Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Castles in Germany on the Rhine River from Koblenz to Bingen

Castles on the Rhine River from Koblenz to Bingen

Data current to 21 Jan 2021.

 (Holger Weinandt Photo)

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress (Festung Ehrenbreitstein) is a fortress in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, on the east bank of the Rhine river where it is joined by the Moselle river, overlooking the town of Koblenz.  Occupying the position of an earlier fortress destroyed by the French in 1801, it was built as the backbone of the regional fortification system, Festung Koblenz, by Prussia between 1817 and 1828 and guarded the middle Rhine region, an area that had been invaded by French troops repeatedly in the past.  The Prussian fortress was never attacked.  Since 2002, Ehrenbreitstein has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Upper Middle Rhine Valley.  Ehrenbreitstein stands 118 metres above the Rhine.

The hill on which Ehrenbreitstein stands was first settled in the 4th millennium BC, and fortifications were built there in the 10th/9th century BC.  In the 3rd to 5th centuries AD a Roman fortification was sited there.  More settlement followed in the 8th/9th centuries under the Carolingian dynasty.  c1000 a noble named Ehrenbert (or Erembert) erected a castle on the hill.  Its initial name "Burg Ehrenbertstein" later became Burg Ehrenbreitstein.

The castle was first mentioned in an existing written document in 1139, as a property of the Archbishop of Trier.  Archbishop Hillin expanded it in 1152–1169.  A supporting castle (Burg Helferstein) was built on the hill known as Helfenstein to the south.  It was further extended by Archbishop Henry of Fénétrange in 1286, and Archbishop John II of Baden in 1481.

During the 16th century, work was begun to turn the castle into a fortress that could withstand the new gunpowder weapons. One of the first cannon was the 9 ton Greif cannon.  At the foot of the hill, protected by the fortress, Philipp Christoph von Sötern had the palace of Phillipsburg built in 1625–1629.  The fortress was further improved by his successors Karl kaspar von der Leyen and Johann Hugo von Orsbeck.  In 1632, it was occupied by the French and in 1637 by Imperial troops during the Thirty Years' War.

Ehrenbreitstein guarded the most valuable relic of the Trier See, the Holy Tunic, from 1657 to 1794.  Successive Archbishops used the fortress' strategic importance to barter between contending powers; thus in 1672 at the outset of war between France and Germany the Archbishop refused requests both from the envoys of Louis XIV and from Brandenburg's Ambassador, Christoph Caspar von Blumenthal, to permit the passage of troops across the Rhine.

In 1688, the fortress successfully withstood a siege by King Louis XIV of France.  c1730, Balthasar Neumann created the Schönborn-Werke, a third ring of fortifications.  France did succeed in taking it in 1759, but only held it for three years.

In 1794, French revolutionary troops conquered Koblenz; in the following years they besieged Ehrenbreitstein three times without success.  A one-year siege, that began in 1798 during the War of the Second Coalition, brought starvation to the defenders of Ehrenbreitstein, forcing them to surrender the fortress to French troops in 1799.  By the Treaty of Lunéville, the French were eventually forced to withdraw from the right bank of the Rhine.   As a consequence, they blew up Ehrenbreitstein in 1801 to prevent the enemy from taking hold of a fully functional fortress just a few meters away from French territory on the left bank of the Rhine.  From 1803 to 1815 the area was part of Nassau.

In the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Rhineland became a Prussian province.  The fortification of the Koblenz area became a Prussian military priority, because of its proximity to France and the fact that Koblenz was a bottleneck for all means of transportation (ships, railways, land transportation because of bridges).   Because of this, the Prussians built a system of fortification around Koblenz, named the Festung Koblenz (Fortress Koblenz), from 1815 until 1834.  This described the strong ring of fortifications around Koblenz, of which the Festung Ehrenbreitstein was a part.  Fortress Koblenz was said to have been the largest military fortress in Europe outside of Gibralter.  Ehrenbreitstein could be defended by up to 1200 soldiers.

Under a peace treaty France paid 15 million francs towards a new fortress. Construction took from 1817 to 1828, and it was ready for service by 1834.  It was subsequently expanded several times, but by 1886 Koblenz was classified as a fortification "of lesser importance".  After the Koblenz fortifications west of the Rhine were dismantled in 1890–1903, the fortress and some lesser structures on the east bank alone covered the Rhine crossing until 1918.

During its years of active service, the fortress was never attacked.  It escaped being dismantled after the end of the First World War as a result of its perceived historical and artistic value.  The American General Henry Tureman Allen, convinced of its historical value as a premier 19th-century fortress, prevented its intended destruction in 1922.  It was occupied after 1919 by the US Army as their headquarters during the Occupation of the Rhineland.  In February 1923, Allen left the fortress, and the first U.S. occupation of European territory was over.  After January 1923, Ehrenbreitstein was occupied by the French Army.

During the Second World War, the fortress served as a place of safekeeping for archives and cultural objects (1943–56) but also harbored three flak guns (1943–1945).  After the Second World War, the fortress was used by the French Army, before it was handed over to the State of Rhineland-Palatinate in 1947.  From 1946–1950 it served as a refugee camp and then as residential housing, during the period of housing shortages from the early 1950s into the 1960s.  In 1952, a youth hostel was opened, followed by a museum in 1956.  In 1972, the Ehrenmal des Deutschen Heeres (a memorial to the dead of the German army) was inaugurated.  In 2011, Festung Ehrenbreitstein was part of the Bundesgartenschau (National Garden Show) in Koblenz, following a multi-year restoration in 2007–2011.  The fortress is open to visitors. It is connected to the town of Koblenz across the Rhine by a cable car and by an inclined lift to the foot of the hill.  (von Berg, Axel (2005). Archäologische Untersuchungen im Bereich der "Großen Traverse" auf der Festung Ehrenbreitstein, Koblenz (German); in: Archäologie in Rheinland-Pfalz 2004. Verlag Phillip von Zabern)

 (Fritz Geller-Grimm Photo)

Aerial view of Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.

 (Taxiarchos228 Photo)

View of Koblenz from Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.

 (Holger Weinandt Photo)

The Electoral Palace (Kurfürstliches Schloss) in Koblenz, was the residence of the last Archbishop and Elector of Trier, Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony, who commissioned the building in the late 18th century.  In the mid-19th century, the Prussian Crown Prince (later Emperor Wilhelm I) had his official residence there during his years as military governor of the Rhine Provinces and the Province of Westphalia.  It now houses various offices of the German federal government.

The Electoral Palace is one of the most important examples of the early French neoclassical great house in Southwestern Germany, and with Schloss Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, the Prince Bishop's Palace in Münster and Ludwigsburg Palace, one of the last palaces built in Germany before the French Revolution Since 2002 it has been part of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is also a protected cultural heritage property under the Hague Convention.

The palace consists of a rectangular main building (Corps de logis) which extends in a north-south direction parallel to the nearby bank of the Rhine and two semi-circular wings which extend from it on the west side facing the city, enclosing the great forecourt of the palace (Schlossvorplatz).  The main building is predominantly horizontally articulated; five of its 39 axes are emphasised by projecting bays.  In the centre of the façade which faces the city, a portico with eight columns rises to the roofline.  On the river side, a central bay has six columns and is surmounted by a relief by the sculptor Sebastian Pfaff depicting an allegory of the Rhine and the Mosel, the electoral coat of arms, lions symbolising sovereignty and symbols of the ecclesiastical and temporal power of the Archbishop Electors of Trier.  The side wings, which were rebuilt to a height of two storeys in the 1950s, are unarticulated.

In commissioning the relatively unornamented and austere building from French architects, Clemens Wenceslaus broke with the previous tradition in Koblenz of architecture in the French and German Baroque tradition.  It was built as a residence and city palace.  However, as a function of its location on the bank of the Rhine, it was conceived of as part of the river landscape, and the rooms are so arranged as to either draw attention to the landscape or refer to it.  From the entrance facing the city, the intended path leads through the vestibule and garden room to the palace garden on the riverbank. The rooms on the south and east sides offer an impressive view of the Middle Rhine Valley.  The embracing of the landscape was in response to Clemens Wenceslaus' wish.  The grand gesture of the forecourt encircled by the colonnaded wings has older antecedents, such as the colonnades of St. Peter's Square in Rome, the New Palace in Bayreuth, and Schwetzingen Castle.  (Herbert Dellwing and Reinhard Kallenbach (eds.) Stadt Koblenz. Innenstadt. Denkmaltopographie Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Kulturdenkmäler in Rheinland-Pfalz 3.2. Worms: Werner, 2004)

 (Holger Weinandt Photo)

Aerial view of the Prince Elector's Castle, Koblenz.

 (Holger Weinandt Photo)

Stolzenfels Castle (Schloss Stolzenfels) is a former medieval fortress castle ("Burg") turned into a palace, near Koblenz on the left bank of the Rhine.  Stolzenfels was a ruined 13th-century castle, gifted to the Prussian Crownprince, Frederick William, in 1823.  He had it rebuilt as a 19th-century palace in Gothic Revival style.  Today, it is part of the  part of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The original castle at Stolzenfels was built as a fortification by the Prince-Bishop of Trier, then Arnold II, von Isenburg.  Finished in 1259, Stolzenfels was used to protect the toll station on the Rhine, where the ships, at the time the main means of transportation for goods, had to stop and pay toll (later moved to Engers).

Over the years it was extended several times (notably in the 14th century), occupied by French and Swedish troops in the Thirty Years' War and finally, in 1689, destroyed by the French during the Nine Years' War.  The ruin was used as a quarry during the 18th century.

In 1802, the castle became the property of the city of Koblenz.  In 1823, the ruined castle was given as a gift by the city to Prussian Crownprince Frederick William IV of Prussia.  In 1822, the Rhineland had become a province of Prussia.  Frederick William had traveled along the Rhine in 1815, the year when the Congress of Vienna awarded several Princedoms in the area to Prussia, and had been fascinated by the beauty, romance and history of the region.  In the spirit of Romanticism, Frederick William now had the castle rebuilt as a Gothic Revival palace, inspired by his cousin Frederick's rebuilding of nearby Rheinstein Castle and his cousin Maximilian II of Bavaria's romantic renovation of Hohenschwangau Castle.

By 1842, the main buildings and the gardens were finished.  On 14 September of that year, Frederick Wiliam, since 1840 King of Prussia, inaugurated his new summer residence in a great celebration with a torchlight procession and medieval costumes.  Inauguration of the Gothic chapel occurred in 1845 during a visit by Queen Victoria (who began to build Osborn House the same year and Balmoral Castle three years later).  Work on the interior of Stolzenfels castle was completed in 1850.

