Burg Rotenhan

Burg Rotenhan


Location: 2 km (1.5 mi) North of Eyrichshof, Bavaria   Map

Constructed: 12th century


Description of Burg Rotenhan

Burg Rotenhan or Rotenhan Castle is situated 2 km (1.5 mi) North of village of Eyrichshof, Bavaria in Germany. Burg Rotenhan was constructed in the 12th century as a personal residence of Rotenhan family that served in the army of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The stronghold was cut in the mountain side with subsequent structures constructed on top of that. The family ran into some major miscommunications with the local Bishop of Würzburg, Wolfram Wolfskeel von Grumbach. The noble family was accused of counterfeiting money and thus breaking their feudal loyalty. It is hard to say whether it was a true accusation or merely an excuse, but the armies of the Bishop besieged and took the fortress. The military fortifications were demolished and abandoned ever since. Today only parts of Rotenhan stronghold that were cut from the mountain still remain intact.


The name Rotenhan is likely to derive from cleared Haag, Hain. Some researchers also consider a derivation from the Rodach river and an ancestral relationship between the von Rotenhan family and the family of the von Rodach family to be conceivable. The name certainly has nothing to do with the red rooster, which the sex uses as a crest.

Rotenhan family
Measured by their importance, the von Rotenhan family appears in the written sources unusually late: They were first mentioned in 1190 with Winther von Rotenhan. At this time, the headquarters that gave the company its name must have already existed. Rotenhan Castle was certainly originally owned (allod) by the family.

Originally the gender seems to have been related to the nearby Banz monastery near Staffelstein. The possibly formerly noble Rotenhan were contractually bound to servants of the Bamberg diocese or the bishopric in the High Middle Ages. Some bearers of the name also appear in the following of the Langheim monastery.

The structures that have been preserved, such as the pointed arch portal at the staircase, suggest that the castle should be expanded in the late Romanesque-early Gothic period.

Destroyed in 1323
In 1323, the Würzburg Bishop Wolfram Wolfskeel von Grumbach allegedly besieged Rotenhan Castle for about a year under the pretext of counterfeiting and felony. The Bamberg castle, located near the Würzburg town of Ebern, was probably a thorn in the flesh of the bishopric. The conflict appeared a few years earlier. In 1319 Wolfram von Rotenhan had to give his castle to the Würzburg monastery as a fief. At the same time, he was assigned payments for a castle hat.

After the conquest, the fortress was destroyed and according to the treaty of 1324 it could never be rebuilt. The von Rotenhan family later built their new residence at Schloss Eyrichshof am Berg below the castle. About 200 years later, the humanist Sebastian von Rotenhan examined the circumstances surrounding the fall of the family seat of his family. The lord of the castle Wolfram “stabbed the Stifft ettliche Leuth, took their cows and the Stifft Lehemann no longer wanted to dhinen…” (Archive Castle Rentweinsdorf).

With the submission to the Hochstift Würzburg, the family also lost the prestigious gift office of the Hochstift Bamberg. The victorious diocese of Würzburg initially tried to further damage the von Rotenhan family. However, King Ludwig the Bavarian stood up for the Rotenhan and asked the bishop to enfeoff the former lord of the castle Wolfram with the castle stables and some associated fields. In return, Wolfram von Rotenhan had to swear to defend the Würzburg monastery against his enemies. He was only allowed to remain neutral in a conflict with his old employer, the Bishop of Bamberg. In 1333, the Rotenhan also got their Würzburg fiefs at Holzhausen and Mechenried back.

The loss of the castle only weakened the family for a short time. The older main line still had extensive own property on the Baunach. The possessions in the Itztal already belonged to a branch line.

Some parts of Rotenhan Castle look unfinished. It is possible that the castle was besieged during an expansion phase and then destroyed. The advance, or perhaps factual, reason for the siege of counterfeiting indicates an increased financial need for the lords of the castle.

