Auerbach Castle

Auerbach Castle



Location: Hesse   Map

Construction: started in 1222

First owner: Diether IV of Katzenelnbogen

Official site


Description of Auerbach Castle

Auerbach Castle is located in the Southern Hesse region in Germany. The original Auerbach Castle was constructed on the site by Emperor Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1222 it was completely reconstructed by Diether IV of the Katzenelnbogen dynasty. During the Thirty Years' War the Auerbach Castle was badly damaged, greatly undermining its military role. Its last straw was Franco-Dutch War (1672–1679), when in 1674 French Marshal Turenne stormed the military citadel killing civilians that looked for safety inside its ruins. Military fortifications of the Auerbach Castle fell in disrepair. It underwent renovations in the late 1980's and open to the public.



Auerbach was first mentioned as Urbach in the Lorsch Codex “Laureshamensis” around 784. The centuries after that lie in the dark of history. Through the marriage of Hildegard von Henneberg, parts of the Bergstrasse came to Heinrich II. Von Katzenelnbogen around 1135, who was given over by King Konrad III in 1138. was raised to count. Auerbach now belonged to the County of Katzenelnbogen with the main town of Katzenelnbogen. The County of Katzenelnbogen was divided into the Lower County of Katzenelnbogen, located on the Rhine around Sankt Goar, and the Upper County of Katzenelnbogen, located in southern Hesse.

The castle was built in the 13th century by the County of Katzenelnbogen. Probably from 1222 onwards, the Auerbach Castle was built on the Auerberg (Urberg) by Count Diether IV. Von Katzenelnbogen. The plan for the construction of an impregnable castle complex - a stronghold - for the Katzenelnbogischen properties south of the Main and to secure the road toll on the important north-south connection along the mountain road through Zwingenberg had matured for a long time. The suitable location was the tip of the "small Melibokus" (or Mal (s) chen), the Auerberg (Urberg) above Auerbach (Urbach). In the following years the most important fortress in the Upper County of Katzenelnbogen was built. The first documented mention of the castle on the Urberg dates from 1247 and the first document that was made on the Urberg from 1257.

The chapel "Zur Not Gottes" was originally one in the 11./12. The hermitage was built in the 18th century next to a source in the valley between Melibokus and Auerberg, which is considered to be medicinal. In the first half of the 13th century, the builders of Auerbach Castle built a place of pilgrimage next to the hermitage, "To the Einsiedeln", which was renamed in 1452 to "In need of God".

In 1479 the County of Katzenelnbogen and with it the Auerbach Castle fell to the Landgraviate of Hesse due to inheritance, through the death of the last Count Philip I the Elder. In the 16th century, the castle lost more and more of its strategic importance, as more powerful, in particular more far-reaching, weapons and artillery lost their impregnable effect. In the period that followed, only the population of the neighboring towns of Zwingenberg and Auerbach sought dubious protection within their walls. Even in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) it was no longer used for military purposes and an old chronicle says "At the Auerberg House (Auerbach Castle) nothing is left, but everything was burned and taken away by soldiers in 1634". In 1674, during the Franco-Dutch War (1672 to 1679), the castle was stormed by an army under the French Marshal Turenne, a massacre committed among those seeking protection and the castle grounds set on fire. In 1693 again, mainly French troops under General Lorges, moved to and through the Bergstrasse. The devastation caused on the castle was so bad that the Auerbach Castle was left behind as the ruin as we know it today. Anything that was not nailed down was used in the village and taken from the castle.

The abandoned castle complex was subsequently left to decay.

In 1820 the north tower of the main castle collapsed. As a result, the partial reconstruction and securing of the ruins began, which continues to the present day. The north tower was rebuilt in a slightly different form; it was more similar to the south tower that was still in its original form. The area of ​​the maiden Zwinger was also restored accordingly.

In 1888 an inn was built in the forecourt of the main castle, which was open all year round.

From the 1950s on, the south tower was no longer accessible because the wooden staircase was no longer safe.

In 1989 a new building was started to become a panoramic restaurant, which was opened in 1990 and further increased the attractiveness of the castle ruins. The restaurant specializes in medieval gastronomy.

Every year on April 30th the Walpurgis Night takes place. In the summer months there is a cultural highlight in the open-air theater in the castle courtyard.

In 2007 the staircase in the south tower was renewed and made accessible to the public again.


The Katzenelnbogen family was already involved in viticulture on the Bergstrasse. In 1258 the Grafenweinberg is documented below the castle, and in 1318 the vineyard Reuchte. In 1410 the grape variety was named "Urbergen Wyne".

Today the vineyards at the foot of the Auerberg are part of the "Auerbacher Rott" area of ​​the Hessische Bergstrasse wine-growing region.

The triangular shape of the core castle is still clearly recognizable in today's ruins. The kitchen building, the castle man's apartment, the stables and the forge leaned against the wall between the north and south towers, facing the inner courtyard. In the shield wall between the north and former east towers, the former entrance to the inner castle was protected by a keep. Between the east and south towers, the Palas, with its basement and three storeys and the former castle chapel, leans against the wall towards the inner courtyard.

The main castle is surrounded by a circular wall that encloses the inner or maiden kennel. The front courtyard, or kennel, is surrounded by another curtain wall. On the south side of this circular wall is the entrance to the castle complex, which is protected by an outside kennel with a left wing wall and leads downhill in a north-easterly direction to the former gatehouse (no longer available). The castle complex was protected from the north-eastern mountain ridge, the only flat access to the Urberg, by a deep moat with a drawbridge.

On October 18, 1356, a huge earthquake shook the Upper Rhine Rift. The keep collapsed and fell on the eastern and southeastern facilities.

In the years that followed, around 1370, huge renovation and expansion measures began at Auerbach Castle. The keep was demolished, the entrance to the main castle relocated and the northern shield wall closed and raised. The entrance to the main castle is now on its south corner, protected by the south tower and inner kennel. In place of the east tower, a bastion, a four-meter-thick, quarter-circle-shaped wall construction, was built. The bastion, the first of its kind in Germany, was supposed to protect the castle from stone guns from the north-eastern, only accessible direction. Presumably the north and south towers were also raised.

The "Feste Urberg" was thus expanded by the Counts of Katzenelnbogen into one of the most modern castle complexes of its time.

In the eastern corner of the inner courtyard is the castle fountain, which was carved 62 m deep into the rock.

On a shield wall of the castle complex stands a more than 300-year-old, approximately seven-meter-high Scots pine. The undemanding plant takes root on the building at a lofty height and covers part of its water requirements through the air humidity, which condenses on the needles and drips to the ground. Due to the very poor living conditions, the tree has remained relatively small and looks like a bonsai that has grown too big.

The pine is one of the most distinctive tree shapes in Germany and in 1988 graced the fifth edition of the eight-part collection plate series Uralte Giant, which the artist Ernst Wetteroth designed with the expert advice of Hans Joachim Fröhlich.

Visiting the castle complex is free of charge. Since the spring of 2007, the southern tower has also been open to the public again after extensive restoration.

In an online survey carried out by Hessischer Rundfunk in 2009, Auerbach Castle was voted the most popular building in Hesse. In second place came the King's Hall of the Lorsch Monastery, about eight kilometers away.