Among those who had worked on the designs for the palace and the gardens were Johann Claudius von Lassaulx, Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Peter Joseph Lenné.  Stüler was later also commissioned to rebuild Hohenzollern Castle in Swabia for the king (1850–67).

After the First World War, the castle became state-owned.  After the Second World War, it was assigned to the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege – Verwaltung der Staatlichen Schlösser, today: Generaldirektion Kulturelles Erbe Rheinland-Pfalz, Direktion Burgen Schlösser Altertümer.  After substantial renovation work the castle and its parks were reopened in 2011. The castle is open to the public.  (Pecht, A., Schloss Stolzenfels (German), Publisher: Burgen Schlösser Altertümer Rheinland-Pfalz, Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Rheinland-Pfalz, Schnell & Steiner, 2011)

 (Holger Weinandt Photo)

Lahneck Castle (Burg Lahneck) is a medieval fortress located in the city of Lahstein in Rhineland-Palatinate, south of Koblenz.  This 13th-century castle stands on a steep rock salient above the confluence of the Lahn River with the Rhine, opposite Stolzenfels Castle, in the district of Oberlahnstein.  Its symmetrical plan, an oblong rectangle, is typical of the later castles of the Hohenstaufen era.  The pentagonal shape of the bergfried is rare for castle towers.

Lahneck Castle was built in 1226 by the Archbishop of Mainz, Siegfried II of Eppstein, to protect his territory at the mouth of the Lahn, where the town of Oberlahnstein and a silver mine had come into the possession of the Archbishopric in 1220.  The castle chapel, dedicated to Saint Ulrich of Augsburg, was built in 1245, in the same year the first burgrave took up residence in the castle.  In 1298, King Adolf of Nassau was a guest at the castle, shortly before his death in the Battle of Göllheim against King Albert I of habsburg.  In order to avenge him, the Burgrave of Lahneck, Friedrich Schilling of Lahnstein, participated in a conspiracy against Albert.  The castle was stormed in 1309 and Friedrich Schilling was captured and executed.

According to legend, when the Knights Templar were ordered by Pope Clement V to disband in 1312, the last 12 Templars took refuge in the castle, where they perished in a heroic fight to the death with forces of Mainz Archbishop Peter of Aspelt.  In 1332, Pope John XXII granted a 40-day indulgence to those attending services in the castle chapel.  On 4 June 1400, King Wenceslaus of Germany was deposed by the four Rhenish prince-electors in Oberlahnstein.  Together with the Prince Elector of Mainz, Burgrave Frederick of Nuremberg hosted many of the delegates sent by the cities at the castle.  In Athens, the following day, Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, was elected the new "King of the Romans".

In 1475, the Archbishop of Mainz, Theodoric of Isenburg-Büdingen, had the castle strengthened with two outer walls following the Mainz Bishops Feud with his rival archbishop, Adolph II of Nassau.  In 1633, during the Thirty Years' War, the castle was heavily damaged by Swedish and Imperial troops.  On 18 July 1774, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote the poem Geistesgruß.  It was inspired by the sight of Lahneck Castle during his travels along the river Lahn.

In the German Mediatisation of 1803, in which the Archbishopric of Mainz lost its secular territories, Lahneck Castle was granted to the Duchy of Nassau.  In 1850 it was sold and has remained in private ownership since.  Edward Moriarty, a Director of the Rhenish Railway Company, became one of its first owners.  During the ownership of Earl Kleist-Tychow, a more than life-sized portrait of Queen Victoria was presented which can still be seen at the castle.  Imperial Admiral Robert Mischke, later commander of the battlecruiser SMS Von der Tann, purchased the castle in 1907 and it has been owned by his family ever since.

 (Phantom3Pix Photo)

Lahneck Castle.

Ground plan, Burg Lahneck.

Drawing of Burg Laneck, c1678.

 (Heribert Pohl Photo)

Martinsburg Castle with its powerful hexagonal tower was built by the end of the 14th century on the Rhine bank in Oberlahnstein.  It was a toll castle in the Electorate of Mainz. The pictorial assembly was built together with the town fortification.  The pointed gate in the east wall shows a delicate cast iron oriel with emblem (1395).  The north wing probably contained the main rooms.  The apartment tower in the northwest, built in the 14th century, was modified in the 18th century.  The south wing is likewise Gothic.  The archbishop Franz Lothar von Schönborn established the southwest and west wing between 1719 and 1721; there the main tower (end of the 14th century) is assembled; at its windows one sees outside small console stones for the fold-down wooden shutters.  The roof dates from the 18th century.  (Mittelrheinforum)

 (Tobi 87 Photo)

Marksburg is a castle above the town of Braubach in Rhineland-Palatinate.  It is one of the principal sites of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The fortress was used for protection rather than as a residence for royal families.  It has a striking example of a bergfried designed as a butter-churn tower.  Of the 40 hill castles between Bingen am Rhein and Koblenz the Marksburg was one of only two which had never been destroyed (the other being Maus Castle) and the only one that had never fallen into disrepair.

A stone keep was built on the spot in 1100 by the Eppstein family and expanded into a castle c1117 to protect the town of Braubach and to reinforce the customs facilities.  It was first mentioned in documents in 1231.  The Eppsteins were a powerful family in the region, with several members becoming archbishops in Mainz and Trier In 1283, Count Eberhard of Katzenelmbogen bought it and throughout the 14th and 15th century the high noble counts rebuilt the castle constantly.  In 1429 the male line of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen died out, and the territories went to the Count of Hesse, who expanded the castle to accommodate artillery and added the round towers of the outer curtain wall.

The French emperor Napoleon seized then abolished the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.  He gave the Marksburg to his ally the Duke of Nassau for his service.  The Duke used the castle as a prison and as a home for disabled soldiers.  After the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 the Duchy of Nassau became a territory of Prussia, which took ownership of the Marksburg.

In 1900, the castle was sold for a symbolic price of 1,000 Goldmarks to the German Castles Associatioin (Deutschen Burgenvereinigung), which had been founded a year earlier as a private initiative to preserve castles in Germany.  The Marksburg has been the head office of this organisation since 1931.  In March 1945, the castle was badly damaged by American artillery from across the Rhine.  (de Fabianis, Valeria, ed. (2013). Castles of the World. New York: Metro Books)

 (Felix Konig Photo)


 (Fritz Geller-Grimm Photo)

Aerial view of the Marksburg.

 (Willy Horsch Photo)

Boppard, Former Prince Elector's Castle, one of the important fortified complexes at the Middle Rhine.  The castle was built around 1185 by the Von der Arken family and was extended from 1277 Archbishop Heinrich von Vinstingen of Trier. The Prince Elector's Castle was transformed several times in the following years.  It was upgraded by Balduin the Archbishop of Trier as a stronghold after he had conquered the town in 1327.  The tower with pouring holes belonged to the original building, the four wings and the yard date from the 17th Century.

The castle accommodates a museum of local history, forest and wood, that shows in particular the development of the well-known Thonet chairs.  The Roman fort of Boppard, rectangular with round towers, shows the best preserved fort walls of Germany.  They were partly used in the Middle Ages for the city fortification.  The piece of wall with towers close to the castle is very impressive, a further one is in the west (archaeological park).  (Mittelrheinforum)

 (Muck Photo)

Sterrenberg Castle (Burg Sterrenberg) is a castle that stands above the village of Kamp-Bornhofen.  Sterrenberg Castle is located in the Rhine Gorge, a popular name for the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a 65 km section of the river Rhine between the cities of Koblenz and Bingen in Germany.  It was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in June 2002 for its unique combination of geological, historical, cultural and industrial reasons.

c1034, Sterrenberg was mentioned as an imperial castle, but the source is not certain.  In 1190, Sterrenberg Castle is listed in the book of Werner von Bolanden as a fief, together with the custom point in Bornhofen.  The noble family of Bolanden stayed as lords of Sterrenberg Castle until the second half of the 13th century.  The bergfried and the first, inner shield wall have survived from this early period.

 (Phantom3Pix Photo)

Sterrenberg Castle.

 (DXR Photo)

Sterrenberg Castle shield wall.

Ground plan of Sterrenber Castle.

 (Rolf Kranz Photo)

Sterrenberg Castle and Liebenstein Castle.

 (Muck Photo)

Liebenstein Castle (Burg Liebenstein) stands above the village of Kamp-Bornhofen on the right side of the Rhine across from Bad Salzig, in Rhineland-Palatinate.  The Castle Liebenstein was built in the 13th century.  According to legend, Liebenstein Castle and the ruins of Sterrenberg Castle are called "The Enemy Brothers".  Numerous sagas deal with the two feuding decendants of an old king who built the two castles in the course of their dispute about their inheritance.  Today, a hotel is located in the ancient main tower of the castle.  One distinctive mark of the castle grounds is the so called "Streitmauer", a massive wall between the two castles, which also played an important role in the legend.

 (Phantom3Pix Photo)

Burg Liebenstein.

  (Roland Todt Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Liebenstein.

 (Peter Weller Photo)

Maus Castle (Burg Maus, meaning Mouse Castle) stands above the village of Wellmich (part of Sankt Goarshausen) in Rhineland-palatinate.  It lies on the east side of the Rhine, north of Katz Castle (Cat Castle) in Sankt Goarshausen and opposite Rheinfels Castle at Sankt Goar across the river.

Construction of the castle was begun in 1356 by Archbishop-Elector of Trier Bohemond II, and was continued for the next 30 years by successive Electors of Trier.  The construction of Burg Maus was to enforce Trier's recently acquired Rhine River toll rights and to secure Trier's borders against the Counts of Katzenelnbogen (who had built Burg Katz and Burg Rheinfels).  In the latter half of the 14th century Burg Maus was one of the residences of the Elector of Trier.

Unlike its two neighbouring castles, Burg Maus was never destroyed, though it fell into disrepair in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Restoration of the castle was undertaken between 1900 and 1906 under the architect Wilhelm Gärtner, with attention to historical detail.

The castle suffered further damage from shelling during the Second World War, which has since been repaired.  Today Burg Maus hosts an aviary that is home to falcons, owls and eagles, and flight demonstrations are staged for visitors from late March to early October.  The ward of the castle contains two residential buildings.  The vulnerable side facing uphill is guarded by a round bergfried.

Local folklore attributes the name to the Counts of Katzenelnbogen's mocking of the Electors of Trier during the 30 years of construction, who reportedly said that the castle was the "mouse" that would be eaten by the "cat" of Burg Katz.  The name originally intended was Burg Peterseck (St. Peterseck).  A matching castle on the left bank (to control the bank north of Burg Rheinfels) that was to be named Burg Peterberg was never built.  Other names by which Burg Maus is known are Thurnberg (or Thurmberg) and Deuernburg.

