Runkelstein Castle

Bolzano, Italy

Runkelstein Castle (Castel Roncolo) is a medieval fortification on a rocky spur near Bolzano. In 1237 Alderich Prince-Bishop of Trent gave the brothers Friedrich and Beral Lords of Wangen permission to construct a castle on the rock then called Runchenstayn.

In 1274 it was damaged during a siege by Meinhard II of Tirol, who after winning the war against Heinrich Prince-Bishop of Trent, entrusted the castle to Gottschalk Knoger of Bozen. In 1385 the Niklaus and Franz Vintler wealthy merchant brothers from Bozen bought the castle. Niklaus was counselor and financier of the Count of Tyrol, Leopold III, Duke of Austria, which allowed them to buy the castle a type of residence unfitting in this time for people of their rank. The brothers Vintler commissioned a vast restructuring of the castle: a new defence wall, moat, a cistern and more rooms were built. In 1390 the construction of the Summer House began. The house was painted with frescos, for which the castle is most famous today, inside and outside. The family also commissioned the frescoes in the Western and Eastern Palace.

In 1407 the monetary conflict between Frederick IV, Duke of Austria, Count of Tyrol and wealthy Tyrolean noble families resulted in open war. The Vintlers were drawn into these disputes and Runkelstein was besieged. Niklaus, who had allied with himself with the nobles in the 'Hawk League' lost all his wealth and possessions. His brother Franz, who had allied with the Duke remained owner of the Castle until Sigismund, Archduke of Austria, acquired it.

The Habsburg family owned the castle until 1530. Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I gave order to renovate the castle. He furnished his apartment and commissioned a restoration of the frescos. He also ordered his Coat of Arms to be prominently displayed in the castle. Around 1500 Maximilian gave the castle to his vassal Georg von Frundsberg. He entrusted the care of the castle to a vicar. In 1520 the powder magazine on the groundfloor of the tower exploded. The explosion damaged parts of the outer wall, entrance and Eastern Palace and destroyed the tower. Afterwards the castle was neglected until King Ferdinand I bestowed it in 1530 to Sigmund von Brandis, Knight Commander of Bozen.

Later the Prince-Bishop of Trent obtained the castle anew and Prince-Bishop Bernhard von Cles gave it as a feud to the Counts of Lichtenstein-Kastelkorn. In 1672 a fire destroyed the eastern palace, which was never rebuilt. In 1759 the last Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn gave back the fief to the Trentine bishops. At the time the castle was in grave decay.

During the Romanticism period in the early 19th century romanticists rediscovered Runkelstein. Johann Joseph von Görres, a German writer was the first to come and was soon followed by the many artists in the service of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. In this time the castle became a symbol for the Romantic period. In 1868, the northern wall of the Summer House collapsed, but in 1880 the castles fortunes changed: Johann Salvator Archduke of Austria bought Runkelstein and gave it as a gift to Emperor Franz Josef in 1882. The emperor commissioned Friedrich von Schmidt to restore the Castle and after the restoration donated it to the city of Bozen in 1893. The last restoration, including a careful restoration of the frescos was carried out in the late 1990s.

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Founded: 1237
Category: Castles and fortifications in Italy

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

A P (2 years ago)
The castle is very pretty and there are some beautiful frescoes. It was smaller than I expected, but we enjoyed walking around it.
Nikita Shvinagir (2 years ago)
It is small but quite interesting and pretty museum. Nice views from the tower. The castle is reachable by foot and it takes 30-40 minutes to walk there (recommend the left bank of the river as it has a nice path with large trees giving shadow)
Michal Szczupaczynski (2 years ago)
I visited in late March, so low season. Some facilities were closed but the museum and castle were accessible. 1,5h-2h is enough to get to the castle from parking and to visit.
Omkar Khandpekar (2 years ago)
Castle Runkelstein, a short bus ride away from Bozen, is quite unique in its compact setting and jovial atmosphere unlike most other castles. The 'secular' frescoes adorning its walls, unrelated to any religious or political subjects, instead display scenes from the courtly life of nobility in a surprisingly amusing and self-aware manner, while the 'summer house' is adorned with scenes from Arthurian and other Germanic legends. The whole exhibit takes around an hour to visit, and feels more like an amusing reflection upon the lives of the nobility rather than a museum, and is well worth a visit on a day trip to Bozen.
Andrew Yip (3 years ago)
Lovely little fortress turned castle owned by a middle class merchant family, great exhibits on site around frescos and hunting. There's also a restaurant bat near the entrance. Highly recommended getaway from Bozen.
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