Münchenstein Castle is a landmark above the village. The ruins can still be visited and viewed, but are under private ownership.

Around 1260, the up-rising cavalier family Münch acquired the village on the hills adjacent to the river Birs and established their estate there. The exact dates of the castle erection remains unclear, but most likely building began in the time between 1260 and 1270.

The founders of the castle on the rock were the father and son Hugo II Münch and Hugo III Münch. Then, under Hugo Münch IV, the castle was expanded and extended and a ring wall was built around the village during the following 60 years. The cavalier Münch named themselves henceforth Münch von Münchenstein. After 1279 the village Geckingen was called Münchenstein. The Münchs were not able to keep the village and castle for long as their own property. During 1280 they had to hand over the ownership to the Graf von Pfirt, who then lent it to the Münchs in fief.

In March 1324, after the death of the last Graf on Pfirt, Ulrich III, the castle and the village of Münchenstein was inherited by the Herzog of Austria, as heiress Johanna von Pfirt (1300-1351) was married to Herzog Albrecht II von Habsburg (1298-1358).

In the year 1334, the castle was completed and was at its largest. A few years later, the castle was damaged by the Basel earthquake on 18 October 1356, but it was soon restored to its original condition. At this time Konrad VIII (1324-1378), son of Hartmann I Münch von Münchenstein resided in Münchenstein castle. Konrad VIII (called 'Hape') married Katharina, the hereditary daughter from Löwenburg, in 1340. Katharina Münch von Münchenstein-Löwenberg died in 1371 and Konrad VIII inherited governance of Muttenz and the three fortresses in the district Wartenburg.

During the 'Old Zürich War', just before the Battle of St. Jakob an der Birs on 26 August 1444, the Solothurner conquered the castle on 17 June 1444 and they kept it occupied. Not until the year 1469 did the Münchs get their estate back. During 1470, Konrad Münch von Münchenstein had to sell the deeds to the city of Basel, but because he was the city reeve, he was allowed to live there in fief.

During the first half of the 15th century, the dynasty of the Münchs began to crumble, and because of the high fiefdom costs, they had to sell the estate to the city. The village and castle were reigned for 283 years by the city of Basel. This reign ended, however, after the French revolution and village and castle were sold to the municipality Münchenstein, who themselves sold (passed on) the properties to the villagers. The castle was also sold and used as a stone quarry to build new houses.

The ruins of Münchenstein Castle are situated on a long, but narrow rock. There are only slender remains of the walls to be seen, these are directly above the centre of the village.

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Founded: 1260-1270
Category: Castles and fortifications in Switzerland

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Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.