According to Elogius Kiburger, the author of the Strättliger Chronicle, in 933 the King of Burgundy, Rudolph II, built the Spiez Castle. Shortly thereafter, the Freiherr von Strättligen settled in the castle. Portions of the current castle shield walls and main tower were built during the 12th century and by the 13th century the town of Spiez existed outside the castle walls. By 1280 the castle was listed as an Imperial fief under Vogt Richard de Corbières. In 1289 the Freiherr von Strättligen was co-owner of the castle along with a succession of other noble families. In 1308 King Albert I of Habsburg was murdered at Windisch on the Reuss, by his nephew Duke John Parricida. As part of their retaliation for the murder, the Habsburgs withdrew half of the Spiez fief from Thüring von Brandis and granted the whole fief to Johannes von Strättligen. Thirty years later, in 1338, Johannes sold the castle, town, church and surrounding villages to Johann II von Bubenberg who was the Schultheiss of Bern. By 1340, the Bubenberg appointed vogt took orders from Bern, but was obligated to raise troops for the Habsburgs. As Bern was de facto independent from their former overlords, the Habsburgs, this created an unstable situation which remained for over 40 years. After the Bernese and Swiss Confederation victory over the Habsburgs in the Battle of Sempach in 1386, the Habsburgs gave up their land claims west of the Aare, which included Spiez.
The castle and surrounding land remained with the Bubenberg family until their extinction in 1506, when it was acquired by Ludwig von Diesbach. Von Diesbach held it for ten years before Ludwig von Erlach acquired the castle and lands. The von Erlach family ruled the town and villages until the 1798 French invasion. After the invasion and the creation of the Helvetic Republic, the von Erlach family lost their land rights and jurisdiction over the village, but retained ownership of the castle until 1875.
The old castle was expanded in several stages during the Late Middle Ages but little is known about the specific dates or what was changed. In 1600 the great hall and the northern buildings were expanded and renovated. During the 17th and 18th centuries the south 'New Castle' was built and then expanded and redecorated in the late Baroque style. The castle was surrounded with gardens, vineyards and forests. After 1875, the castle passed through several owners until a foundation bought the castle and associated church. The gardens are now open to the public and the castle rooms are used for conferences, concerts, exhibitions and other events.
The massive square keep was built around 1200. The lower walls are about 3 m thick though they become thinner higher up. The tower increased in height several times over the following centuries before the final construction phase in 1600. In this final phase the tower was raised and crowned with hipped roof.
The keep was originally surrounded by several free standing wooden buildings. Over the following centuries these buildings were replaced with a stone curtain wall and a ring of two concentric ditches. A gatehouse was built adjacent to the keep, which opened toward the west.
Around 1300 a residence wing was added north of the keep. It was probably lower at that time than it is today and was connected to the keep by a wooden gallery. During the second half of the 13th century a number of tournaments must have been held around the castle because the visiting knights carved graffiti into the plaster of the main chimney. In the 14th century an additional north wing was added onto the residence wing.
From the 15th to the 18th century, the castle was gradually renovated to its present appearance. The gallery was expanded and another story was added to the residence hall. The Trüel was added to the north-west side of the keep in the 16th century. Then, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Baroque 'New Castle' was built on the south side of the gatehouse.References:
The original Cochem Castle, perched prominently on a hill above the Moselle River, served to collect tolls from passing ships. Modern research dates its origins to around 1100. Before its destruction by the French in 1689, the castle had a long and fascinating history. It changed hands numerous times and, like most castles, also changed its form over the centuries.
In 1151 King Konrad III ended a dispute over who should inherit Cochem Castle by laying siege to it and taking possession of it himself. That same year it became an official Imperial Castle (Reichsburg) subject to imperial authority. In 1282 it was Habsburg King Rudolf’s turn, when he conquered the Reichsburg Cochem and took it over. But just 12 years later, in 1294, the newest owner, King Adolf of Nassau pawned the castle, the town of Cochem and the surrounding region in order to finance his coronation. Adolf’s successor, Albrecht I, was unable to redeem the pledge and was forced to grant the castle to the archbishop in nearby Trier and the Electorate of Trier, which then administered the Reichsburg continuously, except for a brief interruption when Trier’s Archbishop Balduin of Luxembourg had to pawn the castle to a countess. But he got it back a year later.
The Electorate of Trier and its nobility became wealthy and powerful in large part due to the income from Cochem Castle and the rights to shipping tolls on the Moselle. Not until 1419 did the castle and its tolls come under the administration of civil bailiffs (Amtsmänner). While under the control of the bishops and electors in Trier from the 14th to the 16th century, the castle was expanded several times.
In 1688 the French invaded the Rhine and Moselle regions of the Palatinate, which included Cochem and its castle. French troops conquered the Reichsburg and then laid waste not only to the castle but also to Cochem and most of the other surrounding towns in a scorched-earth campaign. Between that time and the Congress of Vienna, the Palatinate and Cochem went back and forth between France and Prussia. In 1815 the western Palatinate and Cochem finally became part of Prussia once and for all.
Louis Jacques Ravené (1823-1879) did not live to see the completion of his renovated castle, but it was completed by his son Louis Auguste Ravené (1866-1944). Louis Auguste was only two years old when construction work at the old ruins above Cochem began in 1868, but most of the new castle took shape from 1874 to 1877, based on designs by Berlin architects. After the death of his father in 1879, Louis Auguste supervised the final stages of construction, mostly involving work on the castle’s interior. The castle was finally completed in 1890. Louis Auguste, like his father, a lover of art, filled the castle with an extensive art collection, most of which was lost during the Second World War.
In 1942, during the Nazi years, Ravené was forced to sell the family castle to the Prussian Ministry of Justice, which turned it into a law school run by the Nazi government. Following the end of the war, the castle became the property of the new state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate). In 1978 the city of Cochem bought the castle for 664,000 marks.