Altleiningen castle was built on the domed summit of a hill, about 400 metres high, that rises above the left bank of the Eckbach. The name, like that of its sister castle, Neuleiningen 5 kilometres northeast, is derived from the Frankish noble family of Leiningen, who used to rule the territory of the Leiningerland.
The mighty hill fortress is built on rocks and was probably established around 1100 to 1110 by the Count of Leiningen, Emich I, and his son, Emich II, under the name of Leiningen Castle. The overall castle site, which follows the shape of the hilltop, has a triangular ground plan. Of the original caste, only a few wall remains on the west side have survived. The outer ward was surrounded by its own moat and by a main ditch hewn out of the rock, over which there was a drawbridge that separated it from the actual castle. Two kilometres to the south of the castle, Emich II founded Höningen Abbey around 1120.
During the peasants' uprising in 1525 the castle suffered its first destruction. The present site is based on its rebuilding in the Renaissance style, beginning in 1528, by counts Cuno II, Philip I, Louis and John Casimir. Its reconstruction required the local farmers to render socage.
Around 1600 a gallery was driven deep into the rock below the castle in order to obtain a supply of water. The 20-Pipe Well is today the biggest source of water for the Eckbach.
In 1690 the castle was destroyed again, this time for good, during the War of the Palatine Succession by French troops. Thereafter it was used as a quarry until the mid-19th century when this was banned by the government of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Until 1933 the terrain remained in the hands of the counts of Leiningen (Leiningen-Westerburg-Altleiningen line), before it was procured by the county of Frankenthal. In 1962 the ruins were listed and the schloss wing rebuilt in the six years that followed. In doing so they incorporated the wall remains on the western side.
In 1968 a youth hostel was integrated into the partially rebuilt castle. This was completely modernized between 1998 and 2000. As part of this renovation the castle was given a gable roof again; previously it had had a flat, 1960s-style roof. The great hall is used as a dining room; another guest room is the Burgschänke pub with its summer terrace. The main moat has been converted into a public open air swimming pool.References:
The Castle of Gruyères is one of the most famous in Switzerland. It was built between 1270 and 1282, following the typical square plan of the fortifications in Savoy. It was the property of the Counts of Gruyères until the bankruptcy of the Count Michel in 1554. His creditors the cantons of Fribourg and Bern shared his earldom. From 1555 to 1798 the castle became residence to the bailiffs and then to the prefects sent by Fribourg.
In 1849 the castle was sold to the Bovy and Balland families, who used the castle as their summer residency and restored it. The castle was then bought back by the canton of Fribourg in 1938, made into a museum and opened to the public. Since 1993, a foundation ensures the conservation as well as the highlighting of the building and the art collection.
The castle is the home of three capes of the Order of the Golden Fleece. They were part of the war booty captured by the Swiss Confederates (which included troops from Gruyères) at the Battle of Morat against Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy in 1476. As Charles the Bold was celebrating the anniversary of his father's death, one of the capes is a black velvet sacerdotal vestment with Philip the Good's emblem sewn into it.
A collection of landscapes by 19th century artists Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Barthélemy Menn and others are on display in the castle.