg Frankenstein

Burg Frankenstein
Burg Frankenstein

Located in the community of Muehtal near Darmstadt, Burg Frankenstein has been mentioned in documents dating as far back as 948. Built on Langenberg by the noble Frankenstein family, the castle was once a large imposing fortress. Some of the ruins seen today date to the 13th century, while others are of centuries more recent. This leads one to believe that the original Frankenstein Castle had been replaced sometime in the 1200's. The builder of the current Frankenstein Castle was Konrad Reiz von Breuberg, and was built sometime before 1250, with the exact date uncertain.

In 1662, the Frankenstein family sold the castle to the Darmstadt Landgraves. In 1673, the German theologian, physician, and alchemist Johann Conrad Dippel was born at the castle, and would add Frankensteinensis to his signature, indicating his birth at Frankenstein Castle. Legend has it that Johann Dippel was a body snatcher who would try to reanimate the dead, but this legend seems to have come about after Mary Shelly's book, so it's probably stretching the truth, although body snatching was not uncommon amongst some physicians.

Whether Mary Shelly was inspired by Frankenstein Castle in her novel is unknown. She has been known to travel in the area, but this doesn't mean she visited the castle or even knew of it's existence. Some say Mary's stepmother, Mary Jane Clairmont, who translated the writings of the Brothers Grimm, told Mary a tale she heard from Jacob Grimm. According to Jacob, in the prison of Frankenstein Castle, Johann Conrad Dippel tried to build a being out of human parts and virgin blood.

Johann Conrad Dippel and painter Heinrich Diesbach accidentally discovered Prussian Blue, a very dark blue pigment that was extremely stable and did not fade as easily as other pigments used by artists. Some say the story of Dippel building a creature in the prison was an effort to discredit him because of the notoriety he received after discovering the Prussian Blue pigment which was becoming exceedingly popular amongst artists.

As could be expected, Frankenstein Castle is a tourist favorite during Halloween, and the castle hosts a ghostly night that does not disappoint.

Large photo of Frankenstein Castle courtesy of Pascal Rehfeldt.

Burghausen

Burghausen
Burghausen

Located on a mountain ridge above the Salzach River in Bavaria on the border of Austria, Burghausen is the longest castle in Germany. In the 600's, a large house stood on this site, and was the residence of the Dukes of Bavaria.

In 1090, Count Sieghart X extended and fortified the large house, and Duke Heinrich XIII built the main castle in 1255. Extensions and improvements were made to Burghausen by various rulers throughout the years, until it became the large castle we see today.

Burghausen is so massive that it has 6 courtyards with a moat and gated entrance. Burghausen boasts the most well medieval preserved gate and drawbridge. Considering the size of the castle, there are numerous buildings within the various courtyards, including a prison, the Torture Tower, the dungeons, the Clock Tower, the Main Tower, a Chapel, a forge, and the list goes on. Burghausen today is host to a youth hostel, as well as several museums.

Click here for visitor's info.

Large photo of Burghausen above courtesy of Besser.

Schloss Colditz

Schloss Colditz
Schloss Colditz

Located in the town of Colditz in Saxony, building began on Schloss Colditz in 1158 and was used as a watch tower in the Middle Ages. Colditz Castle has had a long and checkered history, and is haunted by the misery and misfortune that has swept through it's halls.

In 1430 Colditz Castle was set on fire by the Hussites, but the castle was rebuilt by Prince Ernst, who died in the castle. Less than a hundred years later, Colditz Castle was set ablaze again, but this time accidentally. The castle baker set the castle on fire, and it swept through the buildings, destroying much of the newly rebuilt castle, along with some of the city. Colditz Castle was rebuilt once again, therefore, the castle we see today is the newer castle, and not the original castle from the middle ages.

In 1803, Colditz Castle was a workhouse, and in 1829, it became a mental institution for the wealthy families of Germany. One famous resident of the institution was a son of composer Robert Schumann. In 1912, as well as being a mental institution, Colditz Castle was used to house tuberculosis patients, and nearly 1,000 of them died from malnutrition alone.

Colditz Castle was used as a POW camp in both World Wars, but especially so in WWII. Because of it's location Colditz Castle was considered the perfect place to hold Allied prisoners who were considered security risks. Many of the prisoners sent to the castle were either Allied officers and/or prisoners who had attempted escape from other camps. Many attempts were made to escape form this "escape proof" prison, and the Colditz Castle Prison Camp actually has one of the highest records for successful escapes. This is mostly because when they put a group of young military soldiers bent on escape together, they ended up with an escape "think tank" of men who banded together and learned form each other's mistakes and successes.