 (Roland Todt Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Maus.

Ground plan of Burg Maus.


Burg Maus.

 (Keith Jenson Photo)

Rheinfels Castle (Burg Rheinfels) is a ruin located above the left (west) bank of the Rhine in Sankt Goar.  Construction on the castle was begun in 1245 by Count Diether V of Katzenelnbogen.  After expansions, it was the largest fortress in the Middle Rhein Valley between Koblenz and Mainz.  It was slighted by French Revolutionary Army troops in 1797.  It is the largest castle overlooking the Rhine, and historically covered five times its current area.  While much of the castle is a ruin, some of the outer buildings are now a luxury hotel, a "wellness" centre and restaurant.  There is also a museum within some of the better preserved structures.

The main entrance to the castle complex is a tall square clock or gate tower (c1300 AD) opposite the hotel.  A connecting path joins the clock tower to the remains of the living quarters of the landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt (the Darmstadt Building).  The Darmstadt building was designed in Tudor style with pointed gables.  The connecting path was the site of the former moat of the main castle buildings; part of which is now the large cellar or basement.  This large cellar was arched over in 1587-89 in two visible phases.  It is the largest self-supporting vaulted cellar in Europe and has a length of 24 metres (79 ft), a width and height of approximately 16 metres (52 ft) and can accommodate up to 400 people.  The walls are up to 4 metres (13 ft) thick. Previously a 200,000 litres (53,000 US gal) wine barrel was constructed for storage.  The cellar was renovated in 1997 and restored to its original condition and now serves as a meeting place for concerts, theater performances, and other shows.  Next to the Darmstadt building once stood a 54 metres (177 ft) tall tower.  It had a diameter of 10.5 metres (34 ft) with walls 3.5 metres (11 ft) thick at the bottom.  In the 14th century, a narrow round tower was added to the top, making it the highest butter-churn tower in Germany.

The castle museum is located in the former castle chapel, which is the only finished room of the original castle.  It is accessed through an internal gate and up the path.  The museum contains a model reconstruction of the castle before its destruction giving one a sense of how big the castle used to be.  The medieval castle courtyard is found beyond the castle museum building (slightly uphill).  This was the centre of the medieval castle which contained a bakery, pharmacy, garden, brewery, well, and livestock, which would have allowed it to withstand an extended siege.  During peacetime, 300-600 people lived in the castle complex.  During a siege, that number could swell to 4,500.  Remnants of the original 13th-century plaster which was painted white can still be found on some walls.

In June 2019, a claim made by George Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, that Rheinfels Castle be returned to the Hohenzollern family was dismissed by a court.  In 1924, the ruined Castle had been given by the state of Rhineland-Palatinate to the town of St Goar, under the proviso it was not to be sold.  In 1998 the town leased the ruins to a nearby hotel.  The Prince's case claimed that this constituted a breach of the bequest.  (Steves, Rick (2003). Rick Steves' Germany, Austria and Switzerland 2003. Emeryville, CA, USA: Avalon Travel Publishing)

Burg Rheinfels as it appeared in 1607.

 (MFSG Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Rheinfels.

 (Johannes Robalotoff Photo)

Burg Rheinfels, view from the West.

 (Johannes Robalotoff Photo)

Burg Rheinfels, view from the Northeast.

 (D. Cason Photo)

Burg Rheinfels.

 (DXR Photo)

Katz Castle (Burg Katz) stands above the town of St. Goarshausen in Rhineland-Palatinate.  The castle was built on a ledge looking downstream from the riverside at St. Goar.  It was first built c1371 by Count William II of Katzenelnbogen.  The castle was bombarded in 1806 by Napoleon and rebuilt in the late 19th century, in 1896–98.  It is now privately owned, and not open for visitors.

After the original castle "Burg Katzenelnbogen" (Castle of the Cat's Elbow) this medieval fortress castle is officially known as Burg Neukatzenelnbogen (Castle of the New Cat's Elbow).  It is often referred to as"die Burg Katz" (the Cat Castle).  It is popularly linked with Burg Maus (the Mouse Castle), which was built in very close proximity as its military counterpart.  The castle has a compact layout, primarily consisting of a great hall and a massive bergfried, originally 40 metres tall, on the uphill side.  In 1435, the Counts of Katzenelnbogen were the first to plant Riesling grapes in their vineyard.

 (MFSG Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Katz.

Historical view of Burg Katz, 1655, Matthäus Merian.

 (Alexander Hoernigk Photo)

Burg Katz.

  (Jörg Braukmann Photo) 

The Lorelei also spelled Loreley in German, is a 132 m (433 ft) high, steep slate rock on the right bank of the River Rhine in the Rhine Gorge at Sankt Goarshausen.  The name comes from the old German words lureln, Rhine dialect for 'murmuring', and the Celtic term lev "rock".  The translation of the name would therefore be: 'murmur rock' or 'murmuring rock'.  The heavy currents, and a small waterfall in the area (still visible in the early 19th century) created a murmuring sound, and this combined with the special echo the rock produces to act as a sort of amplifier, giving the rock its name.  The murmuring is hard to hear today owing to the urbanization of the area.  Other theories attribute the name to the many boating accidents on the rock, by combining the German verb lauern ('to lurk, lie in wait') with the same "ley" ending, with the translation "lurking rock".

 (Phantom3Pix Photo)

Schönburg Castle stands above the medieval town of Oberwesel in the in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley.  The first historical mention of Schönburg Castle is between the years 911 and 1166.  From the 12th century, the Dukes of  Schönburg ruled over the town of Oberwesel and had also the right to levy customs on the Rhine river.  The most famous was Friedrich von Schönburg, a much-feared man known as “Marshall Schomberg”.  In the 17th century, he served as a colonel and as a general under the King of France in France and Portugal and later also for the Prussians and for William Prince of Orange in England.  The Schönburg line died out with the last heir, the son of Friedrich of Schönburg.

In 1689, the castle was burned down by French soldiers during the War of the Grand Alliance.  Schönburg castle remained in ruins for 200 years until it was acquired by the German-American Rhinelander family who bought the castle from the town of Oberwesel in the late 19th century, and restored it.  The town council of Oberwesel acquired the castle back from the Rhinelander family in 1950.  Since 1957 the Hüttl family have been living at the castle on a long-term lease; they operate a successful hotel and restaurant there.

 (Edgar El Photo)


 (RomkeHoekstra Photo)

Entrance to the Schönburg.

 (RomkeHoekstra Photo)

Interior of the Schönburg,

 (Fritz Geller-Grimm Photo)

Aerial view of the Schönburg.

Drawing of the Schönburg as it appeared c1670, by Wenceslas Hollar.

(Hanelore Hopfe Photo)

  (Traveler100 Photo)

Aerial view of the Schönburg.

 (Tilman2007 Photo)

Gutenfels Castle (Burg Gutenfels), also known as Caub Castle, stands 110m above the town of Kaub in Rhineland-Palatinate.  Gutenfels Castle was built in 1220.  It was used along with the toll castle, Pfalzgrafenstein in the middle of the Rhein and the fortified town of Kaub on the farthest side to provide an impenetrable anti-toll zone for the Holy Roman Emperor until Prussia purchased the area (1866) and ended this toll in 1867.  The castle is part of the Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, added in 2002.  The castle transitioned from a hotel into private ownership in 2006.

 (Machine Boy Photo)

Burg Gutenfels.

 (Traveler100 Photo)

Burg Gutenfels.

 (Gary Bembridge Photo)

Burg Gutenfels and Pfalzgrafenstein Castle.

 (Jorg Braukmann Photo)

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle (Burg Pfalzgrafenstein) is a toll casatle on Falkenau island, otherwise known as Pfalz Island in the Rhine River near Kaub.  Known as "the Pfalz," this former stronghold is famous for its picturesque and unique setting.  The area is part of the Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

The keep of this island castle is a pentagonal tower with its point upstream, was erected between 1326 and 1327 by King Ludwig the Bavarian.  A defensive hexagonal wall was built around the tower between 1338 and 1340.  In 1477 Pfalzgrafenstein was passed as deposit to the Count of Katzenelnbogen.  Later additions were made in 1607 and 1755, consisting of corner turrets, the gun bastion pointing upstream, and the characteristic baroque tower cap.

The castle functioned as a toll-collecting station that was not to be ignored.  It worked in concert with Gutenfels Castle and the fortified town of Kaub on the right side of the river.  Due to a dangerous cataract on the river's left, about a kilometer upstream, every vessel would have to use the fairway nearer to the right bank, thus wayfarers had to float downstream between the mighty fortress on the vessel's left and the town and castle on its right.  A chain across the river drawn between those two fortifications forced ships to submit, and uncooperative traders could be kept in the dungeon until a ransom was delivered.  The dungeon was a wooden float in the well.

Unlike the vast majority of Rhine castles, "the Pfalz" was never conquered or destroyed, withstanding not only wars, but also the natural onslaughts of ice and floods by the river.  Its spartan quarters held about twenty men.  Extensive measures of waterway engineering in the 19th century, above all straightening the river for better use as an international waterway and along this particular stretch, clearing it from the old cataract, relocated the regularly used fairway from the river's right arm to its left. Thus the tactical advantage may not be apparent to one unaware of the change in the watercourse.

The island of the castle was used for the Rhine crossing by 60,000 Prussian troops under Blücher in the winter of 1814 in his pursuit of Napoleon.  The castle was acquired by Prussia in 1866, and toll collections ceased in 1867.  It continued to be used as a signal station for the river boat traffic for about another century.  In 1946, the castle became the property of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate.  The State eventually turned "the Pfalz" into a museum and restored the colour scheme of the baroque period.  The museum reflects the conditions of the 14th century, and the visitor will not find modern amenities such as electricity or a lavatory.  It is accessible to the public via a ferry service from nearby Kaub as long as river conditions permit.  (Pfalzgrafenstein, The History of the County of Katzenelnbogen and the First Riesling of the World)

 (MFSG Photo)

Aerial view of Pfalzgrafenstein.

