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.References:
Château de Falaise is best known as a castle, where William the Conqueror, the son of Duke Robert of Normandy, was born in about 1028. William went on to conquer England and become king and possession of the castle descended through his heirs until the 13th century when it was captured by King Philip II of France. Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840 it has been protected as a monument historique.
The castle (12th–13th century), which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of the Dukes of Normandy. The construction was started on the site of an earlier castle in 1123 by Henry I of England, with the 'large keep' (grand donjon). Later was added the 'small keep' (petit donjon). The tower built in the first quarter of the 12th century contained a hall, chapel, and a room for the lord, but no small rooms for a complicated household arrangement; in this way, it was similar to towers at Corfe, Norwich, and Portchester, all in England. In 1202 Arthur I, Duke of Brittany was King John of England's nephew, was imprisoned in Falaise castle's keep. According to contemporaneous chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, John ordered two of his servants to mutilate the duke. Hugh de Burgh was in charge of guarding Arthur and refused to let him be mutilated, but to demoralise Arthur's supporters was to announce his death. The circumstances of Arthur's death are unclear, though he probably died in 1203.
In about 1207, after having conquered Normandy, Philip II Augustus ordered the building of a new cylindrical keep. It was later named the Talbot Tower (Tour Talbot) after the English commander responsible for its repair during the Hundred Years' War. It is a tall round tower, similar design to the towers built at Gisors and the medieval Louvre.Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840, Château de Falaise has been recognised as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.
A programme of restoration was carried out between 1870 and 1874. The castle suffered due to bombardment during the Second World War in the battle for the Falaise pocket in 1944, but the three keeps were unscathed.