Berwartstein Castle was one of the rock castles that were part of defences of the Palatinate during the Middle Ages. There is no definite record of the origins of the castle or its name. The name 'Berwartstein Castle' is mentioned for the first time in a document dating from 1152, when the castle was granted by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to Bishop Günther of Speyer.
During the 13th century, feudal tenants, who carried the name von Berwartstein, inhabited the castle, which they used as a base for raids in the manner of robber barons. The imperial cities of Strasbourg and Hagenau joined forces against the von Berwartsteins. Following several weeks of futile attacks against the castle, they succeeded in taking it in 1314, with the help of a traitor. A large amount of booty and about 30 prisoners were taken to Strasbourg. The knights of Berwartstein were permitted to buy the prisoners back for a large ransom. The knights of Berwartstein were forced to sell their castle to the brothers Ort and Ulrich von Weingarten. Four years later the castle became the property of Weissenburg Abbey.
The monastery at Weissenburg placed the castle in stewardship and established a feudal system. This allowed for the dismissal of vassals who became too presumptuous. Thus the monastery held possession of the castle for some time. This could have continued indefinitely had the last steward of the castle (Erhard Wyler) not gone too far. When he began feuding with the knights of Drachenfels, the Elector of the Palatinate took the opportunity to bring the Berwartstein Castle under his control.
Because of his dynastic ambitions, the Elector of the Palatinate wanted to bring all of the Weissenburg estate under his control. To accomplish this, in 1480 he ordered the knight, Hans von Trotha, who was Marshal and Commander in Chief of the Palatinate forces, to acquire to Berwartstein. In this way he could enlarge the property at a cost to the Monastery of Weissenburg. For the quarrelsome knight this was a pleasure to fulfil, since this gave him a chance to take personal revenge on the Abbot of Weissenburg. Years before, Abbot Heinrich von Homburg had imposed a church fine on his brother, Bishop Thilo.
As a starting point for this conquering expedition, this experienced warrior first renovated the castle to improve its appearance. He built strong ramparts and bastions as well as the outwork and tower called Little France. After von Trotha's death, Berwartstein Castle was inherited by his son Christoph and, when he died, it went to his son-in-law, Friedrich von Fleckenstein and remained in the hands of this family for three generations. During this time, the castle was destroyed by fire in 1591, and, since there is no mention of any attacks, it is presumed that the castle was hit by lightning.
Even though the main sections of the castle were not destroyed by the fire, it stood empty and unused for many years. In the Peace of Westphalia (1648), Berwartstein received special mention, when it was granted to Baron Gerhard von Waldenburg, known as Schenkern, a favorite of Emperor Ferdinand III. Since he did not restore the castle, it fell into ruins.
A certain Captain Bagienski purchased the castle in 1893. In 1922, it was sold to Aksel Faber of Copenhagen, and thus went into foreign ownership. Since he was seldom in Germany, he asked Alfons Wadlé to be his steward. Later Wadlé he was able to purchase the castle.
The village of Erlenbach below the castle was completely destroyed during World War II, and its inhabitants sought shelter in the castle. After the war, the roof had gone as well as the woodwork around windows, doors, staircases and other furnishings. Since the castle was not financially supported, Alfons Wadlé went about the renovation himself. At first he was only able to do what was essential to protect the castle from the elements.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.