Castles in the Lower Rhine Valley

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

Electoral Palace

The Electoral Palace (Kurfürstliches Schloss) in Bonn is the former residential palace of the Prince-Electors of Cologne. Since 1818, it has been the University of Bonn"s main building in the city center, home to the University administration and the faculty of humanities and theology. The palace was built by Enrico Zuccalli for the prince-elector Joseph Clemens of Bavaria from 1697 to 1705. The Hofgarte ...
Founded: 1697-1705 | Location: Bonn, Germany

Schloss Drachenburg

Schloss Drachenburg is a private villa in palace style constructed in the late 19th century. It was completed in only two years (1882–84) on the Drachenfels hill in Königswinter, a German town on the Rhine near the city of Bonn. Baron Stephan von Sarter (1833–1902), a broker and banker, planned to live there, but never did. Today the Palace is in the possession of the State Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia ...
Founded: 1882-1884 | Location: Königswinter, Germany

Drachenfels Castle Ruins

The ruined castle Burg Drachenfels, on the summit of the Dhill, was built between 1138 and 1167 by Archbishop Arnold I of Cologne and bears the same name. It was originally intended for the protection of the Cologne region from any assault from the south. Originally it consisted of a bergfried with court, chapel and living quarters for servants. The castle was slighted in 1634, during the Thirty Years' War, b ...
Founded: 1138-1167 | Location: Königswinter, Germany

Augustusburg Palace

Augustusburg Palace represents one of the first examples of Rococo creations in Germany. For the Cologne elector and archbishop Clemens August of the House of Wittelsbach it was the favourite residence. In 1725 the Westphalian architect Johann Conrad Schlaun was commissioned by Clemens August to begin the construction of the palace on the ruins of a medieval moated castle. In 1728, the Bavarian court architect Fran&ccedi ...
Founded: 1725-1768 | Location: Brühl, Germany

Linz Castle

Linz Castle is an old customs castle and fortress. It dates back to 1365 and was built by the Archbishop of Cologne, Engelbert von der Mark. After an eventful history, the castle has been under private ownership since 1985. The castle in the heart of the town of Linz on the Rhine is once again a major tourist attraction after undergoing extensive refurbishment. Today visitors will find catering from the Middle Ages in th ...
Founded: 1365 | Location: Linz am Rhein, Germany

Schloss Benrath

Schloss Benrath is a Baroque-style maison de plaisance (pleasure palace) in Benrath, which is now a borough of Düsseldorf. It was erected for the Elector Palatine Charles Theodor and his wife, Countess Palatine Elisabeth Auguste of Sulzbach, by his garden and building director Nicolas de Pigage. Construction began in 1755 and was completed in 1770. The ensemble at Benrath has been proposed for designation as a ...
Founded: 1755-1770 | Location: Düsseldorf, Germany

Linn Castle

The oldest fortress on the Lower Rhine is located in the historic Krefeld suburb of Linn. The former country castle belonging to the Electorate of Cologne has its origins around 1200. It was badly damaged during the Spanish Civil War of 1704. The beautiful water castle is well preserved and includes a bailey, hunting lodge and tithe barn. In the accompanying Landscape Museum it is possible to view excavation finds from t ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Krefeld, Germany

Bergh Castle

Huis Bergh (Huis Bergh) is one of the largest castles in the Netherlands. It gives its name to the Land van den Bergh and was previously owned by the counts van Bergh. The castle history dates back to the 13th century. The main parts of the castle are from the 14th, 15th and 17th century. In the beginning of the Dutch Revolt the house got damaged by war. In 1735 the castle burned down. In 1912 Huis Bergh and all belongi ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: ´s-Heerenberg, Netherlands

Anholt Castle

Anholt moated castle is one of North-Rhine Westphalia"s few privately owned castles. It first appears in records in the 12th century. Further extensions in around 1700 created a grand Baroque residence with the feel of a palace. Today, the moated castle is used as a museum founded by Prince Nikolaus of Salm-Salm, which features a private collection documenting his family"s history. The historical housekeeping ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Anholt, Germany

Falkenlust Palace

Just a short, enchanting stroll away from Augustusburg Palace in Brühl, Falkenlust is located on the edge of a secluded grove as the favourite hunting lodge of the Cologne elector and Archbishop Clemens August (1700-1761). One of the most intimate and precious creations of German Rococo was built in a few short years (1729-1737) according to the plans of François de Cuvilliés, court architect of the Ba ...
Founded: 1729-1737 | Location: Brühl, Germany

Moyland Castle

Moyland Castle (Schloss Moyland) is a moated castle in Bedburg-Hau in the district of Kleve, one of the most important neo-Gothic buildings in North Rhine-Westphalia. 1307 is the first time that a fortified farm called Moyland is documented with ditches and ramparts. It was between 1345 and 1355 redesigned by Roland von Hagedorn into a classical gothic castle with a square floor plan. In addition to three round ...
Founded: 1345-1355 | Location: Kleve, Germany

Godesburg Castle

Godesburg castle was built in the early 13th century on the Godesberg, a hill of volcanic origin, it was largely destroyed following a siege in 1583 at the start of the Cologne War. The site has a controversial history. First mentioned in documents from the early 8th century, there was supposedly an old cult site and its name derived from the old Germanic Wotansberg, Woudensberg, or Gotansberg. The fortress founda ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bonn, Germany

Löwenburg Castle

Löwenburg castle was built around 1200 by the Counts of Sayn. Together with the Castle of Blankenberg high above the valley of river Sieg it secured their territory.  In the second half of the 13th century the old keep was torn down. Only then the castle whose ruins we see today was built. In the late Middle Ages the Löwenburg went through an eventful history until it fell to the Counts of Berg in 1484. It was destroye ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Bad Honnef, Germany

Lede Castle

Burg Lede in Bonn-Vilich, the oldest part of Bonn, is a real gem. The origins of the site goes back to the 14th century. Von Loë family still lives in the castle. The personal atmosphere of the castle with its salons, the library, the castle kitchen and the small courtyard create an unusual ambiance for events ranging from weddings, official business events to a private cookery course with friends. A limited number of re ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Bonn, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.