Medieval castles in North Rhine-Westphalia

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

Burg Castle

Burg Castle (Schloss Burg) is the largest reconstructed castle in North Rhine-Westphalia and a popular tourist attraction. Its early history is closely connected to the rise of the Duchy of Berg. In the beginning of the 12th century (after 1133), Count Adolf III of Berg built Schloss Burg on a mountain overlooking the river Wupper. Not until the 15th century, after significant reconstruction as a hunting castle, did ...
Founded: c. 1133 | Location: Burg an der Wupper, Germany

Sparrenberg Castle

The Sparrenburg castle in Bielefeld was erected sometime before 1250 by the counts of Ravensberg. It guarded the Bielefeld Pass over the Teutoburg Forest, as well as acting as the ruling seat of the counts of Ravensberg, and as protection for the city of Bielefeld, probably founded around 1200. Because the construction of a protective castle generally predates the foundation of a town, it is assumed that there was an old ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bielefeld, 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

Monschau Castle

Monschau Castle is first recorded in 1217 as castrum in Munjoje by Archbishop Engelbert I of Cologne. It was expanded in the middle of the 14th century into a fortress for the counts of Jülich and equipped with mighty ring walls and wall walks. In 1543 troops of Emperor Charles V besieged the site with heavy guns, captured it and plundered it together with the town of Monschau. In the early 19th century the Fr ...
Founded: c. 1217 | Location: Monschau, Germany

Vischering Castle

Vischering Castle is a typical moated castle in the Münster region. It consists of outer defensive courtyard, defensive gateways, moat, drawbridge, main building and chapel. The sandstone walls, the red tile roofs as well as their reflection in the moat provide many harmonious views from the wooded surroundings. Vischering Castle was built by Bischop Gerhard von der Mark. It became the seat of the Vischering Family ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lüdinghausen, 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

Vondern Castle

Vondern castle was founded probably in the 12th or 13th century. The estate appears in documents in 1266, as the home of Gerhard de Vondere. Today Vondern is used for regular concerts, weddings and medieval market in summer.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Oberhausen, Germany

Altena Castle

Altena Castle was erected by the brothers Adolf and Everhard von Berg around the year 1108 after Henry V granted them land in Sauerland. On Wulfseck Mountain they built their castle, which they named Wulfeshagen, later Altena. This is one of the three legends of the establishment of the county of Altena and the building of the castle. After the acquisition of Mark near the city of Hamm in 1198, the counts of Altena ...
Founded: 1108 | Location: Altena, Germany

Schloss Rheydt

Schloss Rheydt is a Renaissance palace in Mönchengladbach. Over the years the building has been the family seat of various noble families, including the Bylandt-Rheydt dynasty that ruled over Rheydt for over 300 years and gave the palace its present look. Originally a castle dating from 1060, the palace has evolved over the years to become the palace it is today. The castle's first documented mention dates to 118 ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Mönchengladbach, Germany

Zülpich Castle

Zülpich Castle origins may be traced to a Roman castrum. The present site was built in the late 14th century as a symbol of sovereignty and outpost of the archbishops of Cologne against the County of Jülich. Razed by French troops at the end of the 17th century, the ruins of the lowland castle ended up in private hands. The Zülpich manufacturing family of Sieger opened a schnaps distillery in the castle unti ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Zülpich, Germany

Herten Castle

The Herten family, vassals of the Werden Abbey, was first documented in 1286. At that time, their residence was probably in the center of today"s city next to St. Antonius church. In the 14th century, the family with 'Ritter' (knight) status built a fortified house on the site of today"s castle. In 1376, this building was mentioned as fief of Werden Abbey. Through marriage, the Herten house fell ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Herten, Germany

Cappenberg Castle

Cappenberg Castle is a former Premonstratensian monastery. The Counts of Cappenberg, who were related to the Salians and the Staufers, were a rich and powerful family. During the Investiture Controversy, when they supported Duke Lothar von Supplinburg against Emperor Heinrich V, Count Gottfried von Cappenberg and his brother Otto von Cappenberg led their armies against Münster in February 1121 under the ...
Founded: 1122 | Location: Selm, Germany

Stolberg Castle

The development of Stolberg Castle in its present appearance was essentially proceeded in three phases. In the second half of the 13th century, the original castle (built by the lords of Stalburg in the 12th century) was rebuilt by Wilhelm I of Nesselrode and his son Wilhelm II. After damaged during the Guelders Wars (1502-1543), Hieronymus von Efferen renovated the Stolberg after 1542. A third construction phase wa ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stolberg (Rheinland), 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

Strünkede Castle

The moated Strünkede Castle with thick walls was the seat of the Barons of Strünkede for seven centuries. The castle was built before 1243. In the mid-17th century it was rebuilt in the early Baroque style. First it housed a restaurant, later the police, and a hospital during the war. In 1948 the city bought the castle, restored it and opened a branch of the Emschertal Museum (Emschertalmuseum) in it with an exhibition ...
Founded: before 1243 | Location: Herne, Germany

Gemen Castle

The beautiful water castle of Gemen near Borken was founded probably in the 9th or 10th century. The first document dates from 1274. The current appearance is a result of five essential reconstruction phases. Since 1946, the castle has been used as a youth camp under the guidance of the diocese of Münster.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Borken, Germany

Blankenheim Castle

Blankenheim Castle was built around 1115 by Gerhard I and became the family seat of the House of Blankenheim. The lords of Blankenheim were elevated to the countship in 1380. The site has been remodelled on numerous occasions. In the course of time the medieval defensive site was converted into a Baroque schloss with a Baroque garden and an orangery. Its end came in September 1794, when French troops marched ...
Founded: c. 1115 | Location: Blankenheim, Germany

Windeck Castle Ruins

Burg Windeck was once an extended castle site, whose dimensions can still be guessed from the current ruins. The previous imposing castle was first mentioned in 1174 as Neu-Windeck. The site was a border fortification of the Count von Berg against the Counts von Sayn (Homberg) and the von Blankenbergs. It was extended a great deal after 1435. Burg Windeck was destroyed during the 30 Years War and in 1672 by the French and ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Altwindeck, Germany

Hugenpoet Castle

Hugenpoet estate was first time mentioned in 778 AD as a royal property of Charlemagne. The medieval feudal castle was burned down in 1478 during the feud. The new castle was built near in 1647 after it was again badly damaged in the Thirty Years' War.  Today it has been restored as a hotel.
Founded: 1647 | Location: Essen, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.