Château de Guirbaden

Château de Guirbaden



Location:  Bas-Rhin département    Map

Constructed: 11th century


Description of Château de Guirbaden

Château de Guirbaden is the largest castle in the Alsace region in France. Today it is a largely ruined citadel, but its overgrown ruins offer a charm of its own. Château de Guirbaden was found in the early 11th century, but over several years it changed hands repeatedly. New additions were made over a period of 500 years. Today the castle lies largely in ruins that remotely represent its former grandeur. Closest modern settlement is village of Mollkirch on the left bank of the Magel River.



The ruins are accessible from the village of Mollkirch or Grendelbruch by hiking trails. Access to the dungeon has been prohibited since June 2015 due to the risk of collapse, but the rest of the site is accessible.


Geographic location

The castle is located on the left bank of the Magel at an altitude of 565 m on the Burckberg hill.



From its founding to the end of the 19th century
The castle was built in the eleventh century on a site already occupied by the Romans. Founded by Hugues III d'Eguisheim to protect the Abbey of Altorf, it came under the domination of the Duke of Swabia and Alsace, Ernest II in 1027. It was enlarged by Emperor Frederick II in 1219-1226.

The castle suffered for five centuries several attacks, destruction and reconstructions. In particular, it burned down in 1633, repaired by Frédéric de Rathsamhausen in 1647, burned down again in 1652 and then finally razed by the French in 1657.

It ultimately fell to the Rohan family, and it was sold in 1790. It was classified in 1898 as a Historic Monument.

Contemporary history
After being passed from hand to hand, the castle fell in 1968 to a wealthy Alsatian entrepreneur who decided to renovate it. After dismantling the door, he summons backhoes to clear the eastern part of the castle. He injects concrete into the west facade of the palace, open to the moat, to consolidate it, and the stone wall taken from the ramparts of the east part of the castle to conceal the concrete. The work was suddenly stopped in 1971.

In the 90s, the castle was sold again. Its new owner installs doors to secure access to the dungeon and prevent access, after its access has become difficult.

Since 2015, an association has been set up to restore the castle.



The ruins of the castle are covered with vegetation. The walls are made of bossed stone. If the interior walls are thus often masked, the majority of the exterior walls are still visible; their height varies between one meter and four meters. Several well-preserved gates protect the path from the entrance gates (the original gate must have been) to the courtyard. The exterior doors have been adapted for firearms, as evidenced by the presence of gunboats. The door was dismantled by a previous owner in 1968, only part of the uprights remain.

In the courtyard is a well. To the west is the stately home (or palace) in Romanesque style, relatively well preserved. You can still admire the semicircular windows and Romano-Byzantine capitals. To the east of the courtyard is the keep, built on a rocky promontory and supported to the south by a large relief arch.

A large ditch separates the western part (esplanade) and the eastern part of the castle (courtyard and keep). To reach the esplanade from the courtyard, you have to go through the southwest gate. On the esplanade is the Saint Valentin chapel, recently restored. West of the esplanade is also an imposing square tower, the Tour de la Faim.



A legend is attached to the castle. It says that the counts of Eguisheim returned from the crusades with the Templars. They settled in the castle and accumulated a great treasure there.

The Templars then suffered persecutions which brought their order to disappear. Their last heiress was a certain Odile. This one did not want to marry, and died still young of an illness. However, feeling her end coming, she had taken care to ask a servant to bury the treasure next to her body, which was to be buried deep under the castle. The servant did as he was ordered, and when he felt his own end coming, he passed on the location of the tomb to his son. This son did the same with his son, and the secret was passed on from generation to generation, without Odile's rest being disturbed.

But one day the secret fell to two twins for whom the lust was too strong. They decide to seize the treasure: they go to the site of the tomb at night and dig. But in doing so, they weaken the supports of the nearby rock. As they see the coffin appear, a large section of rock falls on the grave. The two twins are buried near the coveted treasure.