Helfenstein Castle

Helfenstein Castle



Location: Geislingen an der Steige, Baden- Württemberg     Map

Constructed: 12th century by Eberhard von Helfenstein


Description of Helfenstein Castle

Helfenstein Castle stands in Geislingen an der Steige, Baden- Württemberg region of Germany. Helfenstein Castle was constructed in the 12th century by Eberhard von Helfenstein. The stronghold is perched on a mountain at an elevation of 610 meters above sea level. From here Counts of Helfenstein could control Fils Valley and an important trade route. Invention and wide use of firepower forced defenders to increase military fortifications to keep up with the growing offensive power. Eventually this medieval castle lost the competition. During Second Margrave War the castle fell in 1552 to armies of Margrave of Ansbach. The structure of the captured citadel was badly damaged. The walls and towers of Helfenstein Castle were eventually abandoned and rediscovered only by archeologists in the beginning of the 20th century. Expedition here worked on cleaning the forest under supervision of Georg Burkhardt between 1932 and 1938.



The castle was the ancestral seat of the Counts of Helfenstein, who came from the area and gained importance in connection with the Staufer emperors. After the establishment of territorial dominions, they owned a largely contiguous area around the cities of Geislingen, Heidenheim, Blaubeuren and Wiesensteig in the mid-14th century.

In 1382 the castle fell to the imperial city of Ulm as a pledge, which it bought in full in 1396. In adaptation to the development of firearms, the facility was then expanded and converted into a fortress. A bulwark was built on the ridge in the direction of the hamlet, and kennel walls with rondelles were built around the old castle complex. In addition, the terrace of the "Untere Wiesle" and the rocky projection of the Ödenturm were included in the defense system. The front castle around the two rocks was the seat of the bailiff provided by the Ulm guilds and was converted into a fortress against heavy artillery fire. The centerpiece was the towering “Darliß” as a turret. In the western part of the castle complex, the count's residential building (hall) was converted into a comfortable house for the patrician bailiff.

During the Second Margrave War, the castle fell into the hands of the Margrave of Ansbach, Albrecht Alcibiades of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, without a siege during Holy Week of 1552. However, in August of the same year the people of Ulm succeeded in forcing the enemy crew to return the facility after several days of bombardment - mainly with heavy stone balls.

After the reconquest, the people of Ulm razed their own fortress. Forest covered the ridge until the foundation walls were exposed again from 1932 to 1938 through an excavation under the direction of local historian Georg Burkhardt. Textual records from around 1550 about the buildings and the inventory of the castle made it easier to interpret the excavated remains. Pictorial representations based on the original building or even plans from the time of its existence have not survived.

All in all, remains of the fortification walls and some buildings from the earlier castle are still preserved, some of which have been restored. There are cisterns in the lower and upper courtyard.

Inside the mantle wall of the core fortress, a lookout point has been set up on a rock, which can be reached from the upper castle courtyard via stairs and a wooden bridge. A stone relief with the coat of arms of the Helfensteiners and a plaque commemorating the marriage of Count Ulrich V von Helfenstein to Duchess Marija Kotromanic of Bosnia, who lived at the castle from 1356 to 1396, are embedded in the wall of a former gatehouse of the main castle .

At the location of the former palace there is now a nine-meter-high rectangular observation tower with a castle tavern on the east side. From here you have a very good view of Geislingen an der Steige and the surrounding mountain ranges of the Swabian Alb.

Access to the castle
The castle complex can be reached barrier-free from a parking lot located below Weiler on the K 1441 district road via a farm road and a newer steel bridge that was built on the northeast corner of the castle. Further access is via footpaths on the west side and via the old wooden bridge on the south-east corner of the facility.

Additional info
From 1983 to 2012, the Helfenstein Festival, a music event (genre rock / punk), took place at the castle every year. The ruin has been an important sight on the Staufer road since 1997.