The Sparrenburg castle in Bielefeld was erected sometime before 1250 by the counts of Ravensberg. It guarded the Bielefeld Pass over the Teutoburg Forest, as well as acting as the ruling seat of the counts of Ravensberg, and as protection for the city of Bielefeld, probably founded around 1200. Because the construction of a protective castle generally predates the foundation of a town, it is assumed that there was an older castle. In 1256, the castle was first mentioned in records.
Following the discovery of gunpowder and the resultant increasing use of cannon and other firearms, dukes of Cleves (the counts of Ravensberg, the) ordered the expansion of the castle into a fortress of the Early Modern Period that could withstand bombardment from siege guns and also employ its own cannon. Around 1530, a round bastion was added in the west, only accessible from the castle itself via a bridge, from which one could control Bielefeld Pass with artillery. The construction was finished in 1578 and created the largest fortress in Westphalia. The old castle was now surrounded by a terrace and a high defensive wall.
After the War of the Jülich Succession the castle was granted to Dutch confederates. Their occupation became effective in November 1615.
In 1623, in the course of the Thirty Years' War, the Dutch had to retreat before the overpowering advance of the Spanish army. In 1625, Brandenburg's colonel Gent unsuccessfully attempted to reconquer the Sparrenburg with the help of Ravensberg's peasants. In 1636 the Swedes and Hessians besieged the Spanish for nearly one year before they had to hand over the fortress in 1637. In 1642, they left Sparrenburg to their French allies.
In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia confirmed the affiliation to Brandenburg-Prussia. In the following years the Grand Elector Frederick William stayed several times at the fortress, and two of his children were born there.
During the Franco-Dutch War the Sparrenburg successfully resisted its last sieges, in 1673 against troops of Münster and in 1679 French troops.
At the end of the 17th century, the Sparrenburg no longer met the military requirements. Therefore, it was partly used as a prison, and partly subjected to decline. The outer walls were torn down by agreement of King Frederick II of Prussia and were used for the construction of the barracks 55, which still stands at the Hans-Sachs-Straße.
Used as a anti-aircraft emplacement during World War II, the Sparrenburg was heavily damaged in the course of the air raid on Bielefeld on 30 September 1944; only the tower remained undamaged. From 1948 to 1987 there was continuous cleanup and restoration work. From 1955 to 1983 the German Museum of Playing Cards was housed in the rebuilt estate building. A new visitor center was opened in 2014. The above-ground parts of the Sparrenburg can be visited year-round, free of charge. The rest of the castle can be visited daily from April to October.References:
Augustusburg Palace represents one of the first examples of Rococo creations in Germany. For the Cologne elector and archbishop Clemens August of the House of Wittelsbach it was the favourite residence. In 1725 the Westphalian architect Johann Conrad Schlaun was commissioned by Clemens August to begin the construction of the palace on the ruins of a medieval moated castle.
In 1728, the Bavarian court architect François de Cuvilliés took over and made the palace into one of the most glorious residences of its time. Until its completion in 1768, numerous outstanding artists of European renown contributed to its beauty. A prime example of the calibre of artists employed here is Balthasar Neumann, who created the design for the magnificent staircase, an enchanting creation full of dynamism and elegance. The magical interplay of architecture, sculpture, painting and garden design made the Brühl Palaces a masterpiece of German Rococo.
UNESCO honoured history and present of the Rococo Palaces by inscribing Augustusburg Palace – together with Falkenlust Palace and their extensive gardens – on the World Heritage List in 1984. From 1949 onwards, Augustusburg Palace was used for representative purposes by the German Federal President and the Federal Government for many decades.
In 1728, Dominique Girard designed the palace gardens according to French models. Owing to constant renovation and care, it is today one of the most authentic examples of 18th century garden design in Europe. Next to the Baroque gardens, Peter Joseph Lenné redesigned the forested areas based on English landscaping models. Today it is a wonderful place to have a walk.