The ruin is one of the few real rock castles in Germany. Since the complex was destroyed in the 14th century, only small remains of the masonry can be seen.

The castle gained its importance mainly because of the unusually extensive inclusion of the natural rock bedrock in the construction. Five (previously possibly only four) mighty, closely spaced sandstone blocks were connected by walls.


The main gate was incorporated into the middle block on the southwest side. The well-known castle researcher Joachim Zeune only sees the side gate in this gate. He moves the main gate to the right of it in the space between the gate and the smaller southwest rock. Because of the considerable difference in level between the courtyard and this space and the shortness of the Torgasse, this is rather doubtful. A retracted cart would not have been able to turn here. In addition, the main gate would have been at the weakest point of the core castle. The spacious outer bailey makes such an elaborate double door system unnecessary. The lords of the castle are also likely to have been aware of their endangered position as Bamberg servants in the territory of the Würzburg monastery, which then led to the castle's demise. In the event of a siege, at least two additional men would have to be deployed to guard the main gate. The supposed side gate is wide and high enough to allow a loaded pack animal to pass through.

Double gate systems can be found in Central European castles from the early 14th century. Since Rotenhan Castle was destroyed as early as 1323, it could possibly be an unfinished early double gate system. However, such a facility would be rather unusual as an entrance to the main castle. Most of these driveways lead into the fortresses of the castles and palaces. A typical example from early modern times has been preserved in the valley below the ruins. Next to the main gate, a small side gate allows access to the manor district of Eyrichshof Palace.

A free reconstruction drawing from the 19th century shows a double gate system, but at that time the masonry of the rock castle had already been removed. In addition, the elaborate staircase in the gate building indicates a prominent room, perhaps the castle chapel. In many high medieval castles, the chapel was located above the main gate in order to give this weak point in the defense system additional "divine" protection. However, the final clarification of the gate situation remains reserved for a future, intensive castle-historical investigation.

In 1842, Georg Ludwig Lehnes reported in his history of the Baunach-Grund about a large cellar that could be driven into by car. This cellar could well have been in the column described next to the entrance to the outer bailey.

The staircase of the gate building was completely knocked out of the sandstone. The other boulders also show large-scale processing for foundation banks and a tank cistern. In the former castle courtyard, the brick well shaft has been preserved.

Down the slope the rock castle was evidently a spacious outer castle (wall remnants). The rubble walls indicate a stone outer wall or at least a foundation. The gate of the outer bailey seems to have been east of the crevice of the alleged main gate.

On the mountain side, the facility is surrounded by a flat neck ditch in the shape of a horseshoe. Here, on the northeastern rock, the last remains of the wall made of large, regular sandstone blocks have been preserved, but these have recently been reduced due to increasing vandalism on the rock castle.

Castle saga
The entrance to a buried cave can be seen under the southwest rock with the tank cistern. According to the castle legend, the wife of the lord of the castle found refuge here during the siege, but was buried. A hen was trapped with her, who laid an egg for the noblewoman every day and thus enabled her to survive. After their liberation, the family's new castle is said to have been built on the spot where the hen laid her first egg in freedom (Eyrichshof).

The castle ruins are a stop on the castle history educational trail in the Haßberge district. It has been identified by the Bavarian State Office for the Environment as geoscientifically particularly valuable geotope 674G001 and in 2006 it was awarded the official seal of approval “Bavaria's most beautiful geotopes”. The ruin was added to this list as the fifth property in Lower Franconia.

Because of its unusual construction and the impressive rock formations, the castle ruins are exposed to lively esoteric and occult tourism. In these circles, the complex is considered a prehistoric "world cultural site". Similar to the neighboring castle Lichtenstein, the castle is placed on a par with facilities such as the Externstein or even Stonehenge. Rotenhan Castle, however, is clearly a high medieval castle complex. There are no reliable indications for an earlier use of the place as a pagan place of worship and sacrifice, but of course it cannot be definitively ruled out.