In 1996, Colditz Castle was abandoned, and has not been occupied since. Restoration efforts began in 2006, with the intention of using the castle as a youth hostel, hotel, and POW Escape Museum. Learn more at the Colditz Castle homepage.

Large photo of Colditz Castle above courtesy of Qatsi.

Burg Bentheim

Burg Bentheim
Burg Bentheim

Located in the town of Bad Bentheim in Lower Saxony on the German-Dutch border, Burg Bentheim dates to at least 1020 and was owned by Count Otto von Northeim at the time, but the exact date the castle was built is unknown.

In 1116 the castle was set on fire by Duke Lothar von Süpplinburg, but the castle was rebuilt. In 1146, Count Otto von Salm-Rhieneck, became the new owner of Bentheim Castle.

In the Thirty Years War, Bentheim Castle was an important piece of property and was fought over by the French and British. In 1795, the French set the castle on fire, and the castle sat a burned ruin until 1848, when reconstruction efforts began to take hold, and the Crown Fortress was built.

Large photo of burg Bentheim above courtesy of Sky#Walker.

Löwenburg

Löwenburg
Löwenburg

Located in the city of Kassel, Löwenburg is unique among Germany's castles in that it was built as a romantic medieval castle ruin. The Landgrave Wilhelm IX (later Elector Wilhelm IX) ordered his royal court builder, Heinrich Christoph Jussow, to build this unusual castle, which took 8 years. Löwenburg, which means Lion's Castle, is the center attraction of the fantastical Wilhelmshöhe Hill Park. This grand park is filled with many buildings representing various countries, such as an English ruin, a Chinese village, and Grecian temples.

Although Löwenburg was just a grand building based on the fantasy whim of Landgrave Wilhelm IX rather like that of Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle, scholars consider Löwenburg an important historical building. Not only because of the uniqueness of it stature, but also because it was one of the first neo-Gothic buildings in all of Germany. Landgrave Wilhelm IX used Löwenburg as a showcase castle to awe visiting dignitaries, and it represented the state of Hessen and it's rulers.

Löwenburg, was one of the first castles built for the owner's fights of fancy, and was the forerunner to other such castles such as Babelsburg and Neuschwanstein. Wilhelm IX stayed at Löwenburg to escape the pressures of the court and to entertain his mistress, Karoline von Schlotheim.

Although Löwenburg was built to look like a medieval ruin, in WWII, the castle sustained enough damage to become a true ruin, and had to undergo major repairs.

Large photo of Löwenburg above courtesy of Andreas.

Going to Germany? Learn German!

Learn German the Fast and Fun Way (Fast and Fun Way Series)
Learn German the Fast and Fun Way (Fast and Fun Way Series)

If you really want to experience Germany, you've got to learn some of the language. You'll be surprised at how easy it is!

 

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I used to live in Biebeshiem(sp?) not very far from castle Frankenstein. These are wonderful pictures that bring back great memories. Thanks for posting them.

    • vincente lm profile image

      vincente lm 5 years ago

      I grew up in Mühltal near Frankenstein! If you ever have the chance to go up there on Halloween do it! Pure Horror!!!!

    • anansigirls lm profile image

      anansigirls lm 6 years ago

      I was born a 20 minutes walk (downhill to Eberstadt, if you've been there) from the castle Frankenstein (Frankensteiner Strasse) and had to get my tissues out when I saw the picture. It was a great place to play hide and seek when I was a kid. So this is my favourite lens of all time (and I doubt that will change).

    • sleepless25 profile image

      sleepless25 7 years ago

      nice site!

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I've been to the Heidelberg castle! Thanks for the memories. I'm featuring this on my Rhine River cruise lens.

    • MBradley McCauley profile image

      MBradley McCauley 8 years ago

      I lived in Germany a total of 5 years and always loved exploring the various castles. This lens is well done. Take a bow!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Wow! Löwenburg is awesome -- just tweeted about it. ;)

    • profile image

      ulla_hennig 8 years ago

      Very nice pics and useful information!

    • MikeMoore LM profile image

      MikeMoore LM 8 years ago

      Truly great lenses. Thanks for the read!