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Castle of the Week 100 - Marksburg Castle, Koblenz, Germany

High above the town of Braubach, on a hill overlooking the Rhine, Marksburg Castle has survived time to be one of the best examples of mediaeval architecture in Germany. It holds the distinction of being the only hill castle on the Rhine that has never been destroyed. Over time it was added to, so what we see today is a compilation of centuries of building.

Marksburg has a tall and slender keep. The castle was first mentioned in 1231, although 12th century records mention the Noble Freemen of Burbach, and they may have constructed the lower half of the keep.

The keep rises from a small courtyard (one of the smallest in Germany) to a height of 40m. Parts of the keep date to the beginnings of the castle. It has an entrance that is 10m above ground, which made it hard for attackers to reach.

The original castle was gradually added to and it expanded with the need for defenses.


(Quelle: F.W. Krahe - Burgen des
deutschen Mittelalters. 1998)

The earliest part of the castle was constructed by the Lord of Eppstein, with a triangular layout built in the Romanesque style.

By 1283 the castle was bought by Count Eberhard II of Katzenelnbogen, whose family was one of the wealthiest in the Rhineland. The castle was expanded in the Gothic style which gives the castle its unique present day style.

One interesting feature you can still see at the castle is a medieval herb garden containing 160 plants. The garden is a showcase of plants ranging from medical and seasoning to toxic deadly nightshade and hemlock.

In 1479 the castle passed to the Landgraves of Hesse with the marriage of the heiress Anna to Heinrich of Hesse. It became a fortress with artillery batteries. The cannons were used during the 30 Years War. Aimed at the Rhine, with a reach of 1000 meters, they guarded the valley below. After the introduction of firearms, strengthening the castles defenses became urgent. The added defenses saved Marksburg from ever being seriously attacked.

In 1803 the German empire broke up and the Duchy of Nassau gained control of Marksburg. It was during this time that the castle became a home for disabled soldiers and also a state prison.

The castle was taken over by Prussia in 1866 during the Austro-Prussian War. It fell into decay after being used as apartments.

It was purchased in 1900 by the German Castle Association with the help of Kaiser Wilhelm II, for 1,000 gold marks. Marksburg Castle is now the home for the offices of the German Castle Association (DBV) who work to protect and preserve castles and stately homes in Germany. The offices and official residence of the general secretary of the German Castle Association (DBV) are now part of the Romanesque Great Hall, the oldest main residential building of the castle.

It can be visited year around by guided tour.

Write-up provided by Lady Arcola.
A special thank you to Burgenwelt for the continued use of their pictures.

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*) denotes a former staff member.