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:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.