Castles in the Neckar Valley

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

Hohentübingen Castle

Hohentübingen Castle rises above the city atop of the 372m high Spitzberg hill. The castle is a mighty renaissance construction with four wings and a round tower. First mention of a castle on this site dates back to 1078, referring to the former medieval castle. The rulers of Tübingen, who were promoted to Counts Palatine in the 12th century, lived in the castle until 1342 when they sold it to the Counts of W&uu ...
Founded: c. 1037 | Location: Tübingen, Germany

Wimpfen Imperial Palace

The largest fortified Stauffer palace north of the Alps was built at the end of the 12th century by the Staufer emperors, which included Frederick I (Barbarossa) in Bad Wimpfen. Even from a far one is impressed by the striking silhouette with the two keeps, named the Red and the Blue Tower, the palace chapel, the arcades of the Stauffer palace and the stone house. Stauffer ladies in historical costumes give guided tours o ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Bad Wimpfen, Germany

Guttenberg Castle

One of the few intact medieval castle complexes from the Stauffer period lies high above the romantic Neckar River valley surrounded by vineyards and endless forests. The Guttenberg castle has been in the possession of the barons of Gemmimgen-Guttenberg since 1449. The castle was never destroyed. The complex includes, among others, a local history museum 'Life in a Knight´s Castle'.
Founded: c. 1225 | Location: Haßmersheim, Germany

Dilsberg Castle

Dilsberg Castle is a castle on a hill above the River Neckar. The castle was built by the counts of Lauffen in the 12th century. In the 13th century it became the main castle for the counts. In the 14th century it became part of the Electorate of the Palatinate and received town rights in 1347. During the Thirty Years" War, the castle was considered impregnable until Imperial forces under Tilly took the castle in 1622 aft ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Dilsberg, Germany

Tiefburg Castle Ruins

It is not known exactly when the Tiefburg castle was built or by whom. It is assumed that it was built in the 12th century, possibly by the Abbey of Lorsch or the Count Palatinates of the Rhine (later known as the Prince Electors of the Palatinate), who set up residence in nearby Heidelberg around this time. It is also possible that the castle had its origins in a fortiied estate. The knights of Handschuhsheim who lived i ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Heidelberg, Germany

Hirschhorn Castle

Hirschhorn Castle was built around 1250-1260 on land given as a fief by Lorsch Abbey, which since 1232 was in the possession of the Archbishop of Mainz. In the castle, which is fortified by walls and towers, a keep, a great hall, stables and several gates and outbuildings can still be seen.
Founded: 1250-1260 | Location: Hirschhorn, Germany

Hinterburg Castle Ruins

Hinterburg is one of the four castles in a string along the Neckar River, built by the von Steinach family in the 1100s. It is the oldest of the four, serving a strategic purpose in allowing the lords to observe the Neckar and Steinachtal. One of the earliest records mentions Bligger von Steinach, c. 1160. His son, Bligger II, who was also a famous minstrel of the time, added much of the outer wall that helped drasticall ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Neckarsteinach, Germany

Hornberg Castle

Hornberg Castle was probably originally built in the late 12th century. The first mention of the castle dates from 1184. In 1259 lords of Hornberg sold the castle to the bishop of Speyer. Since 1612 it has been owned by the 12th generations of Gemmingen barons. Today the castle is a hotel. Hornberg originally consisted of two separate castles. Between them was a bailey. Around 1510, both castles were enclosed together wi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Neckarzimmern, Germany

Bad Rappenau Wasserschloss

The Wasserschloss (water castle) in Bad Rappenau is a moated castle from the early 17th century. The castle was built in 1601 by the Lords of Gemmingen on the site of an older manor. Today it is used for cultural events.
Founded: 1601 | Location: Bad Rappenau, Germany

Strahlenburg Castle Ruins

Conrad von Strahlenberg started to build the Strahlenburg castle around 1235. The castle was only the beginning of a planned defense brigade for the city of Schriesheim. Conrad von Strahlenburg built this castle to get a higher income through taxes and tolls. The building of the castle was against the law, because the land was owned by the monastery of Ellwangen. Emperor Friedrich the Second ruled during these times. The ...
Founded: | Location: Schriesheim, Germany

