Drachenfels Castle Ruins

Busenberg, Germany

Drachenfels Castle is located about seven kilometres north of the Franco-German border on the eponymous 150-metre-long bunter sandstone rocks which are on a ridge at an elevation of 368 metres above sea level.

The name of the castle could have come from the dragon carved in the sandstone wall of the old great hall of the castle. However, because it has not been dated, it is also possible that the dragon was inscribed on the wall because of the castle's name.

The origins of the castle are largely unclear. Archaeological finds here can be dated to the mid-13th century, but the castle was already in existence in the early 12th century. In 1209 the brothers Conrad and William of Drachenfels were first mentioned in the records. Historian, Johann Lehmann (1797–1876), named a Burkhard of Drachenfels between 1219 and 1221 who was in service for the House of Hohenstaufen, but he gave no references. Other documents confirm that, in 1288, a dispute was settled between the cousins Rudolph and Anselm of Drachenfels on the one hand and the Bishop of Worms on the other. The oldest surviving seal of these two cousins depicts a dragon in a pointed shield. From the early 14th century the seal contained a deer's skull or a wild goose. The first lesser nobleman who it is known with any certainty had a connexion with this castle in the Wasgau is Walter of Drachenfels in 1245.

In 1314 the lords of Drachenfels were promised compensation payments for a campaign by the city of Strasbourg against Berwartstein Castle, during which the nearby castle at Drachenfels was also besieged and damages. In 1335 there was a conflict with Strasbourg in which the lords of Drachensfels were accused of being robber barons. At this time Drachenfels was besieged and partially destroyed, forcing its lords to gradually sell off parts of the castle from 1344. As a result, Drachenfels became a jointly-owned castle or Ganerbenburg, whereby several families or individuals divided the estate between themselves.

In 1510 the rebellious imperial knight, Francis of Sickingen, also bought a share in the castle. On 10 May 1523, after his defeat by the allied armies of three imperial princes, the castle was finally destroyed., although the Burgvogt, who occupied it with just eight servants, had surrendered without a fight owing to the odds that he was faced with. The victors refused to allow the castle to be rebuilt.

What was left of the castle after it had been slighted was used as a quarry. In 1778, a descendent of its owners, Freiherr Franz Christoph Eckbrecht von Dürkheim, built a manor house in the village of Busenberg with the stones from Drachenfels, which is known today as the Schlösschen. The church in Busenberg was also built from stones from the ruined castle.

The moderate remains of the castle in the eastern part of the site are dominated by the so-called Backenzahn, the castle rock in the east. On the rock only a few original wall courses have survived. All the same, a climb up the steps partially carved into the rock conveys an idea of the strength of the fortification. On the plateau of the former bergfried are the remains of a cistern. In the rooms hewn out of the rock, putlock holes and other manmade marks chiselled into the sandstone indicated that it was once entirely covered by timber framed or stone buildings.

Considerably more has survived of the lower ward and gate system. In 1903, the gate tower was enhanced by two round-arched portals.



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Busenberg, Germany
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Founded: 12th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Germany
Historical period: Hohenstaufen Dynasty (Germany)

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Tania Dominguez (2 years ago)
Easy parking and quick, but steep walk up to the ruins. Great views and relatively easy to get around the ruins. Plenty of stairs and rails. Would go again. Other castles nearby, so you can make a day of it.
Danielle Cummings (2 years ago)
As a mom of three kids ages 5, 3, and 1.5, this was a GREAT adventure, if a little nerve wracking - I was happy to have my mother-in-law present to help keep any eye on them all (even wearing the baby). We parked at the Drachenfelshutte on a July weekday afternoon, and the walk was about 20 minutes at my 3yo's pace (though I did put her on my shoulders for a few minutes of it). It was mostly shaded, and if I remember correctly, largely stroller friendly UNTIL you get to the castle, at which point you'd have to leave it behind). Immediately upon seeing the castle, we were very impressed and excited, and that didn't diminish throughout our stay. Amazing views and endless walkways, rooms, and staircases to explore. There wasn't much in the way of picnic tables or benches (we ended up picnicking on one of the observation decks in the western part of the castle overlooking the valley) but nevertheless it was a GREAT place to spend an afternoon (we actually did this AFTER visiting Berwartstein castle, which only took about 1.5 hours and is about 10 minutes away). The castle itself isn't shaded at all and is VERY warm and sunny, but well worth it. Bring food, water, and an adventurous spirit and you'll be good to go. There were many places closed off, some of which we explored anyway as they looked safe and were fun to see (shhh don't tell!). But if you bring small children, PLEASE keep an eye on them, as the staircases are steep and uneven once in the castle and the railings leave wide gaps for them to fall through. Nevertheless, a WONDERFUL place to spend an afternoon with young children if they are used to walking uphill and stairs. And make sure to let them play at the Spielplatz/playground at the Hutte! It's a wonderfully shaded playground.
Nicole Anansi (2 years ago)
Spectacular ruin with many stairs to climb and secret rooms to explore. Amazing how they managed to built that castle literally into the rock in the middle ages. Well worth a visit...and fantastic views over Dahner Felsenland
Eyal Yogev (5 years ago)
Nice place. Most of the castle remains are closed due to constructions, the area is lovely. Small restaurant. And playground for kids. Good for families
Janek Kozicki (6 years ago)
The best ruin in the area. Totally destroyed. Very nice!
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