 (Bytfisch Photo)


 (Bühl Photo)


 (RichHein Photo)

Sauerburg is the ruin of a castle built in 1355 in the Rhineland-Palatinate.  The Sauerburg is located on a 360m high hill in the valley of Sauerthal beside the valley of Wispertal.  The pathway to the castle is located high above the village of Sauerthal. 180 hectares of land belong to the castle.  The first documented mention of the castle is in 1120 in relation to Conradus da Waldekke.  In 1355, Archbishop Gerlach of Mainz authorized Count Palatine Ruprecht to build the Sauerburg.  The castle was also meant to provide protection from the castle of Waldeck which was located nearby.   Very little of the original walls remain from Waldeck Castle.  Counts Johann von Katzenelnbogen, Johann from Nassau-Merenberg and Adolf Nassau became lords of the old castle and they proceeded to build a new one.  The construction finished at the end of 1361.  In the following decades the ownership changed many times.  In the year 1505 Count Palatine Philipp sold the castle to Philipp from Kronberg.  The castle remained in the family of Kronberg.  Georg from Kronberg was married to Margarethe from Fleckenstein.  An emblem of the Kronberg-Fleckenstein family has been embedded in the Sauerburg since 1541.

The last castellan of Friedberg died in 1617, leaving the dilapidated castle to his daughter, who was married to Hans Reinhard Brömser. 1 618 Brömser obtained the document of fee and rebuilt the castle as a fortress in the following years.  It is said that he was a very religious man and for this reason he was likely the the builder of the chapel on the Sauerburg.  After his death his son Heinrich became the castle owner.  The castle was destroyed in 1635 during the Thirty Years' War.  When Heinrich Brömser died as the last male of the family, his inheritors were Carl Heinrich Freiherr from Metternich, Anna Margarete Freyfrau from Sickingen and Maria Margaretha from Bettendorf.   The authorization of a fee has been declined.  1676 Franz from Sickingen bought elements of the Sauerburg.

The Sauerburg was completely destroyed in 1689 by the French troops of King Louis XIV.  In the following years a residence was built in the Hof Fronborn.  From that time, it was renamed from Sauerburg to Sauerberg.  The name "Hof Sauerberg" remains to this day.  In 1692, Franz von Sickingen received the fee of Sauerburg again.  In the following years the Sauerberg remained in the hands of the family from Sickingen.  After this the ownership changed many times.  In the years of 1909-1912 the wife of the privy councilor Dr. Josef von Loehr, Margarethe born Beyerle from Berlin, had the castle rebuilt again. After changing owners the Vieso AG from Switzerland bought the castle and the "Sauerberger Hof".  In 2004, the Sauerburg was completely renovated and is now a landmark for the "Sauerthal".  Sauerthal with the Sauerburg belongs to the UNESCO "Welterbe Oberes Mittelrheintal".

 (RichHein Photo)


 (RichHein Photo)


 (Sir Gawain Photo)

Stahleck Castle (Burg Stahleck) is a 12th-century fortified castle in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley at Bacharach in Rhineland-Palatinate.  It stands on a crag approximately 160 metres (520 ft) above sea level on the left bank of the river at the mouth of the Steeg valley, approximately 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of Koblenz, and offers a commanding view of the Lorelei valley.  Its name means "impregnable castle on a crag", from the Middle High German words stahel (steel) and ecke (crag).  It has a water-filled partial moat, a rarity in Germany.  Built on the orders of the Archbishop of Cologne, it was destroyed in the late 17th century but rebuilt in the 20th and is now a hostel.

From about 1000 AD, Bacharach is presumed to have been a possession of the Archbishops of Cologne.  They had the castle built, perhaps as a southern outpost to guard the far-flung archbishopric; their Vogt resided there.  It is uncertain when the present castle was built to replace an earlier fortification; perhaps c1135.  It was the first large castle north of Bingen and Rüdesheim.

The name Gozwin von Stalecke is first mentioned in charters in 1120/21.  This was Goswin von Falkenburg, who is also referred to in 1135 by the Latin translation "Cozwinus de Staelechae".  He was the first attested holder of the castle in fief He was a member of a Main-Frankish family and had come into possession of the castle through marriage to Luitgard von Hengebach, the widow of Heinrich I of Katzenelnbogen, who died in 1102.  From that time forward, he called himself Goswin von Stahleck.

In 1125, Goswin's son Hermann married Gertrud of Swabia, sister of King Conrad III of Germany.  After receiving Stahleck Castle in fief from his brother in law in 1140, he was additionally granted the County of palatinate by Rhine.  This made him one of the most powerful lords of the Holy Roman Empire and of the Four Valley Region, which consisted of the settlements of Bacharach, Steeg (now part of Bacharach), Diebach and Manubach, plus the castles of Stahleck, Fürstenberg and Stahlberg.  This also made Stahleck the centre of power of the heart of what later became the Rhineland territory of the Counts Palatine.  They developed Bacharach into a trading town, among other things for the wine trade, and the castle was used to enforce payment of duties.  When Conrad went on the Second Crusade, he made Hermann his regent.

After Hermann's death in 1156, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa bestowed the title of Count Palatine on his half-brother Conrad of Hohenstaufen.  After the death of his remaining son in 1189, Conrad's only heir was his daughter Agnes.  In order to ensure the castle and the title to it could remain in the family, that year King Henry VI commuted the fief from a personal possession to a hereditary one.  This would lead in the future to repeated conflicts between the Counts Palatine and the See of Cologne, since Stahleck was a possession of the Electoral Archbishop and not the king's to modify.

It was her father's wish for Agnes to marry King Philip II of France.  Instead, while Conrad was away from the castle in January or February 1194, she secretly married Henry the Elder of Brunswick, son of his enemy the Welf Duke Henry the Lion, to whom she had previously been engaged.  The marriage was performed by Johann I, Archbishop of Trier, and is known as the Stahleck Marriage or the Bacharach Marriage.  After Conrad's death, Henry succeeded him as Count Palatine and so came into possession of the castle.  In 1212, Henry renounced the title and the rights associated with it in favour of his son Henry the Younger.  When the latter died young and childless in 1214, his younger sister Agnes inherited Stahleck.  The non-allodial remainder of the County reverted to the Crown and was subsequently bestowed on the Bavarian Duke Ludwig I of the House of Wittelsbach.

In order to secure possession also of the castle and the overseership of Bacharach, Ludwig I arranged a marriage in 1222 between his son Otto and Agnes.  Under Otto (Otto II) in 1243, the long-running conflict with the Archbishopric of Cologne was settled, and he received Fürstenberg and Stahlberg Castles as additional fiefs.

Ludwig I transferred his primary residence to Heidelberg, so that from then on, Stahleck was used only occasionally and was overseen by counts, who called themselves "Ritter (Knight) von Stahleck".  From the 15th century on, it was administered by bailiffs.  Although the castle was no longer the administrative centre of the Palatinate, important gatherings of the nobility continued to take place there into the 15th century, including the election of Ludwig IV as King of Germany in May 1314 and the wedding of Emperor Charles IV and Anna, the only daughter of Rudolf II, Count Palatine, on 4 March 1349.  In addition, the castle was used several times during the 14th century as a pledge.  In December 1314, to cover the costs of his election, Ludwig IV pledged it for 58,300 pounds of Hellers to John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia, and his uncle Baldwin, Electoral Archbishop of Trier.  In July 1328, they were required to surrender Stahleck as well as Stahlberg and Braunshorn Castles as security for a fine payable to Countess Loretta of Sponheim.  The castle was thus administered by Count Wilhelm I of Katzenelnbogen as regent until the entire sum of 11,000 pounds had been paid.  The castle was also opened for military use to Gerlach of Nassau, Archbishop of Mainz, in 1346.

In 1353, the Palatinate was divided and Stahleck Castle passed to Rupert the Younger, after which it was incorporated into the fortifications around the town of Bacharach.  In late 1400, Rupert's son, also named Rupert, celebrated there his election as King of Germany and Rome after the deposition of King Wenceslaus of Luxembourg.  In 1408, Rupert hosted a banquet for the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, but after that Stahleck gradually lost its importance for the empire.  In 1442 Ludwig IV, Count Palatine, held a reception and electoral banquet there for King Frederick of Habsburg as he was en route to Aachen to be crowned Emperor.  During the 15th and 16th centuries the castle sank into insignificance.

After the introduction of cannon, an artillery platform was added to the medieval castle on the northeast side to cover the access route, but its exact date of construction is unknown.  Despite this, the castle was besieged, conquered, and sacked a total of eight times during the Thirty Years' War.  On 4 October 1620, the castle and the town of Bacharach were taken by Spanish troops commanded by Ambrogio Spinola.  The Spaniards were in turn evicted by Protestant Swedes on 9 January 1632.  The castle was heavily damaged during the siege leading up to its recapture.  A copper engraving in Matthäus Merian's 1646 Topographia Germiniae depicts the battle.

Copper engraving in Matthäus Merian's 1646 Topographia Germiniae depicting the battle in 1632.

In July 1635, Imperial troops under Matthias Gallas, Count of Campo, successfully besieged Stahleck.  They were evicted four years later, in July 1639, by Saxe-Weimar soldiers, but the castle was then occupied by Bavarian troops in March 1640.  They stayed only a short time, and after their withdrawal the Saxe-Weimar troops reoccupied the castle and the town.  In autumn 1640, after a 14-day siege, Spanish troops once more took their place.

In September 1644, the castle and the town were taken by French soldiers after a 10-day siege.  In the following month, Cologne troops attacked them and forced them to retreat to the castle with heavy losses.  The Cologne commander, Constantin von Nievenheimb, therefore ordered the bombardment and "more or less ruination" of the castle, but did not attempt to capture it.  The French soldiers remained until 24 July 1650 but had to vacate the castle under the terms of the Peace of Westphalia, which returned it to the Palatinate and Count Palatine Karl Ludwig.  In 1666, he had the castle repaired and made some alterations.  He greatly changed the interior of the palas and between it and the northern rampart, built a massive new building with a Fachwerk half-timbered upper story.  An inscribed stone tablet on the palas commemorates his rebuilding of the castle.

During the War of the palatine Succession, the castle was decisively destroyed, like most of the fortifications in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley.  Its commander, von Dachenhausen, surrendered it to French troops on 11 October 1688, but on 15 March 1689 they blew it up.  The explosion completely destroyed both the ring wall and the keep, the residential buildings burned out in the resulting fire, and debris from the explosion destroyed the Gothic Werner Chapel at the foot of the castle hill.  The castle was so heavily damaged that it was not rebuilt.  Under the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick, the ruin reverted to the Palatinate, where it remained until the dissolution of the County at the end of the 18th century.

