Fortress Marienberg (Festung Marienberg)

Fortress Marienberg


Location: Würzburg, Bavaria  Map

Constructed: 1631 by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden

Tel. (0931) 355 1750


History of Fortress Marienberg

Fortress Marienberg or Festung Marienberg stands in Würzburg, Bavaria region of Germany. Fortress Marienberg was found in 1631 by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. However first human settlement dates back to the Bronze Age. In the early 8th century it was a site of a small fortress of Franconian- Thuringian tribe chieftain. Saint Mary's Church or Marienkirche was erected here about the same time (AD 704). In the 13th century it was further increased in size and defenses. In 1253 the castle was transformed into a private residence of the prince- bishop of Wurzburg. In May 1525 the German Peasants' War or Bauernkrieg hit the walls of the structure. A peasant army with a total of 15,000 people laid a siege to a fortress. Ironically Bishop Konrad II von Thungen fleed his private residence just before the attack. Army of the Swabian League surrounded a peasant army that camped out under the walls and towers. They slaughtered over 8,000 people in a single day of a battle. During Thirty Years' War Fortress Fort was captured by Johann Philipp von Schonborn who led Swedish armies. After the capture Fortress Marienberg was badly damaged so it had to be reconstructed in Baroque architectural style.


The fortress was built on a mountain tongue on the left side of the Main about 100 meters above the river. The west side is the only flat side of the mountain. On the north side are the gardens and allotments that were laid out in the course of the State Horticultural Show in 1990. The other two mountain slopes are vineyards. The small slope on the eastern flank of the castle is the Schlossberg, on the southern flank the Inner Bar.

Fortified settlements were probably located here as early as the Late Bronze Age (Urnfield Culture) and the Early Iron Age (Hallstatt Age). After the Great Migration, the Franks came in the 6th century. At the beginning of the 8th century, the Marienkirche, the oldest church in Würzburg, was built, in which the Würzburg bishops were initially buried, as the tombstones testify to. Below the fortress facing the Main is the town's oldest church in the valley, St. Burkard.

The fortress has been rebuilt several times in the course of history. The oldest surviving parts are from 704 (small Marienkirche).

Around 1200 a castle complex with a keep and deep well was built, the Palais des Konrad von Querfurt. From 1253 to 1719 Marienberg Fortress was the residence of the Würzburg prince-bishops.

Peasants' War
In 1525, during the Peasants' War, the Marienberg Fortress was defeated without success. For the supporters of Bishop Konrad II von Thüngen, the fortress remained a retreat in the otherwise devastated Diocese of Würzburg, until troops of the Swabian League and an army of the bishop returning from exile defeated the poorly organized farmers. The rebellious farmers suffered a heavy defeat at the gates of the city of Würzburg.

The fortress commander during the siege by the peasants was Provost Margrave Friedrich von Brandenburg (1497–1536). He commanded 18 squads, which were distributed according to plan on different sections of the fortress, in addition, he kept an intervention reserve with him. Rotenhan pulled the troops together from the castle garrisons of Werneck, Rothenfels, Homburg and Karlburg in good time. There were a total of 400 people at the fortress, of which a little over 240 were capable of carrying weapons. The prominent people included Count Wolf von Castell, Canon Hans von Lichtenstein, Canon Melchior Zobel von Giebelstadt, Hans von Grumbach, Otto Groß, Sigmund Fuchs, Hainz von Stein, Wolf von Fulbach, Matern von Vestenberg, Werner von Stetten, Sebastian Geyer, Lorenz von Hutten, Wendel von Lichtenstein, Andreas Stein von Altenstein, Georg Wemckdinger, Barthel Truchseß, Götz von Thüngen and Philipp Bernheimer. The war council included the court master Sebastian von Rotenhan, Philipp von Herbilstadt, Eustachius and Bernhard von Thüngen, Carl Zöllner, Friedrich von Schwarzenberg, Hans von Bibra and Silvester von Schaumberg. Also present were dean Johann von Guttenberg, Konrad von Bibra and other Würzburg canons.

A small memorial near Tellsteige on the slope of the Marienberg Fortress reminds of the farmers' heaps and their concerns. Tilman Riemenschneider is said to have sided with the peasants as a member of the city council and was therefore imprisoned at Marienberg Fortress for six weeks after the uprising collapsed. The historic Hof zum Stachel inn in Gressengasse was a meeting place for the revolting citizens and farmers at the time and was recognizable as a pub sign for the initiated on the Morgenstern (Stachelkugel).

