In 1198 the abbot of Hornbach Abbey granted two hills, the Gutinberc and the Ruprehtisberc, to Count Henry I of Zweibrücken. On these hills the count built the castles of Lemberg and Ruppertstein. The construction period was probably around 1200, but the first documented record of the Castrum Lewenberc dates to 1230. Today, all that survives on the Schlossberg hill are some wall remains and the foundation of a chapel. The chapel was mentioned in 1502, but coins and shards of pottery found on the site indicate that it goes back to the second half of the 13th century.
In 1333 the castle went to Count Simon I, son of Eberhardt of Zweibrücken-Bitsch. From 1535 to 1541, his successor, Count James of Zweibrücken-Bitsch resided at the castle and remodeled it into a Renaissance schloss. Following his death in 1570 an inheritance dispute arose, which the Lehnsherr of the castle, Duke Charles of Lorraine ended by occupying the castle with his own troops in 1572. In 1606 he agreed with Count John Reinhard I of Hanau-Lichtenberg, that James' grandson would receive the Lemberg estate, whilst Charles II would hold the lordship of Bitche.
The castle and village were occupied and plundered in 1634 and 1635 during the Thirty Years' War. In 1636 the castle was razed and then only rebuilt in makeshift fashion.
In 1688 Louis XIV of France sparked the War of the Palatine Succession. He acted on the authority of his sister-in-law, Liselotte of the Palatinate. The background was his plans for expansion, which were opposed by an alliance of the German emperor, the imperial princes, Spain and England. In view of their superiority, Louis XIV, ordered that the Palatinate was to be burned. French troops probably slighted the castle in October 1689; even the bergfried was demolished.
From then on, the location no longer held any military significance. The wall remains continued to decay, usable stone was carried off and employed for other purposes, for example, the rebuilding of a village church in 1746. Since the 20th century, the castle ruins have gained in importance as a tourist attraction. In 1953, the Lemberg branch of the Palatine Forest Club renovated the castle and established a café; and since 2001 a modern extension has been built to act as a castle information centre and centre for medieval events.
One feature of Lemberg Castle is its shaft cistern, also, but not quite correctly, called the well shaft. After digging down 94.80 metres the well diggers had still not struck the ground water. So the shaft was turned into a cistern and almost horizontal adit driven to the shaft. After almost 200 metres the adit meets the shaft at a depth of about 60 metres. A spring on the hillside filled the shaft via the adit thus providing the required water supply. All the work was carried out with hammers and chisels. It is also remarkable that the tunnel ever intercepted the shaft. The well proved to be a valuable archaeological site during several excavation projects in the 1990s, especially for the period of the destruction of the castle in the 17th century.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.