After the occupation of the parts of the Palatinate on the left bank of the Rhine by French Revolutionary troops in 1794, in 1801 the Treaty of Lunéville awarded the ruined castle to the French; in 1804 they offered it for sale.  In 1815 the Congress of Vienna resulted in its passing into the possession of the Kingdom of Prussia.  In 1828 the then Crown Prince Frederick William acquired it, in order to give it to his wife Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria.  She was a Wittelsbach princess.  In association with a visit by her in the 1850s, large parts of the crumbling walls were cleared, and the rubble spread over the courtyard and used to fill the moat.  All that remained was the wall of the palas on the courtyard side, the ring wall on the Steeg valley side to the height of the chemin de ronde, and a small piece of the inner or shield wall.

The ruined castle became well known among romantics and nationalists and was often depicted in the 19th century.  Beginning in 1907, Axel Delmar had plans for a home for artists in the ruins of the castle, but the Prussian royal family refused to sell the site.

The first work to stabilise and rebuild the ring wall and shield wall, costing 3,500 marks, began only in 1909, after the ruin had been transferred from the Prussian Crown to the Rhenish Association for Landmark Preservation and Landscape Protection.  The Association was able to raise the 5,000 mark purchase price through donations.  Work was interrupted by the First World War, and the castle suffered further vandalism and decay.  In 1924 Richard Blankenhorn, the owner of the villa above the castle, wished to start a business in the ruins, but there was no response for 5 years to his enquiry concerning a lease.

Early in 1925 the decision was taken to construct a youth hostel at the castle.  Firm plans were made in March of that year.  The Association contracted with the architect Ernst Stahl to "build in the ruin, in the spirit of the old buildings and making use of the old walls, a building which [would] fit well into the landscape".  Financing of the initial work was ensured by an endowment of 50,000 reichsmarks.

Stahleck became the Association's prestige project.  The intention was to completely rebuild the castle.  Stahl based his designs on historical models and appended them to remaining structures, but changed his plans again after ancient, previously unknown building foundations came to light in excavations beginning in August 1925.  The excavations and the attendant repeated surveying of the site delayed the start of building to late summer 1925.  The first building, the longhouse, was intended as a hostel for boys.  On the first floor, executed in Fachwerk, were a flat for the hostel manager and an adjacent dormitory with washroom.  On the ground floor, built in crushed stone, were the kitchen and a day-room, while the top floor, which has dormers on the courtyard side, housed further sleeping and washing space.  The design adhered as far as possible to the use of space in the old castle.  An old cellar at the east corner of the site was rebuilt and roofed over in reinforced concrete to make a viewing terrace.  Further excavations took place parallel to the construction work, and recovered stones were used as building material in rebuilding the ring wall and the foundation of the keep.

The official dedication of the youth hostel took place on 12–13 June 1926 and was followed by a second building phase, from autumn 1926 to July 1927.  In this phase, the tower building, with two wings at right angles and a turret at the angle, was built as a girls' hostel on the foundations of two Fachwerk buildings against the shield wall.  The ground floor consisted of a large day-room; on the first floor were a large dormitory, washrooms and living and sleeping space for matrons.  Further sleeping space was under the single-pitched roof, and in addition there was a 4-bed room inside the turret. Rebuilding of the entire ring wall and the shield wall lasted until 1927.  

Once open, the youth hostel was almost always oversubscribed, leading to problems with the water supply.  Insufficient water frequently led to a complete ban on washing.  The problem was alleviated by tapping a new source of water on the western hillside.  In 1929, the keep, with two holes in it from the explosion, was finally stabilised to a height of 3 m.  The hole on the east side was used as an entrance to the tower.  Also in 1929, the day-rooms were redecorated with dados and murals.  In 1930–31, the ground floor of the ruined palas was rebuilt, to make a dining hall, a dishwashing room, and a flat for the hostel manager.  In 1932, work was done on clearing the rubble from the moat.

Since there was still insufficient space in the hostel, which had over 30,000 overnight stays in 1934, the palas was completely rebuilt, providing 260 beds.  The ceremonial laying of its foundation stone took place on 18 November 1934.  The work, which took only 11 months, cost 25,000 reichsmarks and included addition of a kitchen, another Fachwerk building, on the south side.  On 25 October 1935, the rebuilt building was officially dedicated.  In the presence of members of the Hitler Jugend, the Deutsches Jungvolk, the Bund Deutscher Mädel, and both the SA and the SS, Gauleiter Gustav Simon gave the dedicatory address.  Stahleck became one of 27 Jugendburgen (youth castles), to be used for indoctrination of teenagers and young adults.  Between 1937 and early 1938, the turrets on the shield wall were built and its chemin de ronde roofed over.  A visit by Rudolf Hess in June 1938 prompted the start of work to complete the rebuilding of the keep, which was still a ruined stump.  The plan was to reconstruct it to a height of 36 m, 7 stories, and name it the Rudolf Hess Tower.  However, the existing foundations would not have been able to bear the weight, so the ruin was pulled down, and in November 1938, work began on a completely new tower on a smaller footprint.  Work on this was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.

From 1940 to 1942, the castle served as a military hospital.  In addition, in November 1940, students from now occupied Luxembourg who had been studying at German and Austrian universities when the war began were forced to attend re-education classes there, and eventually a youth re-education camp was set up.  Male schoolchildren and students from Esch-sur-Alzette and Echternach were interned at the castle for 4 months as punishment for protesting against the announcement in 1942 of the introduction of required military service in Luxembourg, and the forced conscription associated with it, as well as for participating in the general strike which followed.  (Girls were sent to a youth hostel at Adenau.)  Those of military age were then sent to the front.  There is a memorial plaque at the castle, and the State of Rhineland-Palatinate and the City of Bacharach have organised memorial events at which contemporary witnesses spoke.

Beginning in January 1943, the castle was used as an internment camp for German youth who had shown insufficient loyalty to the Party, such as the founders of the Catholic youth resistance group the Michael Troop; some were taken from Stahleck to concentration camps.  From June 1943 to summer 1944, it was a work and military training camp for Germans between 14 and 18 years of age.

Following the end of the war, Stahleck Castle was first used to billet French soldiers, before returning to use as a youth hostel in November 1947.  The Health and Welfare Ministry of Rhineland-Palatinate opened a youth leadership school at the castle in January 1948 to train prospective hostel managers and staff, but was forced to close it at the end of the same year because of the state's poor financial situation.  The hostel itself, however, was unaffected.  In 1957 the castle offered 270 beds and 60 emergency spaces and was thus the third largest youth hostel in Rhineland-Palatinate, after those in Koblenz and Mainz.  In terms of overnight stays, it was in second place with 32,276.

Beginning in October 1965, a further building programme was carried out at the castle under government superintendent of works Heinrich Grimm, based on the plans of Stahl, who had died in 1957.  This included interior modernisation and renovation and a new administration building.  In addition, a large terrace was created on the south side, and beginning in 1966 the still incomplete keep was built up a further 4 m and topped with a tall cone-shaped roof.  The ceremonial reopening took place on 20 May 1967.

The castle is still used as a hostel, now leased by the Rhineland-Palatinate Youth Hostel Association.  It currently offers 168 beds and has approximately 42,000 overnights per year.  It is almost always booked up.  In the 1990s the non-visitor facilities were once more modernised at a cost of 8.3 million marks.

A series of archaeological excavations between 1925 and 1927 revealed many previously hidden foundations of medieval buildings at the castle site, making it possible to reconstruct what was there before the castle was destroyed in 1689.  According to the evidence, since the Middle Ages, Stahleck Castle had had 3 entrances.  One was a double gate reached by steps from the Rhine Valley, leading into a small, elongated zwinger, from which entry to the castle was through a double-barred door in the northern shield wall, 8 m from the northwest corner.  The former main gate was in the west corner, on the site of today's main entrance, and could be reached either from the northern zwinger or by way of a drawbridge from a group of outbuildings to the southwest.  The main gate led to a gate zwinger and an inside gate from which a narrow passage led to the courtyard.  The third entrance consisted of a small door in the outside wall of the southern zwinger, which was parallel to the ring wall and had a round tower at the south corner.

Immediately inside the northern ring wall was a longish building with a stone residential building attached to its northern end.  Its ground floor was divided into several small rooms, and at the south end there was a timber-framed building whose outside wall was the southern defensive wall.  Two more timber-framed buildings stood on the west side in the shelter of a shield wall which protected the castle on the side where the hillside is higher.  The buildings thus enclosed a long, narrow inner courtyard, in the centre of which was a round Romanesque keep (bergfried), with an outside wall 4 m thick.  Water was supplied to the castle by a well sunk into the hillside within the shield wall.  It was connected by a tunnel at a depth of approximately four metres to the moat outside the walls.

Finds of fragments of early Gothic vaulting and of a Gothic window showed that the castle had a chapel.  Until then, the only evidence had been a mention in the 1471 testament of Ruprecht of the Palatinate, Archbishop of Cologne.  It is impossible to know exactly where the chapel was, but it is presumed to have been on the first floor of the palas, where Merian's engraving shows a small bay window on the Rhine side of the building.  In addition to the still existing artillery platform on the southwest side, there was a bastion in the northeast.

The castle today is a 20th-century reconstruction, primarily based on the results of excavation and the 1646 engraving by Matthäus Merian.  The rebuilding plans were mostly the work of Ernst Stahl, who closely followed Merian's depiction and used other historical models where the engraving gave no information.  For example, the almost rectangular shape of the castle, measuring approximately 55 by 24 m, shows the typical regular layout and clear divisions of a castle of the Hohenstaufen period.  The size of the modern buildings approximates that of those in the original castle; the oldest portions are the foundations of the keep, parts of the cellar under the palas and sections of the curtain wall.  Since the castle is used as a hostel, it is not available for tours.  However, the courtyard is accessible to the public and offers a fine view of the Rhine, since on that side there is only a low parapet.

The palas (residential building) is 2 stories high, built of crushed stone lined with Rhenish Schwemmstein (a traditional artificial material made of dried pumice and lime, similar to concrete), and stands at the eastern, Rhine valley end of the courtyard, over a vaulted cellar that Ernst Stahl dated to the time of Conrad of Hohenstaufen.  It has a shingled hip roof 10 m high.  Adjoining it on the southwest side is the so-called kitchen building, with Fachwerk first floor, which today is the residence of the hostel managers.

On the courtyard side, a red sandstone tablet commemorates Duke Karl Ludwig's rebuilding of the castle. The inscription reads:

CARL LVDWIG PFALTZGRAF CHVRFÜRST ERNEVERT MICH ANNO 1666 (Carl Ludwig, Count Palatine [and] Elector, remade me in the year 1666)

Of the numerous details that Stahl once envisaged incorporating in the rebuilding of the castle, only the windows and chandeliers of the great hall exist today.  The 11 windows of the hall, made of stained glass by the Düsseldorf glass painter Richard Gassen, depict the most important events in the history of the castle and the arms of the people or institutions of the Rhine Province in the 1920s.  They are framed by versions in basalt which can only be seen from outside.  The room has an oak plank floor and holds approximately 100 people.

