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 was given to an Austrian family who were fervent supporters of the Habsburgs, the Reitenaours, to stop Swiss expansion. The wars with the Swiss claimed many Reitenours: George, Robert and most famously, Nicholas, who died in the battle of Sempach. In April 1346 Archbishop Henry III of Mainz gave Sooneck Castle in fief to John, Knight Marshall of Waldeck, who subsequently had a new castle built on the site. After his death it passed jointly to four of his heirs and the castle thus became a multi-family property, or Ganerbenburg.

The branches of the family jointly residing in the castle were not on good terms and quarreled over inheritances. Several times, peace had to be legally imposed. When the line of Waldeck died out in 1553 with the death of Philipp Melchior, the Breidbach zu Bürresheim family, previously co-tenants, became sole tenants of Sooneck Castle. When that family became extinct, the castle began to fall into disrepair.

In the course of the War of the Palatine Succession, Sooneck - like all the castles on the left bank of the Rhine - was destroyed in 1689 by troops of King Louis XIV of France. In 1774, the Archdiocese of Mainz leased the ruins to four residents of Trechtingshausen who planted vineyards. The site later came into the possession of the village of Niederheimbach.

In 1834, the then crown prince of Prussia, Frederick William IV, and his brothers Princes William, Charles, and Albert bought the completely derelict castle and, between 1834 and 1861, had it rebuilt as a hunting lodge. In the rebuilding, which was designed by the military architect Carl Schnitzler, the historical structures were largely retained with the addition of buildings in romantic style. The Prussian royal crest over the north gate of the castle dates to this period. Disagreements within the royal family and the effects of the revolutions in Germany in 1848 prevented the castle from ever being used as a hunting lodge.

After World War I aristocratic properties were nationalized and Sooneck Castle became a possession of the state. After World War II it passed to the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and in 1948 to the State Ministry of Castles (today Generaldirektion Kukturelles Erbe Rheinland-Pfalz Direktion Burgen, Schlösser, Altertümer Rheinland-Pfalz). It can be visited on organized tours.

The residential areas of the castle are furnished predominantly with items in the neo-gothic and Biedermeier styles. The interiors are enriched by paintings owned by the Hohenzollern family and, since 1991, the Köth-Wanscheid family foundation, and drawings and sketches by Johann-Caspar Schneider among others.

Since 2002, Sooneck Castle has been part of the Rhine Gorge UNESCO World Heritage Site.

References:

Comments

Your name

Website (optional)



Details

Founded: 13th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Germany
Historical period: Habsburg Dynasty (Germany)

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Thomas Kusch (7 months ago)
Well-restored castle on a hill with great views on the Rhine valley. The road up to the castle is about 1 km downstream of the castle in the nearby village. The last part of the road is in very bad shape with larger potholes. The parking lot holds about 30 cars, and it is a 3-4 minute walk to the castle entrance up a gently sloping hill. Opening dates and hours vary seasonally, and can be found online. When open, the castle offers very frequent guided tours.
Lars Stanley (9 months ago)
This was a great castle to visit on the Rhein River. There is a little walk to get here, as you can't park right in front of the castle. They have a quick tour of the inside that you can do.
Norman (9 months ago)
It's kind of far from Kaiserslautern but, not too far where you can't make it back and forth in one day. The castle is nice but it's been updated quite a bit. The worker offered us a "guided" tour, but it wasn't that at all. A second person will meet you in the courtyard of the castle and take you up to the second or third floor. Once there, he gave us a double-sided hand out with some information about the castle and the contents of the floor we were allowed to see. Yeah, you're only allowed to see one small part of the floor that they take you to. Which is disappointing because we were looking forward to getting up to the top of the castle to be able to get a look at the surrounding area and the Rhine River, which is nearby. Alas, we weren't allowed to go up to the top. It costs 10 euro for 2 adults and 2 kids. Great views of the outside of the castle and you are allowed to walk around the entire outside of it. We went in early November so, I can imagine that the surrounding area would look much nicer in the spring when there's sure to be lots of flowers in the gardens of the castle. No matter what, it was worth the money and trip.
Niklas Tverin (13 months ago)
Well worth visiting for absolutely wonderful views and nicely preserved medieval castle. Easy access with car and spacious parking place. Only a short walk to castle.
Shane Vandecar (13 months ago)
Incredibly well preserved castle and grounds. Parking nearby and an easy walk up make this a must see if you're not into more rigorous hikes. Great views of the Rhine river abound! Guided tours in English and German are available for an additional fee.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Het Steen

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.