Rheinfels Castle construction was started in 1245 by Count Diether V of Katzenelnbogen. After expansions, it was the largest fortress in the Middle Rhein Valley between Koblenz and Mainz. It was slighted by French Revolutionary Army troops in 1797.
The main entrance to the castle complex is a tall square clock or gate tower (~1300 AD) opposite the hotel. A connecting path joins the clock tower to the remains of the living quarters of the Earls of Hessen-Darmstadt (the so-called Darmstadt Building). The Darmstadt building was designed in Tudor style with pointed gables. The connecting path was the site of the former moat of the main castle buildings; part of which is now the large cellar or basement. This large cellar was arched over in 1587-89 in two visible phases. It is the largest self-supporting vaulted cellar in Europe and has a length of 24 metres, a width and height of approximately 16 metres and can accommodate up to 400 people.
The walls are up to 4 metres thick. Previously a 200,000 litres wine barrel was constructed for storage. The cellar was renovated in 1997 and restored to its original condition and now serves as a meeting place for concerts, theater performances, and other shows.
The castle museum is located in the former castle chapel which is the only finished room of the original castle. It is accessed through an internal gate and up the path. The museum contains a model reconstruction of the castle before its destruction giving one a sense of how big the castle used to be. The medieval castle courtyard is found beyond the castle museum building (slightly uphill). This was the center of the medieval castle which contained a bakery, pharmacy, garden, brewery, well, and livestock—which would have allowed it to withstand an extended siege. Remnants of the original 13th-century plaster which was painted white can still be found on some walls.
While much of the castle is a ruin, some of the outer buildings are now a hotel and restaurant.References:
Het Steen is a medieval fortress in the old city centre of Antwerp. Built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp, Het Steen is Antwerp's oldest building and used to be its oldest urban centre.
Previously known as Antwerpen Burcht (fortress), Het Steen gained its current name in around 1520, after significant rebuilding under Charles V. The fortress made it possible to control the access to the Scheldt, the river on whose bank it stands. It was used as a prison between 1303 and 1827. The largest part of the fortress, including dozens of historic houses and the oldest church of the city, was demolished in the 19th century when the quays were straightened to stop the silting up of the Scheldt. The remaining building, heavily changed, contains a shipping museum, with some old canal barges displayed on the quay outside.
In 1890 Het Steen became the museum of archeology and in 1952 an annex was added to house the museum of Antwerp maritime history, which in 2011 moved to the nearby Museum Aan de Stroom. Here you’ll also find a war memorial to the Canadian soldiers in WWII.
There are some beautiful plaques on the back side of the Steen Castle at Antwerp. Canadian visitors will especially want to see the plaques thanking the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry for their part in the liberation of Antwerp, in 1944.
At the entrance to Het Steen is a bas-relief of Semini, above the archway, around 2nd century. Semini is the Scandinavian God of youth and fertility (with symbolic phallus). A historical plaque near Het Steen explains that women of the town appealed to Semini when they desired children; the god was reviled by later religious clergy. Inhabitants of Antwerp previously referred to themselves as 'children of Semini'.
At the entrance bridge to the castle is a statue of a giant and two humans. It depicts the giant Lange Wapper who used to terrorise the inhabitants of the city in medieval times.