Castle of the Week 101 – Meersburg Castle

Three countries border the shores of Lake Constance (Der Bodensee): Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The town of Meersburg is in Germany on the north shore of the lake, between Friedrichshafen and Überlingen. In the town are two castles, a medieval one, Altes Schloss (Old Castle or Meersburg Castle), and a baroque one, Neues Schloss. Altes Schloss is one of the oldest inhabited castles in Germany.

Meersburg Castle dates back to 628 when Dagobert I, the Frankish king, built a military tower on granite overlooking Lake Constance. Features were added to the castle over the years, including the main tower which dates from 1509.

The castle has low ceilings and granite floors, as seen in this picture of Knight’s Hall. There are 28 fully furnished rooms, which give the visitor the feeling of everyday life in a medieval castle.

The castle was built for heavy use, and survived many onslaughts. In 1334 when the castle was under siege by Emperor Louis the Bavarian, Bishop Nicholas I of Kenzingen had a secret underground passage dug from the castle to the lake. The 400 miners assigned to the task finished the tunnel in the 14th week of the siege, allowing supplies to be brought in to the castle without Louis’s notice. With the castle able to hold out for such a long time, Louis was finally forced to give up. After time the tunnel entrance was used as a dungeon. Known as the “Hole of Fear,” prisoners were lowered into it and left to starve.

The Catholic prince bishops of the bishopric of Konstanz converted to Protestantism early in the Reformation. This caused political tensions to increase, resulting in the prince bishops moving across the lake to reside in the Altes Schloss of Meersburg in 1526. They stayed there until the early 1700s, when the New Palace (Neues Schloss) was built nearby.

Joseph Freiherr von Laßberg acquired Meersburg in 1837. He had a private library with an extensive collection of medieval manuscripts, including one of the Nibelungenlied dating from the early 13th century (Handschrift C des Nibelungenlieds). During this time the castle was used as an artists’ colony. The German poetess Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Laßberg’s sister-in-law, visited the castle often, and died there in 1848.

Though still privately owned, Meersburg Castle also now serves as a museum.

Photographs courtesy of Burgenwelt.
Write-up by Kester.

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