Siege in the German Peasants' War

During the German Peasant War in 1525 there were widespread uprisings of the common man in the Würzburg monastery, in which some representatives of the (lower) nobility also took part, for example Count Georg von Wertheim. The then incumbent Prince-Bishop of Würzburg, Konrad II von Thüngen, had already fled on May 6, 1525 when the rebellious peasants approached the city (the peasants had already looted his ancestral castle in Thüngen). The city of Würzburg joined the uprising on May 8 and 9, 1525. On the part of the Würzburgers, the "Häcker" (wine-growing workers) and the "security guard" set up by Würzburg citizens took part: "... which initially prevented a lot of mischief, but then took part in the plunder itself." that the pauern ufruhr most parts of the uss the constant khome ... ”“ In Würzburg alone 63 castles were demolished. ”In addition, 31 monasteries in the Hochstift Würzburg were plundered, including the monasteries Ober- and Unterzell and Himmelspforten. Today's estimates assume around 15,000 besiegers. The contemporary Würzburg city clerk Martin Cronthal estimated the number of attackers at 38,000. The attacking commanders included Florian Geyer and Götz von Berlichingen. Sebastian von Rotenhan, as the commander of the Marienberg, had 240 to 250 able-bodied men under his command to defend this last castle in the bishopric, which he divided into 18 squads. Each of these squads had to provide 4 men as tactical reserves.

The area to be defended was approx. 45 m × 100 m, with the long side very close to the east-west axis and the broad side on the north-south axis. The current designation "fortress" is not technically correct for the development of the facility at that time. At this point in time it was rather a "castle". It was a concentric fortification system that lay on the ridge of a hill and had slopes sloping down on three sides and could only be reached more or less at ground level from the west. In the middle of the area was the still standing keep with a height of approx. 40 m, which was surrounded by a rectangular ring wall with the above dimensions, which was also the castle complex. This circular wall (= castle complex) was in turn surrounded by a wall with the original name "Wolfskeelscher Bering", later called Scherenbergring. (Each named after the prince-bishops Otto II. Von Wolfskeel 1333-1345 and Rudolf II. Von Scherenberg 1466-1495, who were responsible for buildings.) The Scherenbergring, with its round towers, was at the level of weapon technology and offered better resistance than outdated, angular ones against fire from heavy weapons Towers and at the same time enabled the defenders to line the area in front of it with appropriate loopholes without the attacking troops being able to operate in blind spots undisturbed.

The geographical weak point (to the west) was protected by the Scherenberg Gate, which still exists today, and a ditch in front of it.

The forward-looking (cartographer) Sebastian von Rotenhan had started preparing for the defense early on. It is said that on April 20, 1525 the mayor and some councilors of the city of Würzburg presented themselves on the Marienberg to inquire about the reason for these measures. A visible element of this readiness to defend was above all the deforestation of the slopes and a pleasure garden in the northeastern area of ​​the site that no longer exists today. A palisade wall was built from this wood outside the Scherenbergring. In addition, additional loopholes were broken into walls and towers. Among the elements of this readiness to defend that are not visible from the outside are above all the ammunition of the castle with "fireworks" (pitch and sulfur) and the breaking of connecting corridors within the castle grounds, which later allowed the defenders to defend the defenders much faster in the event of an alarm To reach points of the castle or to strengthen them with additional forces. (Comparable to modern paratrooper tactics, for example during the siege of Bastogne in December 1944.) Sebastian von Rotenhan had alarm bells set in all directions for this purpose. Further measures were the conversion of the "Ratsstube" (to the north) and the "Haferboden" (to the east) into gun emplacements.


The actual siege began with troop movements on May 13, 1525: First, the fortress area was enclosed. In the north, coming from the Mainviertel from Zell, the Karlstadt farmers camped, who were later reinforced by the Odenwälder Haufen. In the west, in Höchberg, the Odenwälder (Lichte) Haufen had been encamped since May 7th. In the south of the Black Heap, Florian Geyer's troops, coming from Heidingsfeld and Eibelstadt. The Main runs in the east below the Marienberg, and parts of the city of Würzburg lie on the other side of the Main. The demand for the surrender of the fortress and other conditions (acceptance of the Twelve Articles of the Peasants; 100,000 guilders; razing of the facility) were rejected.

