Hellenstein Castle was once the home of the Lords of Hellenstein. The castle was first built during the 12th century. The castle remained in the hands of the Hellensteins until 1273 when the male line died out. For almost eighty years the castle passed through several owners. In 1351 the counts of Helfenstein acquired the castle and ruled it for nearly a century, until 1448. Finally in 1503 the castle came under the control of the dukes of Württemberg.
On August 5, 1530 the castle burned to the ground. Ulrich I. von Württemberg ordered that the castle be rebuilt a few years later; the reconstruction lasted from 1537 to 1544. When Duke Frederick I assumed the ducal throne in 1593, he decided that a new castle should be built as an extension east of the old medieval castle. The new castle should be modern and represent the power of the Württemberg dynasty. A planning commission was set up which selected the master builder Henry Schickhardt in 1595. The walls were extended and new towers were built. Two large, decorated towers were built next to the new main gate. A new modern water system, that lifted the water 90 meters to the castle. The construction lasted until 1611.
During the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) the castle was damaged and the complex water supply system was destroyed. Before the castle could be reoccupied, a new water supply had to be found. From 1666 to 1670 the Kindlesbrunnen a 78 meters well was dug in the southern part of the castle. The name, Kindlesbrunnen ('baby fountain'), comes from a local legend that instead of being brought by the stork, babies are pulled from the well before they are born.
In 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, a French officer with 10,000 men again attempted to take the castle. When they arrived in Heidenheim, they evaluated the castle and the cost of attacking. The commander finally determined that Hellenstein would be too costly to attack, and retreated without firing a shot.
During the 17th and early 18th century the castle was at its peak. Artists and sculptors were brought in to decorate and beautify the castle. In 1593 Frederick I commissioned the Bavarian court painter Friedrich Sustris to paint the walls and ceiling of the round tower. The castle also hosted many prominent guests including Albrecht von Wallenstein (in 1630), Prince Eugene of Savoy (in 1702), Archduke Charles of Austria, (in 1796) and Napoleon Bonaparte (in 1805).
By the mid-18th century the castle had lost importance. Around 1762 the duchy could no longer support renovations on Hellenstein. In 1810 the upper floor of the tower battery was removed and sold as building material. Unfortunately, the wall and ceiling paintings by Friedrich Sustris were destroyed when the upper floor was removed. In 1820 the Ministry of Finance authorized the sale and demolition of the entire old castle. A year later the paper factory Völter, removed portions of the castle to provide building material for their factory. In 1837 the royal planning commission forbade anyone else to remove stones from Hellenstein.
In 1901 the former castle church was acquired by the Folk and Ancient History Society of Heidenheim as a museum. The museum expanded throughout the first half of the 20th century, until in 1956 the entire castle was rebuilt as a museum. In 1993 the city of Heidenheim took over the museum from the Society. Today the castle contains several museums which are open from in summer season.
There are actually two different museums in the castle, which can be visited on separate tickets or on a combination ticket. The Museum für Kutschen Chaisen Karren or transportation museum located in the old Fruchtkasten. This museum documents the growth and development of means of transportation before the automobile. In 1987 it was honored by the Europäischen Museums Forum for excellent design and execution. The castle museum includes a theatre which shows movies about the history of Heidenheim, local ancient artifacts, religious art, antique toys and Alfred Meebold's Indian Collection.References:
Czocha Castle is located on the Lake Leśnia, what is now the Polish part of Upper Lusatia. Czocha castle was built on gneiss rock, and its oldest part is the keep, to which housing structures were later added.
Czocha Castle began as a stronghold, on the Czech-Lusatian border. Its construction was ordered by Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, in the middle of the 13th century (1241–1247). In 1253 castle was handed over to Konrad von Wallhausen, Bishop of Meissen. In 1319 the complex became part of the dukedom of Henry I of Jawor, and after his death, it was taken over by another Silesian prince, Bolko II the Small, and his wife Agnieszka. Origin of the stone castle dates back to 1329.
In the mid-14th century, Czocha Castle was annexed by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. Then, between 1389 and 1453, it belonged to the noble families of von Dohn and von Kluks. Reinforced, the complex was besieged by the Hussites in the early 15th century, who captured it in 1427, and remained in the castle for unknown time (see Hussite Wars). In 1453, the castle was purchased by the family of von Nostitz, who owned it for 250 years, making several changes through remodelling projects in 1525 and 1611. Czocha's walls were strengthened and reinforced, which thwarted a Swedish siege of the complex during the Thirty Years War. In 1703, the castle was purchased by Jan Hartwig von Uechtritz, influential courtier of Augustus II the Strong. On August 17, 1793, the whole complex burned in a fire.
In 1909, Czocha was bought by a cigar manufacturer from Dresden, Ernst Gutschow, who ordered major remodelling, carried out by Berlin architect Bodo Ebhardt, based on a 1703 painting of the castle. Gutschow, who was close to the Russian Imperial Court and hosted several White emigres in Czocha, lived in the castle until March 1945. Upon leaving, he packed up the most valuable possessions and moved them out.
After World War II, the castle was ransacked several times, both by soldiers of the Red Army, and Polish thieves, who came to the so-called Recovered Territories from central and eastern part of the country. Pieces of furniture and other goods were stolen, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the castle was home to refugees from Greece. In 1952, Czocha was taken over by the Polish Army. Used as a military vacation resort, it was erased from official maps. The castle has been open to the public since September 1996 as a hotel and conference centre. The complex was featured in several movies and television series. Recently, the castle has been used as the setting of the College of Wizardry, a live action role-playing game (LARP) that takes place in their own universe and can be compared to Harry Potter.