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:
The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries.
Pierre d'Amboise unsuccessfully rebelled against King Louis XI and his property was confiscated, and the castle was dismantled on royal order in 1465. It was later rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise from 1465–1475 and then finished by his son, Charles II d'Amboise de Chaumont from 1498–1510, with help from his uncle, Cardinal Georges d'Amboise; some Renaissance features were to be seen in buildings that retained their overall medieval appearance. The château was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. When her husband, Henry II, died in 1559 she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had given to de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont for a short while.
Later Chaumont has changed hands several times. Paul de Beauvilliers bought the château in 1699, modernized some of its interiors and decorated it with sufficient grandeur to house the duc d'Anjou on his way to become king of Spain in 1700. Monsieur Bertin demolished the north wing to open the house towards the river view in the modern fashion.
In 1750, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray purchased the castle as a country home where he established a glassmaking and pottery factory. He was considered the French "Father of the American Revolution" because he loved America. However, in 1789, the new French Revolutionary Government seized Le Ray's assets, including his beloved Château de Chaumont.
The castle has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Chaumont is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.