On May 14, 1525, at 4 a.m. from Nikolausberg to the south, fire was opened on Marienberg fortress. Additional (urban) artillery was erected to the southeast near St. Burkhard below the fortress. However, the peasant artillery only managed to damage the outer picket fence because the shooting distance (approx. 550 m) was too great for the field snakes used at the time. The potentially dangerous "Rothenburg Gun" was not brought by the farmers in time. The crew of the Marienberg Fortress did not allow themselves to be provoked and instead opened fire on the Main Bridge at around 6 a.m. to disrupt this connection line. Further targets of the fortress artillery were the German House (to the north) and the Judenplatz (to the east / today marketplace) in order to dissolve the crowds in these areas. The Main could only be crossed by the farmers and townspeople using a wooden pontoon, which was erected below the Main Bridge in response to the bombardment.

The shelling caused considerable material damage in the city and became a psychological burden. The farmers decided on May 15 for a nightly surprise attack on the important cannon position on the main side of the fortress to “try to see if one wanted to tear the entrenchment against the place and the sockets behind it.” The picket fence fell, but the defenders held their ground with firearms, pitch and sulfur, stones and boiling water. Most of the fighting probably took place in the north-eastern part of the defense system ("gein der Täle" = hollow path from the city beginning in the area of ​​the Main Bridge up to the fortress). However, Martin Cronthal also reports of dead in the (neck) ditch that was "cut to pieces and buried in it" facing west. Given the mass of attackers, it is obvious that there was fighting around the entire defense system. The noise of the fight could be heard as far as the city. There was a general mood among the citizens that one should not let the “Christian brothers” perish in such a “way”. Nobody from the city dared to stand by the attackers, however, because the night was "pitch black" and the "story" was so big.

During a second storm, the farmers managed to take parts of the courtyard enclosure for a short time (today the Echterscher Vorhof with horse troughs). However, they were quickly thrown back. However, this was by no means a militarily sensitive area, which was also not part of the core area, but merely an enclosure for a coal store and accommodation for 21 craftsmen and other workers. Even if the farmers had been able to hold their position, the neck ditch, the barrier wall and the curtain wall would still have to be overcome and that from a position that was permanently under fire and could only be reached via long and easily disruptive supply routes. A total of around 200 farmers were killed in these attacks.

After the failed storms, the farmers built two entrenchments in the area of ​​the “Tael”, but they could not develop any offensive potential and only insufficient protection against the gun emplacements laid out by Rotenhan in the east (“Haferboden”) and north (“Ratsstube”) of the Fortress grounds. The exact timing of the quickly abandoned attempt by some farmers in the St. Burkhard area to dig a tunnel into the Marienberg and to blow it up cannot be determined.


On May 18, 1525, the farmers tried again with additional guns from Nikolausberg to shoot the fortress ready for a storm. This time von Rotenhan returned fire and smeared the opposing positions with such intensity that their attendants had to take cover to such an extent that it was not possible for the farmers to continue the duel. The siege ended on May 23 with the withdrawal of the Neckartaler and Odenwälder heaps and the subsequent desertion of Götz von Berlichingen on May 28, 1525.

However, the actual escalation of violence did not begin until after the failed siege, when the relief army of the Swabian Confederation, led by Bauernjörg, arrived in the region. On June 2, 1525 there was a battle against approx. 7,000 farmers near Königshofen (approx. 30 km south-southwest of Würzburg), in which approx. 6,000 farmers were killed. The enormous failure rate of 85% on the part of the farmers resulted from a combination of weak leadership and the breaking of tactical discipline. Despite a favorable spatial starting position in the face of the enemy, the peasants moved haphazardly backwards and were gutted by the enemy cavalry. On June 4th, 1525 the events of Königshofen near Giebelstadt (approx. 15 km south of Würzburg) were repeated. A rural army of 4,000 to 5,000 men was wiped out here. [24]

Modern times
After a fire (triggered by Prince-Bishop Friedrich von Wirsberg) on ​​February 22, 1572, parts of the castle and the court library had been destroyed, the new Prince-Bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn began redesigning the center of prince-bishopric power in the Würzburg Monastery from 1573. operated as a renaissance castle, which has been preserved in its former form and which helps shape the silhouette of the city of Würzburg. Initially, repairs were carried out on the prince's building on the city side, and from 1575 the architect Georg Robin from Ypres advised the prince-bishop on the reconstruction of the west wing, the old armory and the inner castle. In 1579, Julius Echter had his new library, which later became famous, set up in the south wing.

