Castles in the Upper Rhine Valley

Palais Rohan

The Palais Rohan represents not only the high point of local baroque architecture, but has also housed three of the most important museums in the Strasbourg since the end of the 19th century: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts. The city gallery, Galerie Robert Heitz, is also in a side wing of the palace. The palace was commissioned by Cardinal Armand Gaston Maximilien de ...
Founded: 1731-1742 | Location: Strasbourg, France

Karlsruhe Palace

Karlsruhe Palace was erected in 1715 by Margrave Charles III William of Baden-Durlach, after a dispute with the citizens of his previous capital, Durlach. The city of Karlsruhe has since grown around it. The first building was constructed by Jakob Friedrich von Batzendorf. The city was planned with the tower of the palace at the centre and 32 streets radiating out from it like spokes on a wheel, or ribs on a folding fan. ...
Founded: 1715 | Location: Karlsruhe, Germany

Bruchsal Palace

Bruchsal Palace (Schloss Bruchsal) is the only Prince-Bishop’s residence on the Upper Rhine. It is famous for its opulent Baroque staircase constructed by Balthasar Neumann. Bruchsal Palace was constructed in 1720 as a residence for the Prince-Bishops of Speyer. The then Prince-Bishop, Damian Hugo von Schönborn, an avid art collector, played an important role in planning the complex. The three-wing palace is bu ...
Founded: 1720 | Location: Bruchsal, Germany

Hohenbaden Castle Ruins

Hohenbaden Castle, built in 1102, and known locally as the Altes Schloss (Old Castle) was home from the 11th-15th century to the margraves of Baden. During its heyday in the 15th century, the castle had 100 rooms. In 1479 margraves moved their seat to Baden and the old castle started to decay. In 1599 it was destroyed by fire. From the tower you have a good view over Baden-Baden and distant view of the Rhine valley. The ...
Founded: 1102 | Location: Baden-Baden, Germany

Rastatt Palace

Schloss Rastatt is a baroque palace built between 1700 and 1707 by the Italian architect Domenico Egidio Rossi. The palace and garden were built to Margrave Louis William of Baden. During the Palatine war of succession the residence of Margrave Louis William of Baden-Baden had been burnt by French troops. A rebuild of the destroyed castle would not have suited the representative needs of the court of Baden-Baden. Since he ...
Founded: 1700-1707 | Location: Rastatt, Germany

Ettlingen Palace

Ettlingen castle was first mentioned in the 13th century. It has been destroyed several times over the centuries, rebuilt and expanded. In 1727 decided the Margravine Sibylla Augusta to use the castle as a retirement home. Johann Michael Rohrer created the Baroque palace from the castle ruins. Artists Riccardo Retti and Lucca Colomba equipped the rooms of sumptuous paintings and stucco. The great master of the late Baroqu ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Ettlingen, Germany

Landskron Castle Ruins

Landskron castle itself was probably built in the early 13th century. Is first mentioned in 1244. This castle was destroyed in 1257 and 1275 by the rebellion Oppenheim citizens. It was rebuilt in 1281. The castle burned down in 1621 during the Thirty Years War. In the Nine Years War, French troops blew up the keep in 1689 to keep. In the following years the citizens used the ruins as a quarry.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Oppenheim, Germany

Yburg Castle Ruins

Yburg Castle, built around 1200, takes its name from the outcrop that it occupies: its historical name Iberg probably derives from Eibenberg (yew-tree mountain). Of volcanic origin, the bluff towers over the Rhine valley. The castle, its keep a highly visible landmark, marked the southwestern corner of the territory of the margraves of Baden. In the Peasants’ War of 1525, rebels invaded the castle, causing consider ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Baden-Baden, Germany

Hochburg Castle Ruins

Hochburg castle was founded probably by Dietrich von Hachberg in the 11th century - although the first written mention dates from 1127. Between 1553-1577 the fortifications were completely remodeled and seven bastions were added in the early 1600s. Hochburg was however destroyed by catholic forces in the Thirty Years" War in 1634-1636. The reconstruction and modernization took place in 1660-1678, but it was again de ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Hochburg, Germany

Entenstein Castle

Entenstein Castle is a medieval castle surrounded by a moat situated in the center of the town of Schliengen. The origins of the castle can not be clearly dated. The first use of a building at this location can be traced to Walter of Schliengen in 821. By 1000 a tower house might have been in use. In the 13th century, Rudolf von Üsenberg (1207-1231) was the owner of the castle. The name of the castle derives from the ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Schliengen, Germany

Windeck Castle Ruins

Windeck 'old' Castle was built around 1200 by the lords of Windeck. The family, probably of Franconian origin and based in the Ortenau, owned wealthy allodial estates and held numerous fiefs from various liege lords, such as the empire, the Prince-Bishopric of Straßburg, the counts of Eberstein as well as the Vogtei of Schwarzach Abbey as an Afterlehen of the burgraves of Nuremberg. The first documentary evidence da ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Bühl, Germany

Burkheim Castle Ruins

Burkheim Castle was first mentioned in 1231. After destruction and reconstruction the castle was finally destroyed during the Franco-Dutch War in 1672-1676.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Burkheim, Germany

Alt Eberstein Castle Ruins

Alt-Eberstein castle was originally built in 1100 as the primary residence of the Counts of Eberstein, but by the end of the 16th century had been abandoned and much of the castle was torn down to provide materials for other structures. Presently it is a German national monument and a State Palace of Baden-Wuerttemberg. A spur castle situated on a once-strategic mountain peak, the fortress was constructed as the seat of ...
Founded: 1100 | Location: Ebersteinburg, Germany

Istein Castle Ruins

Istein castle was a rock castle built by the bishops of Basel in the 11th and 12th centuries. It was first time mentioned in 1185. The castle was stormed in 1410-1411 by the Basler troops. The modern fortress was built in 1900-1914 and destroyed after 1945. St. Vitus Chapel, partially ruined, is one of two original castle chapels built in the 12th centurya. The current small chapel, which was built after the destruction ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Efringen-Kirchen, Germany

Sponeck Castle

The Sponeck castle was built in the late 13th century to the site of late Roman fort (built by Emperor Valentinian I around 365 AD). The castle was destroyed in the Thirty Years War. After several changes of ownership the painter Hans Adolf Buhler acquired it in 1917, rebuilt and set up a studio in the former residential tower. After the painter"s death in 1951 the castle was owned by the family. Today the stone wall ...
Founded: 365/13th century | Location: Jechtingen, Germany

Lichteneck Castle Ruins

First mention of the Lichteneck castle dates from 1282 as a property of the Counts of Freiburg. The castle was destroyed on 15 April 1675 by General Vaubrun. Since then, the castle has been ruined.
Founded: 1282 | Location: Hecklingen, 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.