Schadeck Castle Ruins

Schadeck Castle is the most recent and smallest, but still most interesting of the four Neckarstein castles. It is perched on the high mountain like a bird's nest, which is why it is, in fact, called the 'Swallow's Nest'. After Ulrich II (1236-1257) inherited the 'front castle' from his father Ulrich I and another son joined the clergy, Bligger V, the third son, was forced to build a new castle. However, there was no more ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Neckarsteinach, Germany

Schauenburg Castle Ruins

Schauenburg castle was built in the first half of the 12th century by the Edelfreien of Schauenburg. The family died out already in the late 13th century, however, the castle was still used and expanded in the mid-14th century. In 1460 the castle was besieged for five days and razed by Friedrich I in Baden-Palatine War. From the castle the curtain wall and keep have survived.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Dossenheim, Germany

Mittelburg Castle

Mittelburg castle, one of the four castles above Neckarsteinach, was probably built around 1165 by Conrad I of Steinach, the youngest son of Bligger II of Steinach. The castle was rebuilt into a Renaissance palace in the 16th century and Gothicized in the 19th century. Nowadays it is a home to the von Warsberg-Dorth family
Founded: c. 1165 | Location: Neckarsteinach, Germany

Weinsberg Castle Ruins

Weinsberg castle was established on a mountain at the trade route running from Heilbronn to Schwäbisch Hall around the year 1000. In 1140 the castle was besieged by Konrad III in the course of the struggles between the Staufers and the Welfs. Finally it had to surrender on December 21, 1140, since the army of Welf VI to release the castle had been defeated by the Staufers in a battle. According to the report of the C ...
Founded: c. 1000 | Location: Weinsberg, Germany

Horneck Castle

Horneck castle was built around 1200 and was given to the Teutonic Order by Konrad von Horneck in 1438, thereby making it the seat of the 'Deutschmeister' (German Master) until it was destroyed in 1525 by fire during the German Peasants" War. Despite reconstruction shortly after Horneck Castle"s destruction, Mergentheim became the new headquarters for the Teutonic Order in that region in 1527. As of 2 ...
Founded: 1200/1533 | Location: Gundelsheim, Germany

Zwingenberg Castle

Zwingenberg Castle dates from the 13th century. In the 1326 the lords of Zwingenberg were mentioned as an owner. In 1364 the castle was conquered and destroyed by the imperial forces. The fortress and estate were then immediately divided in two equal parts and bought by the Palatinate and the archbishoprie of Mainz. The reconstruction of the castle was made by the brothers Hans and Eberhard of Hirschhorn in 1404. The brot ...
Founded: 1404 | Location: Zwingenberg, Germany

Eberbach Castle Ruins

Eberbach Castle consists of three separate castles situated about 160 metres high above the river Neckar. It is assumed that the front castle was built in the last quarter of the 12th century, the middle castle ca. 1200 and the rear castle in the second quarter of the 13th century. In 1227 King Henry VII was given Eberbach Castle as a fief by the Bishop of Worms. Presumably the castles remained in the possession of the em ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Eberbach, Germany

Vorderburg Castle

Vorderburg is one of the four local castles built early 13th century by Ulrich I of Steinach. It consists essentially of a residential building, a dungeon and a farm building. Parts of ancient ramparts are also obtained. Today the castle is privately owned by the barons of Warsberg-Dorth.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Neckarsteinach, Germany

Minneburg Castle Ruins

Minneburg was built some time in the 1200s, though its origin unknown. According to legend, the castle name was derived from a woman, Minna von Horneck by name, who was the love of Graf von Schwarzenberg who left on the Crusades. When he returned he found her on her deathbed and promised to build a castle in her honor. The Bergfried, or main tower, as well as the palas were completed around 1300, situated on a prominent ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Neckargerach, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

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.