The castle presented itself as a four-wing Renaissance palace complex with 17 gable gables (which disappeared again in the 19th century) after the north wing with the Marienkirche and the fountain house were restored after another fire from 1601 to 1607 according to plans by the Nuremberg architect Jakob Wolff.

During the Thirty Years' War the Swedes under Gustav II Adolf conquered the fortress on October 18, 1631. The conversion to a baroque fortress was only made by the Frankish prince-bishops who returned after the expulsion of the Swedes.

Prince-Bishop Johann Philipp von Schönborn (1642–1673) and his successors had numerous other military fortifications and bastions built. A total of twelve kilometers of walls were built.

The new gate was completed by Johann Philipp Preuss in 1652/1653 as a “new” entrance to the prince-bishop's palace. The rich ornamental and figurative decoration of the sandstone fronts probably comes from Zacharias Juncker the Elder. J., however, was largely renewed in the 20th century. The Neutor shows motifs relating to the ruler's government, such as allusions to the Peace of Westphalia that took place a few years earlier with Johann Philipp von Schönborn.

Next to the keep inside the castle there is a well house, in which the 102 meter deep fortress well is located. It was excavated around 1200 and is fed by two springs and seepage water. The well is bricked to a depth of 75 meters and then carved into the rock. The shaft has an average diameter of two meters at the top and widens to four meters at the bottom. Up to 1600 the water was pumped with a winch and a pedal bike.

The prince's garden was first mentioned in 1523 and was essentially laid out by Johann Philipp von Schönborn (1605–1673). At that time it was still a medieval-style garden. From 1699 to 1719 it received its present form under Prince-Bishop Johann Philipp von Greiffenclau zu Vollraths. The figures were originally created by Jakob von der Auwera. Today there are replicas here.


Johann Philipp von Greiffenclau had already started further restoration work on the prince-bishop's palace at the beginning of his tenure in 1699. The Marienkirche, which served as the palace chapel, was refurbished. In the meantime, the (acanthus) stucco work of the rooms in the bishop’s apartment, which in some cases was overly richly decorated, was created by the Swiss Franciscan Kilian Staufer and the Lombard Giovanni Pietro Magno (1655 - around 1723) with his assistant Giovanni Battista Clerici (1673–1736) (The Remains a decoration created by Pietro Magno have been preserved in the southern pavilion of the Fürstengarten). The gate of the Ravelins “Teutschland”, which was probably built in 1708 by Andreas Müller (1667–1720), is called “Äusses Höchberger Tor” and has cannon-shaped column shafts with relief depictions of Saints John and Philip, the namesake of the Prince-Bishop.

The Maschikuliturm was built from 1724.

Maria Renata Singer von Mossau was held as a prisoner at the Marienberg Fortress, she is considered the last Franconian victim of the witch burns.

In the Main Campaign in 1866, the Prussian army took the Marienberg, which served as a royal Bavarian fortress, under fire. The shelling triggered a violent fire on the Marienberg, but the Bavarian fortress artillery was able to return fire effectively, and the Marienberg remained undefeated until the armistice, which was concluded on the same day as the first bombardment (July 26, 1866).

In 1871 the fortress housed over 5000 French prisoners of war. Also in 1917 there were around 80 French, Russian and English officers as prisoners there.

On April 30, 1933, a camp for voluntary labor service opened at Marienberg Fortress, which initially accepted 200 unemployed people placed by the employment office. The National Socialists used the castle as an "SA relief agency camp whose important social and educational task is to retrain unemployed young SA comrades". The Marienberg court has become “a celebration of the community spirit”.

Under the Lord Mayor Theo Memmel, supported by the Bavarian Prime Minister Ludwig Siebert, extensive renovation measures were carried out on the Marienberg Fortress.

In 1938, the city history museum opened on the fortress and the Institute for Student History and University Studies, sponsored by the German Student Union and the Reich Student Council.

During the bombing of Würzburg on March 16, 1945, the fortress was badly damaged and was rebuilt from 1950 onwards.

Outer courtyard
There are other buildings around the outer courtyard, including the new armory designed by Andreas Müller and built between 1704 and 1712 on the esplanade in front of the Echter Bastion. The castle is surrounded by several bastions and other gates, on its south side in the vineyards is the Maschikuliturm, a four-storey battery tower that was built in 1728 by Balthasar Neumann. A rare perspective of the fortress is shown in the picture View of the Marienberg Fortress by Erich Heckel, which is exhibited in the museum in the Kulturspeicher near the Würzburg pictures.

