Medieval castles in North Rhine-Westphalia

Brüggen Castle

Brüggen Castle was the most important castle in the north of the Duchy of Jülich. The castle was built by the Count of Kessel in the 13th century to guard a ford over the River Schwalm. In the early 14th century it went into the possession of the dukes of Jülich, who had the existing building replaced by a quadrangular castle made from brick. After the occupation of Brüggen in 1794 by Napoleonic troops i ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brüggen, Germany

Blankenstein Castle

Blankenstein Castle was built originally in 1227-1243 by Adolf I, Count of Mark. It was further developed over the course of 200 years by the Counts of the Mark. By 1425, Blankenstein was one of the most important castles in the county. In 1614, shortly before the Thirty Years" War, it was occupied by Spanish troops. From 1637, the castle fell into disrepair so that, in September 1662, Frederick William, Elector o ...
Founded: 1227-1243 | Location: Hattingen, 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

Gudenau Castle

The imposing two-part moated Burg Gudenau is the largest castle in the municipality of Wachtberg. Its grounds are a special feature, as they are the only Baroque garden under private ownership in the Rhineland. The castle stands in a flood plain at the foot of Villip, at the confluence of the Godesberg and Arzdorf streams. Built in the early 13th century, the main castle with four wings was extended in about 1560 with ex ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Wachtberg, Germany

Hardenstein Castle

Hardenstein Castle remains lie near the Ruhr River, surrounded by mountains, and are not easily accessible. Nearby ruins show that the castle was once part of an important mining centre, probably dating to the Middle Ages; the earliest records, from the 16th century, support this. The castle is featured in the legend of the Nibelungs. The castle's association with mining led to a legend that King Goldemar, a dwarf or ...
Founded: 1354 | Location: Herbede, Germany

Adendorf Castle

Adendorf castle is the successor of a high-medieval castle located to the west of today"s site. The small castle hill is few hundred meters from the current palace and was in the 14th century owned by the family of Hüchelhoven. Arnold von Adendorp built a new castle from 1337 at its present location. It was besieged and conquered by the army of Henry III, Landgrave of Upper Hesse, in the late 15th century. ...
Founded: 1337/1659 | Location: Wachtberg, Germany

Berleburg Castle

Berleburg castle is one of the few noble residences in Germany, which has been inhabited by the same family for the last 750 years. The castle was built in the 13th century. The two-storey north wing was expanded in 1555-1557 and the gatehouse dates from 1585. During the reign of Count Casimir, the three-storey central wing was built from 1731 to 1733. the Corps de Logis (the principal block of palace) was built in 17 ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bad Berleburg, Germany

Bodelschwingh Castle

Bodelschwingh magnificent castle dates from the 13th century. The current Renaissance style water castle was built in the 16th and 17th centuries. It became to the possession family Innhausen and Knyphausen at the end of the 19th century, whose property the castle is still today.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dortmund, Germany

Homburg Castle

Homburg was first mentioned in documents in 1276. Gottfried I of Sayn from the House of Sponheim (1247-1283/84) transferred his castrum Homburg to the German King Rudolf of Habsburg, in order to place it under his protection. He received the castle back as an inheritance. The castle was the residence of the Counts of Homburg, an imperial fiefdom (Reichsherrschaft). From 1635 Count Ernst von Sayn-Wittgenstein alte ...
Founded: 11th century/1635 | Location: Nümbrecht, Germany

Hückeswagen Castle

Hückeswagen Castle was first mentioned in 1189. In 1260 the county Hückeswagen was disposed to the counts Berg, and the Hückeswagener counts moved to Moravia. In the future the castle of the countess Margarete von Hochstaden served as a widow"s seat. To constant Verpfändungen of Hückeswagen during the following centuries the name changed in 1397 into castle. During the following centuries the castle was mostly ...
Founded: c. 1189 | Location: Hückeswagen, Germany

Bladenhorst Castle

Bladenhorst castle was first mentioed in 1266 as the residence of the lords of Blarnhurst lived there. At the beginning of the 14th century it became the possession of the family of Düngelen. In 1338, Rötger Düngelen made the castle available to the Duchy of Cleves to use in the event of war. Through marriage, in 1496 the castle passed to Philip of Viermünden. From 1624 to 1881 it was inherited by the Westphalian ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Castrop-Rauxel, Germany

Gimborn Castle

Gimborn Castle is a former water castle located in the upper Leppe valley. It was pledged in 1273 from the county of Berg to the county of Mark, and became the Residenz in the county of Gimborn Neustadt of the House of Schwarzenberg in 1631. Since 1874 the castle has belonged to the Barons von Fürstenberg zu Gimborn. Since 1969 the Castle has served as a conference site and meeting place for the International ...
Founded: 1273 | Location: Marienheide, Germany

Klusenstein Castle

Klusenstein castle was built in 1353 by Gerhard of Plettenberg, a vassal of earl Engelbrecht III of the Mark. The castle formed the boundary fortification of the earldom Mark to the bishopric state of Cologne and the earldom Arnsberg. All three territories met at the Hönne river valley, the castle was also overlooking an old road crossing the valley. During the feud between earl Engelbert and Gottfried IV of Arnsberg, ...
Founded: 1353 | Location: Hemer, Germany

Bilstein Castle

Bilstein castle is located on a spur which falls away steeply on three sides so that the castle's defences only needed to be oriented towards the hill to the northeast. The appearance of the castle is thus dominated by its two round towers, each with a diameter of about eight metres: the Chapel Tower in the northwest and the Hohnekamp Tower in the southeast. The towers are connected by a tunnel under the castle courtyard ...
Founded: 1202-1225 | Location: Lennestadt, Germany

Odenhausen Castle

Odenhausen Castle was first built in the 11th century on the hill. In the Middle Ages, the fortification was expanded into a moated water castle. The castle was first mentioned in 1316. In 1560 Ludwig von Blankart converted it into a Renaissance residence. A bridge leads across the outer moat through a Baroque gate into the farmhouse and an another bridge leads over the moat to the two-winged mansion. The porta ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Wachtberg, Germany

Heimerzheim Castle

Heimerzheim castle was mentioned for the first time at the end of the 13th century, when it was built by the lords of Heimerzheim as a well-fortified moated castle. In the Baroque era the castle was converted into a residence. Today the moated castle is rented out by the family of the Baron von Boeselager as a conference and event location. The site consists of a main castle and lower castle, with both parts of the castl ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Heimerzheim, Germany

Morenhoven Castle

Morenhoven Castle consists of outer ward and main castle. The moated castle can be reached over an arched bridge and probably originates from a fortified courtyard of the 9th century. In the 12th and 13th century the forerunners of the current castle belonged to the country manor on the  Swist. During the Thirty Years' War the castle was destroyed by Hessian soldiers. From 1682 onwards the new building was built. Thi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Morenhoven, Germany

Holzheim Castle

Holzheim Castle dates to 1333, and its owners were vassals of the Duchy of Jülich. In the 15th to 17th centuries the manor house and gate tower were built, both of which have survived. In 1818, when the region was part of the Prussia county of Düren, the castle and its estates were sold to private buyers. In 1893 it was bought by Richard Schleicher, who also bought the nearby estate of Schönthal. The property ...
Founded: 1333 | Location: Heistern, Germany

Neuenhof Castle

Neuenhof castle was first mentioned in 1326. The current water castle was rebuilt in 1643 and restored after fire in 1693. The main building is a rectangular two-storey house whose courtyard side is flanked by two towers.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Lüdenscheid, 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

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.