Although documentary evidence leads to the conclusion that the castle was built in the 12th century at the latest, the archaeological investigations have been unable to provide proof.  Stahl believed, however, that the preserved foundations of the bergfried (keep) should be dated to the 12th century.  The keep is a round tower 7.5 m in diameter which stands on bedrock in the centre of the inner courtyard.  It has walls 2 metres thick and is topped by a 16 m cone-shaped roof.  The top floor, 4 m high, was added later, which can be seen from the different colour of the stone.

The castle is defended from the high hillside on the west by a chemise wall which has been fortified to form a shield wall 2.6 m thick.  There is an interior stairway, which does not, however, reach as far as the roofed chemin de ronde at the top of the wall; it is used to reach the upper floors of the 1930s tower building.  Some of the tall, narrow embrasures were subsequently walled closed at the base and fitted with wooden frames to absorb the recoil of early firearms.  Their fishtail shape indicates that the wall dates to the first half of the 14th century.  At the top they are flanked on both sides by polygonal turrets which replaced two earlier round towers.

Below the shield wall is a moat cut out of the rock.  A section of this measuring 18 by 13 metres is separated off and filled with water, doubling as a cistern.  A stone bridge leads over the moat to the main entrance; the gateway is guarded by an embrasured turret above and leads to an elongated zwinger.  The former boys' hostel is now called the longhouse.  It has a ground floor of crushed stone and a Fachwerk first floor.  The slate roof has a dormer on the courtyard side with a curved gable.  What is now known as the tower building, formerly the girls' hostel, stands against the shield wall. It resembles the longhouse in its details.

A walled platform cut out of the rock a little above the castle to the southwest is a post-medieval position for artillery aimed at the hillside which was an important part of the castle's defences after the introduction of gunpowder.  Its precise date is unknown, but Matthäus Merian's 17th-century engraving shows that it existed by 1646.  (Gabriele Nina Strickhausen-Bode. Stahls Stahleck: Ernst Stahl (1882-1957) und der Neuaufbau von Burg Stahleck am Rhein. Braubach: Deutsche Burgenvereinigung, 2007)

 (Sir Gawain Photo)

Stahleck Castle longhouse, built as a boys' hostel in 1925/26.

 (Sir Gawain Photo)

Stahleck Castle tower building, formerly girls' hostel, completed in 1927.

 (Harald Nachtigal Photo)

Burg Stahleck main gate.

 (MFSG Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Stahleck.

 (RNT Photo)

Stahlberg Castle, is a ruin composed of two bergfrieds lying opposite each other in Bacharach-Steeg.  The upper and lower parts of the castle were respectively secured by a bergfried, and the two towers remain a dominant feature of the ruin.  Stahlberg Caste was founded shortly before 1155 by the Archbishopric of Cologne, but later came into the ownership of the count palatines of Wittelsbach from 1243.  Stahleck Castle and Stahlberg Castle formed the backbone of the southern defence line of the “Bacharach Empire”.  Stahlberg Castle is a popular hiking destination.  The complex, which is open to the public, is accessible through the Stahlberg-Schleife - a hiking path going from Bacharach through to Stahlberg and back - as well as through the RheinBurgenWeg trail.  The untouched grounds of the ruins and unchanged mediaeval to early modern remains are well worth a visit.

 (Jens Niemayer Photo)

Stahlberg with twin bergfried ruins.

 (Johannes Robolotoff Photo)

Stahlberg castle near Steeg, Bacharach, Rhine, Germany.  View from south-western direction.

 (Johannes Robalotoff Photo)

Nollig Castle (Burgruine Nollig) stands above the village of Lorch in Hesse.  View from the southwest.

Ground plan and drawing of Burgruine Nollig c1902.

 (Fritz Geller-Grimm Photo)

Ruine Nollig.

 (Traveler100 Photo)

Burg Fürstenberg is a castle ruin near the village of Rheindiebach in Rhineland-Palatinate.  It was built by Archbishop of Cologne, Engelbert I, in 1219 to protect his property around Bacharach.  Nearly 25 years later in 1243, the castle came into possession of Wittelsbach Count Palatines as a fief of the archdiocese of Cologne.  Besides serving as protection for surrounding lands, it was used to levy tolls on boats traveling along the Rhine.

The 17th century proved turbulent for Burg Fürstenberg as it was besieged by Spaniards in 1620 and during the Thiry Years' War by the Swedes in 1632.  However, it was ultimately destroyed by the French during the Palatine War of Succession, which lasted from 1688 to 1690.  For more than three centuries thereafter, Burg Fürstenberg has steadily deteriorated to its current ruinous state.

The 13th century circular keep represents the most predominant feature of the castle. As the keep still retains remnants of original plaster, tourists can easily envision its former grandiose appearance during medieval times. Moreover, various surrounding curtain walls also remain intact.  Burg Fürstenberg is privately owned and not open to the public.

Ground plan of Burg Fürstenberg, Agricolax illustration.

Illustration of Burg Fürstenberg, 1623.

 (Marion Half Photo)

Burg Fürstenberg.

 (Phantom3Pix Photo)

Burg Fürstenberg.

 (Peter Weller Photo)

Heimburg (also known as Burg Hohneck or Burg Hoheneck) is a castle in the village of Niederheimbach in Rhineland-Palatinate.  The name of the Heimburg or Hohneck Castle, originating from the two forms "Hain (bach) eck" and "Hein (bach) burg" or "Hein (bach) berg", was rendered differently over the centuries: 1305 initially Haineck , then Heyenburg, in 1344 Heimburg for the first time like today. In 1350 it was called Burg Heymberg or Hoh (e) neck.

This hilltop castle stands on a ledge on the northeastern steep slope of the Binger Forest directly above Niederheimbach, which lies between Bingen and Bacharach am Rhein.  It is about 10 and 8 km from Bingen and the bend in the Rhine there.  The Heimburg lies on a low mountain ledge. The almost square complex has two round towers of different heights, which surround the arched shield wall A few small remains of the fortifications attached to the castle have also been preserved.

In 815 King Ludwig the Pious donated the area around what would later become Niederheimbach to the Benedictine abbey of Cornelimünster near Aachen, which he founded.  In 983 Heimbach was also the northern corner of the donation ("Binger Donation") that Emperor Otto II gave to Archbishop Willigis of Mainz (Böhmer / Will 17.34).  In 1092 Archbishop Ruthard left the bailiwick over the village of Heimbach to representatives of St. Martin's Church in Mainz.

According to Dehio, the castle was built by the Archbishop of Mainz after 1290 to prevent Count Palatine Ludwig, Duke of Bavaria, from being able to expand his sphere of influence further south from the rebuilt Reichenstein Castle.  The castle was completed around 1305.  It was reinforced in 1315 and 1326 until 1328.  After the Palatinate gave up his possessions in favour of Kurmainz in 1344, the castle complex quickly became strategically insignificant.  

Until 1438 it was the seat of a lower court in Mainz.  Like most castles in the Middle Rhine Valley, it was destroyed in the Palatinate War of Succession.  The castle was destroyed by the French in 1689.

In the course of the romanticism of the Rhine, a partial reconstruction was carried out by the ophthalmologist Teut von Wackerbarth and then by Eduard Rabeneck.  During the later expansion by the industrialist Hugo Stinnes, the gate and the residential wing were built to the southeast.  Additional window openings and the battlement also date from this period.  The foundation walls of the tower and the curtain wall date from the Middle Ages.  Today the castle is privately owned and cannot be visited.

 (Marion Halft Photo)


 (Alexander Hoernigk Photo)


  (Derzno Photo)

Sooneck Castle (Burg Sooneck) (also known as Saneck or Sonneck, previously also known as Schloss Sonneck) is a castlee in the upper middle valley of the Rhine, in the Mainz-Bingen district of Rhineland-Palatinate.  It is located near the village of Niederheimbach between Bingen and Bacharach.  Sooneck Castle has been part of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002.

Recent research has established that the castle was probably first mentioned in 1271.  Like neighbouring Reichenstein Castle, it was managed by the lords of Hohenfels as bailiffs for Kornelimünster Abbey near Aachen.  What is certain is that the castle was beseiged in 1282 by King Rudolph I.  His troops overran and destroyed the castle and the king imposed a ban on rebuilding it, which he explicitly restated in 1290.  When the castle was rebuilt it was given to a family who were fervent supporters of the Habsburgs, the Reitenaours, to stop Swiss expansion.  The wars with the Swiss claimed many Reitenours: George, Robert and most famously, Nicholas, who died in the Battle of Sempach.

In April 1346 Archbishop Henry III of Mainz gave Sooneck Castle in fief to John, Knight Marshall of Waldeck, who subsequently had a new castle built on the site.  After his death it passed jointly to four of his heirs and the castle thus became a multi-family property, or Ganerbenburg.  The branches of the family jointly residing in the castle were not on good terms and quarreled over inheritances.  Several times, peace had to be legally imposed.  When the line of Waldeck died out in 1553 with the death of Philipp Melchior, the Breidbach zu Bürresheim family, previously co-tenants, became sole tenants of Sooneck Castle.  When that family died out, the castle began to fall into disrepair.

In the course of the War of the palatine Succession, Sooneck, like all the castles on the left bank of the Rhine, was destroyed in 1689 by troops of King Louis XIV of France.  In 1774, the Archdiocese of Mainz leased the ruins to four residents of Trechtingshausen, who planted vineyards.  The site later came into the possession of the village of Niederheimbach.

In 1834, the then Crown Prince of Prussia, Frederick William IV, and his brothers Princes William, Charles and Albert, bought the completely derelict castle and, between 1834 and 1861, had it rebuilt as a hunting lodge.  In the rebuilding, which was designed by the military architect Carl Schnitzler, the historical structures were largely retained with the addition of buildings in romantic style.  The Prussian royal crest over the north gate of the castle dates to this period.  Disagreements within the royal family and the effects of the revolutions in Germany in 1848 prevented the castle from ever being used as a hunting lodge.

After the First World War, aristocratic properties were nationalized and Sooneck Castle became a possession of the state.  After the Second World War, it passed to the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and in 1948 to the State Ministry of Castles (today Generaldirektion Kukturelles Erbe Rheinland-Pfalz Direktion Burgen, Schlösser, Altertümer Rheinland-Pfalz).  It can be visited on organized tours.

