Ehrenbreitstein Fortress was built as the backbone of the regional fortification system, Festung Koblenz, by Prussia between 1817 and 1832 and guarded the middle Rhine region, an area that had been invaded by French troops repeatedly before. The fortress was never attacked.
Early fortifications at the site can be dated back to about 1000 BC. At about AD 1000 Ehrenbert erected a castle. The Archbishops of Trier expanded it with a supporting castle Burg Helferstein and guarded the Holy Tunic in it from 1657 to 1794. Successive Archbishops used the castle's strategic importance to barter between contending powers; thus in 1672 at the outset of war between France and Germany the Archbishop refused requests both from the envoys of Louis XIV and from Brandenburg's Ambassador, Christoph Caspar von Blumenthal, to permit the passage of troops across the Rhine. However, in 1794, French revolutionary troops conquered Koblenz; in the following years they besieged Ehrenbreitstein three times without success. But a one-year siege, starting in 1798, brought starvation to the defenders of Ehrenbreitstein who finally handed over the fortress to French troops in 1799. By the treaty of Lunéville, the French were forced to withdraw from the right bank of the Rhine. Hence, they dismantled Ehrenbreitstein in 1801 to prevent the enemy from taking hold of a fully functional fortress just a few meters away from French territory on the left bank of the Rhine.
According to the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Rhineland became a Prussian province. The fortification of the Koblenz area became a Prussian military priority, because of its proximity to France and the fact that Koblenz was a bottleneck for all means of transportation (ships, railways, land transportation because of bridges). Hence, the Prussians built a system of fortification around Koblenz, the so-called Fortress Koblenz, from 1817 until 1834. Yet, the name Fortress Koblenz should not be interpreted as if the whole city of Koblenz was a fortress. It should be rather viewed as a buzz word, referring to the ring of fortification around Koblenz, of which the Festung Ehrenbreitstein was a part. Fortress Koblenz was said to have been the largest military fortress in Europe except for Gibraltar. However, it is a common misconception, that the 'Festung Ehrenbreitstein' alone was the largest fortress in Europe. Ehrenbreitstein could be defended by up to 1200 soldiers. Unchallenged, it remained in service until 1890.
In 1822 the English translation of the castle's name, The Broad-Stone of Honour, was used as the title of Kenelm Henry Digby's exhaustive work on chivalry.
In 1897, a Monument to Emperor Wilhelm I was erected right below the Festung, but on the west side of the Rhine, known as the Deutsches Eck (German Corner). Both fortress and monument were considered as symbols for the 'Guard at the Rhine', as in the song 'Die Wacht am Rhein'.
During World War I the fortress was used as military headquarters. After World War I, the American General Henry Tureman Allen, convinced of its historical value as a premier 19th-century fortress, prevented its intended destruction. It was occupied by the US Army as their headquarters during the occupation of the Rhineland, and after January 1923 it was occupied by the French Army. During World War II, it served as a place of safekeeping for archives and cultural objects but also harbored three flak guns.
After World War II, it was used first by the French Army before it was handed over to the State of Rhineland-Palatinate. It now has multiple uses including a youth hostel, restaurant, museum and archive. In 2011, Festung Ehrenbreitstein will be part of the National Garden Show in Koblenz and is thus currently under renovation.References:
From its origin as a small stronghold built by the ancient Illyrian tribe Dalmatae, becoming a royal castle that was the seat of many Croatian kings, to its final development as a large fortress during the Ottoman wars in Europe, Klis Fortress has guarded the frontier, being lost and re-conquered several times. Due to its location on a pass that separates the mountains Mosor and Kozjak, the fortress served as a major source of defense in Dalmatia, especially against the Ottoman advance, and has been a key crossroad between the Mediterranean belt and the Balkan rear.
Since Duke Mislav of the Duchy of Croatia made Klis Fortress the seat of his throne in the middle of the 9th century, the fortress served as the seat of many Croatia"s rulers. The reign of his successor, Duke Trpimir I, the founder of the Croatian royal House of Trpimirović, is significant for spreading Christianity in the Duchy of Croatia. He largely expanded the Klis Fortress, and in Rižinice, in the valley under the fortress, he built a church and the first Benedictine monastery in Croatia. During the reign of the first Croatian king, Tomislav, Klis and Biograd na Moru were his chief residences.
In March 1242 at Klis Fortress, Tatars who were a constituent segment of the Mongol army under the leadership of Kadan suffered a major defeat while in pursuit of the Hungarian army led by King Béla IV. After their defeat by Croatian forces, the Mongols retreated, and Béla IV rewarded many Croatian towns and nobles with 'substantial riches'. During the Late Middle Ages, the fortress was governed by Croatian nobility, amongst whom Paul I Šubić of Bribir was the most significant. During his reign, the House of Šubić controlled most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia. Excluding the brief possession by the forces of Bosnian King, Tvrtko I, the fortress remained in Hungaro-Croatian hands for the next several hundred years, until the 16th century.
Klis Fortress is probably best known for its defense against the Ottoman invasion of Europe in the early 16th century. Croatian captain Petar Kružić led the defense of the fortress against a Turkish invasion and siege that lasted for more than two and a half decades. During this defense, as Kružić and his soldiers fought without allies against the Turks, the military faction of Uskoks was formed, which later became famous as an elite Croatian militant sect. Ultimately, the defenders were defeated and the fortress was occupied by the Ottomans in 1537. After more than a century under Ottoman rule, in 1669, Klis Fortress was besieged and seized by the Republic of Venice, thus moving the border between Christian and Muslim Europe further east and helping to contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Venetians restored and enlarged the fortress, but it was taken by the Austrians after Napoleon extinguished the republic itself in 1797. Today, Klis Fortress contains a museum where visitors to this historic military structure can see an array of arms, armor, and traditional uniforms.