Location: Kulmbach, Bavaria Map

Constructed: 1135


Plassenburg Castle stands overlooking a town of Kulmbach in Bavaria region of Germany. The citadel was constructed in 1135.


The Plassenburg was first mentioned in 1135 when Count Berthold II of Andechs, who probably had it built, described himself as "comes de Plassenberch". Research disputes whether the Koppenhof, which was named after its owner Hans Kopp in the 16th century and a former Maierhof of the Guttenberg family, was a predecessor, the Altenplassenburg, which was supposedly destroyed in the first quarter of the 14th century . A pig enclosure from the 17th century, located in the Buchwald approx. 1300 meters east of the Plassenburg, and a hunting garden of Margrave Christian are repeatedly misinterpreted as castle ruins in this context. Initially, the Plassenburg was a central support for the Meran rulers on the Upper Main and in the Franconian Forest. In 1158 the Lords of Plassenberg are mentioned as ministerials at the castle.

Among the mouths of the organs
After the death of the last Andechs-Meranier, Duke Otto VIII, his brother-in-law shared his inheritance. The Plassenburg with Kulmbach, Berneck, Goldkronach, Wirsberg, Trebgast and Pretzendorf (today Himmelkron) fell to Count Hermann III. and Otto III. from Orlamünde. The two sons of Hermann II († 1247) and Beatrix von Andechs Meranien initially appeared together as masters of the Plassenburg. After 1278 they shared the inheritance of their father, whereupon Otto III. was in the sole possession of the rule Plassenburg and the area around Weimar. Otto III. died in 1285 and the Plassenburg was soon in the hands of his son Otto IV. His son, Count Otto VI. von Orlamünde, who as the only Orlamünder since 1323 referred to himself as "Lord of Plassenburg", pledged the rule with the Plassenburg, Kulmbach, Trebgast and Berneck in 1338 to the burgrave Johann II of Nuremberg. Thus the Plassenburg fell after Otto VI. Death in 1340 to the burgraves of Nuremberg from the Hohenzollern family.

Under the Hohenzollern
Gradually, the Plassenburg developed into a new center of power for the Hohenzollerns. At the time of Burgrave Friedrich V of Nuremberg (1357-1397), the Plassenburg had already overtaken Cadolzburg - one of the traditional burggrave places of residence. In 1397, Burgrave Friedrich V resigned from government and chose the Plassenburg as his retirement home. The Zoller territory in Franconia was according to the Dispositio Fridericiana of 1385 under his sons Johann III. and Frederick VI, the later Elector Frederick I of Brandenburg. This made the Plassenburg the center of power of the so-called principality ob dem Gebirg, later the margraviate of Brandenburg-Kulmbach. After the death of Johann III. in 1420 his inheritance fell to his brother Friedrich, who in 1421 created the office of "captain above the mountains" as his governor. The Plassenburg remained the administrative center of the Upper Mountain Principality until after the middle of the 16th century.

With the internment of Margravine Barbara von Brandenburg in March 1493, the sad chapter of Plassenburg began as a family prison. It reached its climax when Margrave Kasimir zu Brandenburg had his father, Margrave Friedrich II locked up in a tower room in Plassenburg in February 1515, which he could not leave for twelve years. After Frederick's release, his younger son, Margrave Georg the Pious of Brandenburg, began building the Plassenburg into a fortress in 1530. In around ten years of construction, three mighty cannon rondels were built, among which the Hohe Bastei was unparalleled in the German-speaking area.

After Georg's nephew, Margrave Albrecht Alcibiades zu Brandenburg, took over the government in the Principality of Brandenburg-Kulmbach in 1541, the expansion of the Plassenburg to a pure state fortress increased. Therefore, he moved the residence to Bayreuth for the first time in 1542 (Markgraftum Bayreuth). Around 1550 the margrave employed an Italian master builder with 150 Italian masons, who built three modern Italian bastions in the trenches of the Plassenburg. Armed in this way, the Plassenburg withstood the seven-month siege in the Second Margrave War, which ended on June 21, 1554 with the surrender of the fortress. Four months after the fortress was handed over, on October 21, 1554, the federal estates began to destroy the Plassenburg: the fortifications were blown up or brought to the fore with a Nuremberg screw, the buildings set alight and the wells poisoned.


After emergency safety measures in 1557, Albrecht's cousin and heir, Margrave Georg Friedrich the Elder, had Ä. zu Brandenburg begin with the reconstruction of the Plassenburg under the direction of the master builder Georg Beck from Amberg. The plans for the Renaissance architecture, which still characterizes the Plassenburg today, came from Caspar Vischer, whom Margrave Georg Friedrich hired as the lead architect for the reconstruction of the Plassenburg. By 1575 the residential buildings around the "Schönen Hof" were already largely completed. Work on the fortifications continued until 1607. Although Margrave Georg Friedrich mostly resided in Ansbach and had the old castle in Bayreuth rebuilt in the Renaissance style, the Plassenburg was also rebuilt as a fortified castle.

