Top historic sites in the Middle Rhine Valley

Sooneck Castle

Sooneck Castle was first mentioned around 1271. Like neighbouring Burg Reichenstein (Rhein), the castle was managed by the lords of Hohenfels as bailiffs for Kornelimünster Abbey near Aachen. What is certain is that the castle was besieged in 1282 by King Rudolph I. His troops overran and destroyed the castle and the king imposed a ban on rebuilding it, which he explicitly restated in 1290. When the castle was rebuilt it ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Niederheimbach, Germany

Sterrenberg Castle

By 1034, Sterrenberg was being mentioned as an imperial castle, but the source is not certain. In 1190, Sterrenberg Castle is listed in the book of Werner von Bolanden as a fief, together with the custom point in Bornhofen. The noble family of Bolanden stayed as lords of Sterrenberg Castle until the second half of the 13th century. From this early period, the bergfried and the first, inner shield wall have survived.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Kamp-Bornhofen, Germany

Mouse Tower

The Mouse Tower (Mäuseturm) is a stone tower on a small island in the Rhine. The Romans were the first to build a structure on this site. It later became part of Franconia, and it fell and had to be rebuilt many times. Hatto II, the Archbishop of Mainz, restored the tower in 968. The story of how it came to be called the 'Mouse Tower' comes from a folk tale (Hatto was being eaten alive by mice in a tower). ...
Founded: 968 AD / 1855 | Location: Bingen am Rhein, Germany

Ehrenfels Castle Ruins

Ehrenfels Castle was (re-)built about 1212 at the behest of the Archbishop of Mainz as a defensive work against the constant attacks by Elector Palatine Henry V, who, as Imperial vicar of Franconia, strived to cut down the archbishop"s reach. Mainz staffed the castle with Burgmannen and erected a customs post controlling the shipping on the Rhine, supplemented by the Mouse Tower below at the river. Heavily damaged in ...
Founded: 1212 | Location: Rüdesheim am Rhein, Germany

Liebenstein Castle

Liebenstein Castle was probably built in the 13th century as well as near Sterrenberg castle. Both were owned by feodal lords of Bolanden (later Sponheim-Dannenfels). The gate tower was added 1363 and tower in 1380 and the castle was enlarged in the 15th century. However, already in 1529 it was abandoned and left to decay. The major restoration took place in 1977 and today Liebenstein is a hotel and restaurant.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kamp-Bornhofen, Germany

Maus Castle

Maus Castle construction was begun in 1356 by Archbishop-Elector of Trier Bohemond II and was continued for the next 30 years by successive Electors of Trier. The construction of Burg Maus was to enforce Trier"s recently acquired Rhine River toll rights and to secure Trier"s borders against the Counts of Katzenelnbogen (who had built Burg Katz and Burg Rheinfels). In the latter half of the 14th century Burg Maus ...
Founded: 1356 | Location: Wellmich, Germany

Imperial Palace Ruins

The Imperial Palace in Ingelheim was erected in the second half of the 8th century. Charlemagne chose Ingelheim in 787 as the location for his winter quarters, arriving there before Christmas and remaining there without interruption until the middle of 788. However the palace was not completed before completed before 814. It served Emperors and Kings as a residence and place for governance until the 11th century. From the ...
Founded: c. 787 AD | Location: Ingelheim am Rhein, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hochosterwitz Castle

Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.

The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.

In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.

Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.

About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.

Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.

A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.