Altdahn castle was probably built in the early 13th century. Certainly in 1236 the castle was being run by Frederick of Dahn as a vassal (Lehnsmann) of the Bishop of Speyer who, at that time, was Conrad IV of Dahn and may well have been a relative. The subsequent history of the castle is characterized by many wars and frequent destruction, that was, time and again, followed by rebuilding.
Altdahn was first destroyed in 1363 in the course of a feud between the Dahns and the Fleckensteins. In the end a squire took possession of the castle and carried out temporary repairs. In 1372 it was destroyed again and the squire driven out. In 1406 the castle was destroyed in the War of the Four Lords, which played out from 1405 to 1408 especially in the Bliesgau, 40 kilometres to the west. In 1426 and 1438 the castle caught fire without being caused by any military action.
After two centuries of relative prosperity Altdahn suffered further damage during the Thirty Years' War (1618–48). And right at the start of the War of the Palatine Succession the castle was finally destroyed in 1689 by French troops under General Mélac.
On 11 May 1820 a rockfall occurred, that caused the majority of the remaining ruins to collapse.
On the ridge of the Dahn castle group, which run roughly from east-northeast to west-southwest, Altdahn Castle occupies the two largest, easternmost rock outcrops, which have a total length of about one hundred metres. Its access is in the northeast, where the gateway and a small, water-filled neck ditch have survived. The lower ward is dominated on the north side by a horseshoe-shaped turret and, on the south side, by another tower of similar design.
Other notable remains of the upper ward on the western rock outcrop that have survived, include the north wall of the palas and a watchtower that, from the remains of an oriel, indicate that it may well have been used as a garderobe tower. The southern part of the palas was destroyed in the rockslide of 1820. This also opened the remains of a round cavern, in the rock in the shape of an inverted cone, that has been identified as a cistern or dungeon. On the remains of the eastern side, rusticated ashlar stonework is visible.
The isolated eastern castle rock is accessible over a narrow gangway. It used to support a small tower.
In 1877 the first conservation work was carried out by the Dahn Conservation Society (Dahner Verschönerungsverein) under the Bavarian government. In 1936, during the Nazi era, restoration work was restarted. After an interruption caused by the Second World War they continued from 1960 to the present day.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.