The residential areas of the castle are furnished predominantly with items in the neo-Gothic and Biedermeier styles.  The interiors are enriched by paintings owned by the Hohenzollern family and, since 1991, the Köth-Wanscheid family foundation, and drawings and sketches by Johann-Caspar Schneider among others.  (Burgen, Schlösser, Altertümer, Rheinland-Pfalz, Staatliche Burgen, Schlösser und Altertümer in Rheinland-Pfalz, Regensburg: Schnell & Steiner, 2003)

 (Wei-Te Photo)

Burg Sooneck.

 (Phantom3Pix Photo)

Burg Sooneck.

 (Johannes Robolotoff Photo)

Burg Sooneck.

 (MFSG Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Sooneck.

 (Gary Bembridge Photo)

Burg Sooneck.

 (Calips Photo)

Reichenstein Castle (Burg Reichenstein), also known as Falkenburg is a castle in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley.  It stands on a mountain spur on the eastern slope of the Bingen Forest, above the Rhineland-palatinate municipality of Trechtingshausen in the Mainz-Bingen district.  The castle was first mentioned in 1213, when Philipp III von Bolanden was appointed “castellanus” and bailiff by the Kornelimünster Abbey at Aachen.  There is a report that the castle was captured in 1253, although this is not certain.  King Rudolph I of Habsburg besieged, captured, and destroyed the castle in 1282.  At the time, Reichenstein was in the hands of unruly robber knights led by Dietrich von Hohenfels.  Following its destruction, King Rudolph forbid the rebuilding of the castle, and according to legend, had Dietrich and his followers beheaded near Saint Clement’s Chapel (Clemenskapelle).  The records suggest that, while his followers were hung from trees, Dietrich himself escaped.

In the period that followed, the ruins of Reichenstein remained in the possession of the Count Palatine of the Rhine, and were rebuilt.  Ludwig IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, granted the castle to the Elector and Archbishop of Mainz in 1344.  At that time, a new double wall was built surrounding an inner court containing a rectangular keep, and a forecourt was added to the north.  It eventually began to fall into disrepair after 1572, when it became unprofitable for Anton von Wiltberg, chamberlain in Mainz, to maintain its upkeep.

Franz Wilhelm von Barfuss bought the ruins in 1834 and began the restoration.  The family Kirsch-Puricelli purchased the castle in 1899 and completed the restorations in a neo-Gothic style.  The family lived in the castle from 1902-1936.  The current owner is a direct descendant of the Puricelli.  (Hedrich, Michael (21 May 2018). "Märchenhafte Ausflüge Entdecken Sie diese 19 Burgen und Schlösser an Rhein und Mosel".  Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger) 

 (Traveler100 Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Reichenstein.

 (strawberryblues Photo)

Burg Reichenstein.

 (MFSG Photo)

Aerial view of Burg Reichenstein.

 (Alexander Hoernigk Photo)

Rheinstein Castle (Burg Rheinstein) stands near the town of Trechtingshausen in Rhineland-Palatinate.  The castle was built c1316/1317.  Rheinstein Castle was important for its strategic location.  By 1344, the castle was in decline.  By the time of the Palatine War of Succession, the castle was very dilapidated.  During the romantic period in the 19th century, Prince Frederick of Prussia (1794-1863) bought the castle and it was rebuilt.

Burg Rheinstein possesses a working drawbridge and porticullis, which are typical of medieval castle architecture and defences.  The castle is open to the public.  Just past the gift shop near the entrance is an opening on the left to the courtyard, which has views of the Rhine.  Rheinstein's courtyard is known as the Burgundy Garden after the Burgundy grape vine growing there.  The vine, which is approximately 500 years old, still produces grapes.

From the garden, steps lead down to the castle chapel.  In the centre of the Gothic altar piece of the chapel there is a woodcarving depicting Jesu at the Last Supper.  Between the rock and chapel, additional steps lead down to the royal crypt of Prince Frederick William Louis's family.

Heading upwards to the Burgundy Garden, another set of steps lead to the main part of the castle.  The largest and most impressive room at Rheinstein Castle is located at the top of the stairway to the left once inside the castle.  Known as the Rittersaal or Knight's Hall, it includes beautiful stained glass windows, as well as three-dimensional paintings.  Rheinstein houses a cafe and gift shop offering miniature handmade wooden treasure chests, as well as traditional items including postcards and guidebooks for purchase.

From the 14th–17th centuries, the castle was granted as a fief by the archbishops of Mainz.  The castle was rebuilt between 1825 and 1829 under the leadership of the famous castle builder, Claudius Lassaulx, who was succeeded in 1827 by his pupil, Wilhelm Kuhn, who completed the building.  Prince Frederick named the castle "Rheinstein" because of its impressive cliffs directly above the river.  In 1842, Rheinstein Castle became the favorite residence of Prince Frederick.  Many crowned heads of state of that time were guests at the castle, such as Queen Victoria, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia and many others.  Prince Frederick had the Wiesbaden architect, Ph. Hoffmann, draw up a plan for a chapel and crypt.  Just two years later, the neo-Gothic chapel and crypt for the royal family was formally opened.  In 1863, after the death of the prince, his son, Prince George of Prussia, inherited Rheinstein. 

In 1902, Prince Henry of Prussia, a brother of Kaiser William II inherited the castle.  In 1929, the wife of Prince Henry, Irene of Hesse and by Rhine became the new owner.  In 1953, the last owner of the German nobility is Princess Barbara of Prussia, the Duchess of Mecklenburg.  In 1975, the castle went into the private possession of the Hecher family.  In the 1980s, the castle was handed down to the Rhine Family, but they donated it to the government to be used as a museum.  (Joachim Glatz: Trechtingshausen. Burg Rheinstein. 4. Auflage. Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2013. (Kleine Kunstführer Nr. 2538.)

 (Phantom3Pix Photo)

Burg Rheinstein.

 (Axel Hindemith Photo)

Burg Rheinstein.

 (I, Manfred Heyde Photo)

Burg Rheinstein.

 (Christoph Aron Photo)

Ehrenfels Castle (Burg Ehrenfels) is a ruin that stands  above the Rhine Gorge near the town of Rüdesheim am Rhein in Hesse.  It is located on the steep eastern bank of the river amid extended vineyards.  The grape variety Ehrenfelser, is named after the castle.  It was (re-)built about 1212 at the behest of the Archbishop of Mainz as a defensive work against the constant attacks by Elector Palatine Henry V, who, as Imperial Vicar of Franconia, strived to cut down the archbishop's reach.  Mainz staffed the castle with Burgmannen and erected a customs post controlling the shipping on the Rhine, supplemented by the Mouse Tower below at the river.  Heavily damaged in the course of the Thirty Years' War, the castle was finally destroyed by French troops under the command of Lieutenant General Nicholas Chalon du Blé during the 1689 Siege of Mainz.  The ruin can be reached from Rüdesheim via a hiking trail through the vineyards . The interior however can only be visited in guided tours by prior appointment.

 (Pedelecs Photo)

Burg Ehrenfels and the Maus Turm.

 (Jacquesverlaeken Photo)

Burg Ehrenfels.

Engraving of Burg Ehrenfels by Matthäus Merian from Topographia Archiepiscopatuum Moguntinensis, 1646.

  (Alexander Hoernigk Photo)

Burg Ehrenfels and the Binger Mäuseturm.

 (Arcalino Photo)

Mouse Tower (Mäuseturm) is a stone tower on a small island in the Rhine, outside Bingen am Rhein.  The Romans were the first to build a structure on this site.  It later became part of Franconia, and it fell and had to be rebuilt many times.  Hatto II, the Archbishop of Mainz, restored the tower in 968.  In 1298 the structure became an official customs collection tower.  It was destroyed by a French army in 1689, then rebuilt in 1855 as a Prussian signal tower.

 (Marion Halft Photo)


 (Tilman2007 Photo)

Brömserburg (also called the Niederburg) is located near the banks of the Rhine in the town of Rüdesheim am Rhine in Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis in the German state of Hesse.  Its original structure was probably one of the first stone castles in the Rhine Gorge, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The Brömserburg may have been built on the foundations of a Roman fort, although the present fort was only built in the 4th century.  By that time the Romans had already withdrawn from the right bank of the Rhine after the fall of the limes.

Limes (plural limites) is a modern term used primarily for the Germanic border defence or delimiting system of Ancient Rome marking the Borders of the Roman Empire, but it was not used by the Romans for this purpose.  The term has been extended to refer to the frontier defences in other parts of the empire, such as in the east and in Africa.  The Limes is often associated with Roman forts, but the concept could apply to any adjoining area the Romans exercised control over with military forces.

Two construction phases of the Brömserburg have been identified, ranging from an early medieval royal Salhof, dating to before 980, to a mid-12th century castle complex.  Examination of an alder post from the foundation of the southeast tower, which is considered to be the oldest part of the castle, showed that the tower could not have been built before 1044 and not after 1216.  The end of the 12th century (1186-1190) was the final period of construction for the second castle.

The shape of the castle, even during its first construction phase, corresponded largely to its present dimensions.  It was protected by an enceinte and moats; in those days the Rhine flowed, according to historical engravings, immediately past its southern front.  In the present time, there is a road and wide riverbank zone between the castle and the river.  The enceinte was thinner (1.6-1.7 metres) and lower than it is today.  In the southeast corner there used to be a tower house (donjon), now gone.  The surviving tower diagonally opposite, also originates from this first phase and served to defend the gate tower as well as serving as a bergfried.  At that time, its height reached up to the upper edge of the present fighting platform.

During the second construction phase, the outer wall was reinforced, cladded with brick and raised.  Other buildings were built onto the donjon up to the same height, and completely vaulted in up to four storys (a unique design for a castle on the Rhine), thereby creating a quadrangular structure.  At the same time the courtyard was raised in height and, in the centre, a massive, new bergfried was erected which was joined onto adjacent elements of the second phase without any joints.  Originally it had a wall thickness of more than 4 metres in the lower section and was estimated to be about 35 metres high.  Due to the location of the entrance of the new bergfried  (the elevated entrance is on the highest surviving floor), it is evident that the tower must have been much higher than it is today.  The bergfried clearly rose above the adjoining buildings, giving the castle a much less "squat" appearance than it has today.

In the 13th century, the family of Brömser from the Wisper valley are recorded as castellans (Burgherren) of the castle within the territory of the Archbishops of Mainz.  In 1640, during the Thirty Years' War, the south-eastern corner of the castle facing the Rhine, was blown up by French troops of Duke Henry II of Orleans.  He also destroyed the upper part of the bergfried and the donjon.  A mine passageway was driven into the bergfried, but it was not detonated and it is still visible.

