10 largest cities in France

Château de l'Ortenbourg

Château de l'Ortenbourg


Location: Scherwiller, Bas Rhin department  Map

Constructed: 13th century


Château de L'Ortenbourg (or Ortenberg) is, with the Ramstein, one of the two castles which dominate the town of Scherwiller, located 7 km from Sélestat, in the Bas-Rhin department. The ruins of the castle rise on a rocky peak, 437 m above sea level. All of the two castles have been classified as historical monuments since July 1924.

This castle takes its name from the Ortenberg family, present in Scherwiller since the tenth century.


Geographic location
The chateaux is located on the same ridge as the Ramstein chateau; at an altitude of 437m, it overlooks the town of Scherwiller.

It can also be found (as the crow flies) at:
6.25 km from Haut-Kœnigsbourg
7 km from Sélestat

The current remains
The Château de l'Ortenbourg, built in smooth and white granite in the 13th century, is a fine example of military architecture from medieval Alsace. It still has a 32m pentagonal keep, a 17m rampart with three rows of arches and a stately home with Gothic windows. A large ditch separates it from the rest of the mountain.


History of Château de l'Ortenbourg

First castle
Around the year 1000, the first castle was erected by a certain Count Werner d'Ortenberg. This same Werner founded with his wife Himidrud the abbey of Honcourt. But subsequently, their sons Volmar abandoned the abbey in the hands of the Bishop of Strasbourg and his son-in-law succeeded him at the head of the seigneury. But the latter died in 1098 without male descendants and the seigneury passed to his genre which also died without inheritance. The castle was eventually taken over by the Zollern Counts of Hohenberg-Haigerloch.

The Habsburgs
In 1253, it was recovered by Rudolf IV of Habsburg, future king of the Romans. It begins its reconstruction in order to control the entrance to the Val de Villé. Construction was interrupted in 1261 following the war between Bishop Walter de Geroldseck and the city of Strasbourg; the fortress was finally completed around 1265.

Siege of 1293
But in 1291, on the death of Rodolph, Otto IV opposed the election of Albert of Habsburg and supported Adolphe de Nassau. In 1293, Otton joined the siege and had the Ramstein built to take Ortenbourg; and after three weeks of sieges, the Austrians surrendered and the Val de Villé was invaded by Otto.

Degradation of the castle
In 1314, the castle as well as the village of Scherwiller was sold to the Müllenheim (en). It was damaged in 1374 by the troops of John I of Lorraine, who sought to protect his duchy from large companies.

In the fifteenth century the castle was occupied by looters who held travelers to ransom. In 1470, it was taken by Pierre de Hagenbach in the name of Duke Charles the Bold; the latter is undertaking renovation and modernization work.

The lordship will return to the Müllenheim, but the time of the fortresses has passed the castle gradually falls into ruin.

In 1551, it was bought by Nicolas de Bolwiller, the governor of Innsbruck.

During the Thirty Years' War, the Swedes invaded Haute-Alsace, and Ortenbourg was set on fire and partially destroyed.

From 1710, the Choiseul family became the owner of the castle. It will remain so until the French Revolution.

In 1806, the castle was bought by Baron Mathieu-Faviers, who carried out major restoration work. Its ownership is transferred to the town of Scherwiller.

In 1924, it was classified as a historical monument. And from 1966, the town of Scherwiller continued to maintain the castle with the help of various associations.

The doctrines of conservation and safeguard posed during the diagnosis
Through the study prior to the restoration of the castle, a more general reflection was undertaken on the function, the use or the reuse of the ruins of fortified castles, which lack of important conservation-restoration work are sometimes threatened with disappearance. .

How to quickly save as many buildings as possible in a scientific way? The reflections of the “Heritage Interviews” which took place in Caen in November 1990 on the theme “Should we restore the ruins? ”Helped clarify the issues and define principles. The subjects discussed were the subject of a debate between officials, architects, associations and local authorities, without a priori on the problems of ruins in general: romantic ruin - symbolic ruin; preservation - readability; restitution - invention; reuse - reconstruction.

Four main principles emerged from the debates: respect for the most prestigious romantic ruins; integrate the “landscape” in the treatment of the ruins, which requires vigilance in the area around; sometimes accept a modification of the status of certain ruins through uses, more rarely well-organized reuse, involving a program and the will of the applicants; informing the public about restoration projects, the "communication" aspect still being clearly insufficient. To meet this expectation, it would suffice initially, for the sake of transparency of information, to publish the preliminary studies and generalize the publication of brochures presenting to the public, upstream, the proposals for the planned restoration work.


Defenses of Château de l'Ortenbourg

One of the unique features of Château de l'Ortenbourg is elegance of the its buildings. Unlike other medieval castles in France and overall Europe, this castle has wide and large windows that offered plenty of light inside the rooms. Wooden parts have rotten away, but it is easy to imagine large rooms with plenty of light and warmth from two fire places that are still visible. One of the reasons for such impractical design from the military point of view is its location. Château de l'Ortenbourg is well anchored on a strategic hill. Even walking here might be hard, but armed medieval troops certainly had much hard time reaching the base of the walls. Additionally underground structures and a maze of tunnels allowed small garrison of the castle to appear unexpectedly anywhere around the castle, strike and when subsequently retreat back inside. The main tower of Château de l'Ortenbourg or its dungeon, served as the last defensive line in case all of castle fell to the enemy.