Inner courtyard
The mountain height was already around 1000 BC. Inhabited by the Celts in the 6th century, the Franks took possession of the hill. The first St. Mary's Church was built around 706; the Merovingian rotunda, which was later rebuilt several times, is one of the oldest buildings in Germany. The church is located in the inner courtyard, which also houses the octagonal well and the round keep, built around 1200. It was then that Bishop Konrad I of Querfurt began to fortify the castle.

The castle surrounding the castle courtyard is bordered on three sides by towers, the Randersackerer Turm (sun tower) in the southeast, the Marienturm in the northeast and the Kiliansturm in the northwest. On the Marienturm there is the same image of Maria in a halo as on the tower of the Marienkapelle on the market (in line of sight). The inner courtyard is accessed through the Scherenberg gate. Around 1500, the "Bibra staircase" commissioned by Prince-Bishop Lorenz von Bibra was built as access to the bishop's apartment in the prince's building and in 1511 the new stair tower was completed. From 1572 onwards, Prince-Bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn initiated large-scale new buildings and renovations in the Renaissance style. Between the Scherenberg Gate and the Museum for Franconia is the outer portal of the Echter Bastion with the Echtertor, completed in 1606, above which a statue of the Archangel Michael, the “Imperial Patron and Guardian Angel of the Counter Reformation”, is attached.

Prince's garden

The Fürstengarten is a viewing platform with a garden at the eastern end of the fortress on a former gun platform. It was built from 1650 to 1700 in the style of the hidden Renaissance gardens of Italy ("giardini secreti") by Elector Johann Philipp von Schönborn. It can be reached from the innermost courtyard next to the fortress church. It is geometrically arranged with fountains, flower beds and pavilions.

Use today
The fortress now houses the Museum for Franconia with the Princely Building Museum. In addition, there are several restaurants (the castle restaurants) with event rooms and some apartments that are rented out by the Bavarian Palace and Garden Administration.

Parking area
After the State Garden Show in 1990, the State Garden Show Park was created within the extensive fortifications that extend as far as the Main. This also includes the garden by the Friedensbrücke, named after Philipp Franz von Siebold.

Monument protection
The building complex is a monument.
The description reads:
"Marienberg 239; Marienberg 240; Marienberg 241;
Marienberg Fortress
In front of the fortress: Maschikuliturm
Near fortress; Oberer Burgweg 2: Marienberg Fortress

Celtic ring wall in the 1st millennium BC BC, Franconian-Thuringian ducal fort since the early 8th century, expansion into an episcopal castle since the beginning of the 13th century, reinforced in the 14th and 15th centuries. Under Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn (1573–1617) it was converted into an episcopal residential palace. Expansion into a fortress under Elector Johann Philipp von Schönborn and his successors through extensive bastion fortifications from 1650. Restoration 1936–1939. Reconstruction since 1945.
Main castle: extensive square with corner towers, the wings in the core medieval, before and around 1600 by Georg Robin, Wolf Behringer and Jakob Wolff d. Ä. renewed;

In the courtyard:
Marienkirche, early Romanesque rotunda with rectangular choir around 1600; with equipment;
Free-standing keep, 12th century;
Fountain house, around 1600;
The main castle is enclosed on three sides by a tower-reinforced, medieval ring, and in the west the Scherenberg gate;
On the east side of the baroque prince's garden, around 1650.

Outer bailey: three-wing complex with real bastion, around 1600;
Portal by Michael Kern, 1605;
Horse pond. Armory and commanders' building, two-wing complex surrounding a second forecourt, 1709–1713 with the collaboration of Joseph Greissing (seat of the Mainfränkisches Museum).
Fortifications in the Vauban system approx. 1650 - approx. 1730 by Michael Kaut, Johann Fernauer, Johann Philipp Preiß, Wilhelm Schneider, Giovanni Domenico Fontana, Andreas Müller, Maximilian von Welsch, Balthasar Neumann
With the following bastions: Caesar, St. Johann Nepomuk, St. Johann Baptist, St. Nikolaus, Mars, Bellona, ​​Werda, St. Sebastian, St. Michael,
As well as the outer works: Franconia, Reichsravelin, Teutschland, Teufelsschanze, Höllenschlund and the Maschikuliturm.

Neutor, 1652/1653;
Schönborntor, 1649;
inner Höchberger Tor, 1684;
outer Höchberger Tor, 1708;
between the bastions vineyard walls, dry stone walls, 17th / 18th centuries century