After the main line of the Rüdesheim family died out on the death of Melchior von Rüdesheim in 1538, the Brömsers gradually took over the Rüdesheim fief.  The Brömsers resided in Brömserhof in Oberstraße 29 in Rüdesheim.  After the Brömsers died out, the Archbishop of Mainz granted the fiefdom to Emmerich of Metternich, an heir of the Brömser von Rüdesheim family, in 1678.  As the castle remained uninhabited, it fell into ruin in the 18th century and was initially nicknamed "Brömser's dog house", and, later, "Metternich's dog house".  After 1811, the new owners, the counts of Ingelheim, undertook a romanticised expansion of the castle into a country house.  In the south wing, these features were removed again in the 1950s during a renovation.

The castle was lived in until 1937.  In 1941 it was bought by the town of Rüdesheim.  Since 1950, it has housed the Rheingau Wine Museum with exhibits of wine culture from antiquity to the present day. In 1961, the destroyed south-east corner was reconstructed and, in 1969, the keep was raised to a height of 27 metres.  (Thomas Biller, Achim Wendt: Burgen im Welterbegebiet Oberes Mittelrheintal - Ein Führer zu Architektur und Geschichte. 1st edition. Verlag Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg, 2013)

 (Alexander Hoernigk Photo)


 (DXR Photo)

Brömserburg, as seen from west.  This castle is considered to be one of the oldest of the region.

 (Tilman2007 Photo)


 (DXR Photo)

Boosenburg at left and the Brömserburg at right, Rüdesheim am Rhein.

 (Peter Weller Photo)

Boosenburg is a lowland castle Rüdesheim am Rhein dating back to the 12th century.  It is locally known as Oberburg (upper castle) in relation to the near and slightly lower Brömserburg.  It has been part of the Rhine Gorge World Heritage Site since 2002.  The castle was probably built at the end of the 12th century as the family seat for the knight, Lord Fuchs of Rüdesheim, as a square building surrounding a very high, double stepped bergfried, protected by a rampart and moat.  In late medieval times, additional living quarters were added.  In 1407, the castle was left to the Brömser von Rüdesheim noble family.  From 1474 to 1830, it belonged to the Boos von Waldeck noble family.

After the counts of Schönborn-Wiesntheid became owners in 1830, they tore down all the buildings in 1836, apart from the bergfried, which they built even higher, adding Gothic Revival merlons.  The next owner, wine merchant Baptist Sturm, transformed the moat to a vaulted wine cellar.  His widow erected a Gothic Revival villa, designed by Philipp Hoffmann, and completed in 1872.  The castle has belonged to a winery, Weinkellerei Carl Jung, from 1938.  The musical family has arranged chamber music concerts in their residence. (Michael Fuhr: Wer will des Stromes Hüter sein? 40 Burgen und Schlösser am Mittelrhein. 1st edition. Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2002)

 (Oliver Abels Photo)

Schloss Vollrads is a castle and a wine estate in the Rheingau wine-growing region.  It has been making wine for over 800 years.  Schloss Vollrads is a vineyard site that has been documented since the Middle Ages in the Rheingau,

After the donation of Verona in 983 the Archbisho of Mainz, the new owner, invested in vine growing.  Vines had been cultivated here since Roman times.  The manor hourse was named after the Lords of Winkel; Vollradus is a given name.  In 1218 a "Vollradus in Winkela" (so-called knight Vollradus), is recorded, and in 1268 a "Conradus dictus Vollradus armiger" is documented.  No elements of a building originating from this time have been found.

At present, the core building of the estate is a substantial tower house.  Schloss Vollrads is a water castle surrounded by a square pond, and therefore the house can only be reached by a bridge. The keep was built some time in the first third of the 14th century by the family of Greiffenclau, the heirs of the Lords of Winkel.  The octagon stage tower, flanking the donjon, was erected in 1471; the bay window was added in 1620.  The coat of arms of the Greiffenclau family can be seen above the doorway.

In 1684 the present two-winged manor house was built by Georg Phillip Greiffenclau von Vollrads near the tower.  His son Johann Erwein erected the estate buildings around 1700, as well as boundary walls around the manor garden, and finally equipped the tower with a typical baroque roof.  In 1907/1908 Countess Clara Matuschka-Greiffenclau had the buildings remodelled.  She increased the height of the southern wing of the mansion by a third floor, added two towers with an onion dome, and enlarged the terraces and the bay windows at the Donjon.

In 1975 Erwein Matuschka Greiffenclau took charge of the property, which was heavily in debt.  Although an important figure in the emergence of a new or rediscovered style of high quality dry Rheingau wine in the 1980s and 1990s, he was not successful in reorganising his estate.  When in 1997 the principal bank decided on the declaration of bankruptcy, Erwein, who was then also the chairman of the VDP-Rheingau, committed suicide Since then, the estate has belonged to the Nassauische Sparkasse bank, which runs the manor house as well as the vineyards and a restaurant.  Generally, the manor house is not open to the public.  Access is only allowed for special events.  In the summer live music acts take place on the castle grounds, and in the harvest season a public bar is opened in the center court.

 (Wo st 01 Photo)

Vollrads Castle.

Vollrads Castle illustration, 1862.

 (Brühl Photo)

Vollrads Castle keep/tower house, early 14th century, bay window of 1620.

 (DXR Photo)

Schloss Johannisberg is a castle and winery in the village of Johannisberg to the west of Wiesbaden, Hesse, in the Rheingau wine-growing region of Germany.  It has been making wine for over 900 years. 

A mountain on the north bank of the River Rhine near Mainz has been associated with the Church and with winemaking since the Dark Ages, when the estate of Ludwig der Fromme (Louis the Pious) made 6000 litres of wine during the reign of Charlemagne.  In 1100, Benedictine monks completed a monastery on the Bischofsberg ("Bishop's") mountain, having identified the site as one of the best places to grow vines.  Thirty years later they built a Romanesque basilica in honour of John the Baptist, and the hill became known as Johannisberg (John's mountain).  It wasbuilt using floor plans similar to that of its mother house, St. Alban's Abbey, Mainz.  The monastery was a prime target for the Anabaptists in the German Peasant's War of 1525, and it was destroyed.

In 1716, Konstantin von Buttlar, Prince-Abbot of Fulda, bought the estate from Lothar Franz von Schönborn, started construction of the baroque palace, and, in 1720, planted Riesling vines, making it the oldest Riesling vineyard in the world.  The estate changed hands several times during the Napoleonic Wars, but in 1816 Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, gave it to the Austrian statesman Prince von Metternich.

In 1942, during the air raids on Mainz, the Schloss was bombed and reduced to a shell.   By the mid-1960s it had been largely rebuilt by Paul Alfons von Metternich-Winneburg and his wife Princess Tatiana.  They had fled there on a farm cart in 1945, after the Russians had advanced on their other estates.  Prince Paul died in 1992, leaving no heir, but a significant portion of his fortune to his mistress.  With his death the House of Metternich became extinct.  Although Princess Tatiana was allowed to reside in the Schloss until her death in 2006, the situation had forced her husband to sell the estate to the German Oetker family in 1974.  There are currently about 35 hectares (86 acres) of vineyard.

 (Peter Weller Photo)

Klopp Castle (Burg Klopp) is a castle in the town of Bingen am Rhein in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley in Rhineland-Palatinate.  In the 19th century, the bergfried (keep) from the original medieval fortified castle was restored and a new building added which houses the town's administration.  The castle stands on a hill above the town with a wide-ranging view, which may have been the site of a Roman fortification built by Nero Claudius Drusus at Bingium c10 CE.  Drusenburg or Drususburg was an early name for the castle.  The hill is one of three locations where local legend says that Emperor Henry IV was imprisoned by his son in 1105 or 1106, this being the first surviving mention of a castle there.

The last medieval castle on the site was built in the 13th century: possibly c1281, possibly between 1240, when Kloppberg (Klopp Hill) is mentioned as the residence of a churchman, and 1277, the first mention of Burg Clopp. Together with Ehrenfels Castle on the opposite side of the Rhine and later the Mouse Tower, it enabled the Archbishop of Mainz to exact tolls on river trade.  In 1438 the archbishop sold the town and the castle to the cathedral chapter and the townspeople effectively took control of it.  The castle was already decaying in the 16th century and was destroyed in the Thirty Years' War, but was rebuilt in 1653.  The French destroyed it again in 1689 in the War of the Palatine Succession.  In the final phase of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, the Mainz forces themselves blew up what was left to prevent its use by the enemy.  Early 19th-century paintings show ruined walls, one connecting the castle to the town, but the castle itself levelled.

The state of Hesse acquired the ruin in 1815 and sold it to Hermann Faber, a lawyer.  It was later owned by a Berliner called Rosenthal, who renovated the well.  Both charged tourists to climb the gate tower as a viewing platform Faber built a stairway up the outside of the walls and a viewing room at the top which he furnished with books of poetry, a comfortable sofa and a fully equipped writing desk, and laid out the grounds as a garden with romantic paths through the grapevines, trees and flowers. He also installed an aeolian harp.  The castle was one of the major sights of the Romantic Rhine.  By the end of the 19th century, some 75,000 entries had been made in the visitors' book.

In 1853 the gatehouse, the bridge across the moat and the fortifications were rebuilt for Ludwig Maria Cron.  The bergfried was rebuilt as a crenellated tower 26 metres high, with four corner turrets.  In 1875–79, a new Gothic building was built on the site.  The architect for both was the mayor, Eberhard Soherr.  The base of the bergfried, the moat and parts of the southern curtain wall and its chemin de ronde (a raised protected walkway behind the castle battlement), are the only remnants of the medieval castle.  In early fortifications, high castle walls were difficult to defend from the ground.  The chemin de ronde was devised as a walkway allowing defenders to patrol the tops of ramparts, protected from the outside by the battlements or a parapet, placing them in an advantageous position for shooting or dropping.

The rebuilt bergfried formerly housed the town's local history museum, which moved in 1998 to a former power station on the waterfront.  The larger Gothic building has been the seat of government and mayoral residence since 1897.  There is also a gourmet restaurant.  (atthias Schmandt, "Die Geschichte der Burg Klopp in Bingen". Heimatjahrbuch des Landkreises Bingen 2004)

 (Colling-architektur Photo)

Klopp Castle.

View of Bingen and Klopp Castle, 1646, by Matthäus Merian.

 (Felix Konig Photo)

Klopp Castle.