Grafendahn Castle belongs to the group of castles at Dahn, which also includes Altdahn and Tanstein. Although the three castles are sited next to one another on a rocky ridge, they were not built at the same time.
Grafendahn was built in 1287 by Conrad of Mursel, who was a Lehnsmann or vassal of the bishops of Speyer and a nephew of Frederick of Dahn. The castle was conceived from the outset as a so-called Ganerbenburg - a castle in which several families or family lines lived and worked at the same time. As early as 1288, there were five other heirs, besides Conrad Mursel, who included the counts of Sponheim. In 1339, Count John II of Sponheim purchased all parts of the site from the various parties concerned and thus became the sole owner.
In 1425, the castle defences were strengthened and, in 1437, when the House of Sponheim became extinct on the death of John V, it was transferred by inheritance treaty into the possession of the margraves of Baden. However its defences were not robust enough to withstand a siege by Prince Elector Frederick the Victorious; in 1462 he took the castle and had it slighted. It was clearly not rebuilt in a systematic way. In 1480 Hans von Trotha, who was already the liegeman of Berwartstein Castle, was also given Grafendahn as a fief by the prince elector, and took full ownership in 1485 through purchase. Nevertheless, around 1500, the castle was described as 'uninhabitable'.
Until 1637 the ruined castle belonged to the lords of Fleckenstein. In 1642 it changed hands again and was acquired by the tavern at Waldenburg, where it remained for about 150 years. In 1793 the site went back to the Bishopric of Speyer as Lehnsherr (liege lord), who did not enfeoff it again.
Grafendahn Castle is the smallest of the three Dahn castles and is located on the middle of the five castle rock outcrops. The development of the upper ward is rather unclear today due to its modern parapet walls. In the west of the upper ward are the striking ruins of a shield wall, that was erected facing Tanstein Castle. Parts of it have survived at its original height. It was built of rusticated ashlars. Against the shield wall there was a small palas as well as several domestic buildings.
In the lower ward, which is situated on two narrow rock terraces, several chambers, cattle troughs and a well shaft have survived. The castle museum has been house in a restored stable blockReferences:
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.