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

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.