Burg Meersburg may be the oldest inhabited castle in Germany. The central tower was first built during the 7th century, though the original structure is no longer visible. There are two theories about the construction of the Meersburg. The first is that the Merovingian king Dagobert I built the Dagobertturm (Dagobert's Tower), the central keep of the Meersburg, in 630. Around 630, Dagobert was in the Lake Constance region working on the Christianization of the Alamanni. This theory is based on a source from 1548, and was supported by Joseph von Laßberg who lived in the castle during the 19th century. A charter issued by Frederick Barbarossa on 27 November 1155, citing older, questionable sources, mentions that the boundaries of the Bishopric of Constance were established by Dagobert himself indicating that Dagobert was personally involved in establishing rulers in the region.
The second theory is that the castle was built in the early 12th century, and based on the name of the tower an association with the earlier Merovingian king was created. It is based on the observation that in the Lake Constance region there are no records of any castles being founded in the 7th century, but in the 12th century to early 13th century many castles were built in the region. The Merdesburch Castle was first mentioned in 1113, which implies a construction date before the early 12th century.
The stones at the base of the Dagobertturm are very large roughly squared stones that according to architectural history could date from either the 7th century or from the 12th century to early 13th century. Because the stones could have come from either era, it is not clear which theory is correct. However, similarities between the Meersburg and other 12th-century castles have been noted.
The castle may have been owned by several different lords during the following centuries. It appears that the castle was owned by the Hohenstaufens for a while, because in 1213 King Frederick II celebrated the Holy Week in Meersburg. Then, in 1233 Meersburg was granted the weekly market right by Frederick II. Shortly before his death in 1254, Conrad IV, having been deposed and excommunicated by Pope Innocent IV asked Eberhard II, the High Steward of Meersburg to care for his two-year-old son Conradin. In 1261 Conradin became the Duke of Swabia, raising an army in the Ravensburg area. He departed from Meersburg to head south into Italy to fight Charles I of Anjou and attempt to reclaim the titles stripped by the Pope from his father. While Conradin was able to take Rome, he was soon afterward captured and executed.
However, even as a residence for a Bishop, the Meersburg was the site of several battles over the following centuries. In 1334, there were two candidates for the position of Bishop of Constance. Baron Nikolaus I of Kenzingen was elected Bishop by supporters of the Pope while Albrecht of Hohenberg was chosen by the Holy Roman Emperor. Nikolaus quickly traveled to Avignon, in France the seat of Pope John XXII to have his appointment confirmed. He then returned to Meersburg and quickly had the defenses improved. Albrecht, meanwhile, had raised an army from the southern German princes and was joined by an Imperial army led by the Emperor. During the summer of 1334, the Imperial army besieged Burg Meersburg. During the siege, cannons were used for the first time in Germany. However, even with the new gunpowder weapons the Imperial troops were unable to take the castle. At the end of August, Emperor Louis IV was growing tired of the siege. When Duke Otto of Austria requested his help against the Bohemians, Louis left Meersburg and confirmed Nikolaus as Bishop. Albrecht was granted the Bishopric of Würzburg in 1345 to replace the lost Bishopric.
Following Nikolaus, Urich Pfefferhardt was Bishop from 1345 until 1351. In 1352 Johann III Windlock from Constance was installed at the castle, he proved to be an autocratic ruler and was disliked by the people and local nobles. Following a dispute with Konrad of Homberg-Markdorf and the Abbot Eberhard of Reichenau, he was killed by soldiers while in his palace in Constance.
The crow-stepped gable (a stepped roof line instead of a smooth roof line) on the tower was added by the Constance Prince-Bishop Hugo von Hohenlandenberg (Served 1496–1532). Before his time, the Meersburg was a summer residence of the bishops. Following a conflict with the city of Constance in 1526, Hugo moved to the Meersburg. The castle remained the bishops' primary residence until the move to the New Schloss in the 18th century.
In 1647 the castle was attacked by Swedish troops during the Thirty Years' War, however only the roof timbers were burned during the attack. During the beginning of the 18th century, the bishops began to build the New Castle at Meersburg as a modern residence castle. After 1750 the old castle served as a house for the administration of the city.
In the Secularization of 1803 the Meersburg came under the control of the Grand Duchy of Baden. In 1838 the Grand Duke sold the castle to a private owner. The collector Joseph von Laßberg and his wife Maria Anna von Droste-Hülshoff, who was also called Jenny, acquired the castle. In 1841 Jenny's sister Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, the famous German poet, moved to the castle where she would spend the last eight years of her life. Following the death of the Laßbergs, the castle went to their twin daughters, Hildegard and Hildegunde. However they couldn't afford the upkeep and sold the castle in 1877. Karl Mayer von Mayerfels from Munich bought the castle and established a Medieval Museum in the castle. Today portions of the castle are open visitors on self-guided tours. The remainder of the castle is occupied by his descendants.References:
The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.
In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.
The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.