Castles and fortifications in Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle is a nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner. Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds. The castle was intended as a personal refuge for the reclusive king, bu ...
Founded: 1868 | Location: Hohenschwangau, Germany

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle is a famous ruin and one of the the most important Renaissance structures north of the Alps. The rich and eventful history of Heidelberg Palace began when the counts palatine of the Rhine, – later prince electors – established their residence at Heidelberg. The earliest castle structure was built before 1214 and later expanded into two castles circa 1294; however, in 1537, a lightning-bolt de ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Heidelberg, Germany

Dresden Castle

Dresdner Residenzschloss is one of the oldest buildings in Dresden, Germany. For almost 400 years, it was the residence of the electors (1547–1806) and kings (1806–1918) of Saxony of the Albertine line of the House of Wettin. It is known for the different architectural styles employed, from Baroque to Neo-renaissance. The original castle was a Romanesque keep, built around 1200. The Hausmannsturm was buil ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Dresden, Germany

Nuremberg Castle

The Imperial Castle is the symbol of Nuremberg. Since the Middle Ages its silhouette has represented the power and importance of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and the outstanding role of the imperial city of Nuremberg. Nuremberg, which was first mentioned in a document as a royal property in 1050, played an important part in the imperial and domestic policy of the Salian and Hohenstaufen kings and emperors. ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Nuremberg, Germany

Schlossturm

Schlossturm tower on the riverside is all that remains of the castle of Counts of Berg. The first three storeys date back to the 13th century. In 1552, Alessandro Pasqualini added a fourth, polygonal storey, adorned with Tuscan columns. Today it houses a museum of Rhine shipping and is topped by a face.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Düsseldorf, Germany

Broich Castle

Broich Castle was originally erected to protect the town of Mülheim from invasion by the the Normans in the late 9th century. It is probably the oldest, still maintained Carolingian fortification in German-speaking Europe.  The abandoned castle was rebuilt and expanded by the noblemen of Broich in the end of the 11th century. The castle survived a long and eventful history, including bloody feuds, wars, occupat ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany

Porta Praetoria

Porta Praetoria, a gateway to the city of Regensburg, dates from 179 AD. Among Porta Nigra in Trier, it is the only remaining Roman gate north of the Alps. Giant blocks of stone were used to construct this gate in the northern wall of the Roman military camp. It survives as a reminder of Castra Regina, the Roman settlement.
Founded: 179 AD | Location: Regensburg, Germany

Detmold Castle

Fürstliches Residenzschloß, in the center of the Detmold town park, is a fine example of Weser Renaissance style. In 1263, Bernard III of Lippe fortified the settlement at the crossing of the trade route from Paderborn to Lemgo over the Werre River with stone walls and granted it a municipal charter. In 1550, Detmold became the permanent residence of Count Simon III of Lippe. The counts were elevated to princ ...
Founded: 1550s | Location: Detmold, Germany

Spandau Citadel

Spandau Citadel is one of the most important and best-preserved Renaissance fortresses in Europe. In the 16th century, developments in weaponry rendered older castles useless. Thus, Kurfürst Joachim II ordered his fortification in Spandau to be constructed as a fortress in the ‘new Italian style.’ The fortress was laid out as a rectangle of curtains (fortress walls) with bastions, entirely encircled by wa ...
Founded: 1557-1594 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Stuttgart Old Castle

The Old Castle is located in the centre of Stuttgart. The first castle dated back to around 950 when Stuttgart was a settlement for breeding horses; it was built to guard the Stutengarten of the stud. In the 14th century it became the residence of the Counts of Württemberg and the court chamber (Hofkammer) of the House of Württemberg. In the 16th century dukes Christopher and Ludwig ordered it to be converted into a Ren ...
Founded: c. 950 AD | Location: Stuttgart, Germany

Isartor

The Isartor is one of four main gates of the medieval city wall. It served as a fortification for the defence and is the most easterly of Munich"s three remaining gothic town gates (Isartor, Sendlinger Tor and Karlstor). The Isartor was constructed in 1337 within the scope of the enlargement of Munich and the construction of the second city wall between 1285 and 1337 which was completed under the Emperor Louis IV. T ...
Founded: 1337 | Location: Munich, Germany

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta. The P ...
Founded: 186-200 AD | Location: Trier, Germany

Wartburg Castle

Wartburg castle, overlooking the town of Eisenach, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the home of St. Elisabeth of Hungary, the place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament of the Bible into German and the site of the Wartburg festival of 1817. It was an important inspiration for Ludwig II when he decided to build Neuschwanstein Castle. Wartburg is the most-visited tourist attraction in Thuringia after Weim ...
Founded: c. 1067 | Location: Eisenach, Germany

Hohenschwangau Castle

Hohenschwangau Castle was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria. The fortress Schwangau, which was first mentioned in historical records dating from the 12th Century, stood high up on a rock on the site of the present 19th century Neuschwanstein castle. The knights, later counts of Schwangau were ministerialis of the Welfs. Hiltbolt von Schwangau (1 ...
Founded: 1833-1857 | Location: Hohenschwangau, Germany

Holstentor

Holstentor (Holsten Gate) is the most well-know symbol of Lübeck. The city gate was built between 1464 and 1478 along the lines of Dutch models. Its purpose served both as a form of defence and as a form of prestige. Above the round-arched gateway entrance of the twin-towered construction, the inscription CONCORDIA DOMI FORIS PAX (unity at home, peace abroad) can clearly be seen in golden letters. Nearly every visitor i ...
Founded: 1464-1478 | Location: Lübeck, Germany

Meersburg Castle

Burg Meersburg may be the oldest inhabited castle in Germany. The central tower was first built during the 7th century, though the original structure is no longer visible. There are two theories about the construction of the Meersburg. The first is that the Merovingian king Dagobert I built the Dagobertturm (Dagobert's Tower), the central keep of the Meersburg, in 630. Around 630, Dagobert was in the Lake Constance region ...
Founded: c.630 / 12th century | Location: Meersburg, Germany

Neurathen Rock Castle

Neurathen Castle (Felsenburg Neurathen), which was first mentioned by this name in 1755, is located near the famous Bastei rocks near Rathen in Saxon Switzerland. This was once the largest rock castles in the region, but today only the rooms carved out of the rock, passages, the cistern and rebates for the timber of the former wooden superstructure have survived. In the years 1982–1984 parts of the extensive c ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Rathen, Germany

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

Ehrenbreitstein Fortress was built as the backbone of the regional fortification system, Festung Koblenz, by Prussia between 1817 and 1832 and guarded the middle Rhine region, an area that had been invaded by French troops repeatedly before. The fortress was never attacked. Early fortifications at the site can be dated back to about 1000 BC. At about AD 1000 Ehrenbert erected a castle. The Archbishops of Trier expanded i ...
Founded: 1817-1832 | Location: Koblenz, Germany

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle is the ancestral seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern. A popular tourist destination, Hohenzollern castle has over 300,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most visited castles in Germany. The castle sits atop the 855 meters Berg Hohenzollern, an isolated 855 m promontory on the western side of the Swabian Alps. The first fortress on the mountain was constructed in the early 11th century. ...
Founded: 1454/1846 | Location: Burg Hohenzollern, Germany

Marienberg Fortress

The original castle on the Marienberg, a hill which was first settled in the late Bronze Age, was probably a small fort built early in the 8th century by the Franconian-Thuringian dukes, together with a church which in 741 became the first church of the Würzburg bishops. From 1200 an unusually large castle was built, which was extended during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Following the storming of the ca ...
Founded: 1200 | Location: Würzburg, Germany

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Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.