Castle chapel
Soon after the start of construction, Duke Christoph von Württemberg had sent his brother-in-law Georg Friedrich the builder Aberlin Tretsch, who was in charge of the construction of the Old Palace in Stuttgart and thus also the castle chapel there, to Kulmbach in 1563. He was supposed to assess the progress of construction on the Plassenburg and influenced the planning of the castle church, which, like its model in Stuttgart, was built as a transept church. The evangelical spatial concept, which was new compared to medieval churches, envisaged a wall section in the middle of the nave as the location of the pulpit - i.e. the place where God's word was proclaimed. The Protestant doctrine and liturgy put the word of God at the center of the divine service and thus also the spatial planning that led to the concept of the transept church, which was first carried out in 1543 in the Protestant castle chapel in Neuburg an der Donau and then in 1544 in the Torgau castle chapel, by Martin Luther inaugurated personally, and in 1562 it was consistently applied in Aberlin Jörg's palace chapel in Stuttgart's old palace based on Luther's understanding of worship. The shell of the castle chapel of the Plassenburg was completed by 1569 at the latest. In 1574/75, Margrave Georg Friedrich had the church interior vaulted. The result was a large, simple and hall-like church interior with a simple, high and unpainted wooden gallery. The first major renovation took place around 50 years later under Margrave Christian zu Brandenburg (* 1581 † 1655). The conception of a transept church was probably given up back then.

Younger margrave lines
After the old Franconian Hohenzollern and Margrave Georg Friedrich died out in 1603, the Margraves Christian zu Brandenburg and Joachim Ernst zu Brandenburg, two sons of Elector Johann Georg von Brandenburg, founded the younger Franconian lines of the Margraves of Brandenburg-Kulmbach and Brandenburg-Ansbach. Margrave Christian moved the residence again from Kulmbach to Bayreuth, but stayed at the Plassenburg frequently during the Thirty Years' War. This and the city of Kulmbach at its feet were besieged twice during the Thirty Years' War. In September 1632 the fortress was surrounded by Wallenstein's troops. The fortress commander Hans Christoph Muffel responded to a surrender request on September 21 with the thunder of cannons. In autumn 1634 the city of Kulmbach was taken by the imperial sergeant-general Lamboy after a short battle. The Plassenburg turned out to be impregnable both times.

However, due to the succession of the two brothers from Berlin - from Cölln an der Spree to be precise - the family's powerful Franconian home country had become two secundogenitures of the Brandenburg Hohenzollern. The finances that were only available to a limited extent were hardly sufficient for the maintenance of the Plassenburg Fortress, let alone for further expansion. After the Thirty Years' War, the Plassenburg, which had not developed in the Renaissance period, was soon out of date. After all, Margrave Friedrich had the commanders' building in the lower courtyard redesigned in Baroque style in 1744 and Margrave Alexander built the small and large barracks between 1782 and 1784.

Under Bavarian rule

The Plassenburg had an almost legendary reputation in earlier centuries not only because of its military strength and its artistic design, but also as the place where the Hohenzollern's secret house archive and an ancestral gallery comprising hundreds of paintings were kept. After 1810, the majority of the holdings in the Plassenburg archive came to Bamberg and are now part of the state archive there. In 1806, during Napoleon's war against Prussia, the Plassenburg was besieged for the last time in its long history. On October 10th, Bavarian troops occupied the city of Kulmbach and began to block the Plassenburg. After almost all other Prussian fortresses had surrendered, the then Prussian fortress commander, Major General Johann Adam Siegmund von Uttenhofen, decided to surrender and surrendered the fortress to the Bavarian besiegers on November 24, 1806. On the orders of Napoleon, the fortifications of the Plassenburg were razed in the winter of 1806/07.

During the Wars of Liberation, the Plassenburg served as a military hospital. In 1817, a prison labor house was set up within its walls, where "prisoners" sentenced to between one and eight years' imprisonment were to be educated in "work and order". From 1862 to 1909, the Plassenburg served as a penitentiary for around 650 prisoners from all over Bavaria and, in late summer 1914, as an internment camp for "hostile foreigners". From 1919 to 1921 it was used as a fortress detention facility and then again until 1928 as a penitentiary. Since 1929, the Plassenburg has been in the care of the Bavarian Administration of State Palaces, Gardens and Lakes.

In the time of National Socialism, the National Socialist Federation of German Technology (NSBDT) under Fritz Todt ran the Reichsschule der Deutschen Technik on the Plassenburg. To this end, the arsenal building was rebuilt by the architect Siegfried Schmelcher. The former cell prison on the Hohe Bastei was demolished and all fixtures that reminded of the prison era disappeared from the beautiful courtyard.

After the Second World War, in addition to other refugee camps in and around Kulmbach, hundreds of refugees and displaced persons from eastern Germany and the Sudetenland were housed in the castle. The sanitary conditions were only bearable in the main building. There were large washrooms with showers and central heating. The dormitories divided partitions, which did not reach the ceiling, into cubicles. A wooden latrine was built in the beautiful courtyard. In the large rooms, bunk beds hung with blankets separated small compartments for the individual families. Some of them could not be heated or had been made heatable by installing a stove. The food was prepared in a communal kitchen. For some displaced persons, the stay at the castle lasted years until the housing programs provided the necessary living space.

The Plassenburg was also a refuge for artists who found acceptance in Kulmbach as a result of the expulsions or after the division of Germany. For example, the artists Hein Kaske from Danzig, Hans Lewerenz from Berlin and the Bauhaus artist Egon Engelien were able to complete their life's work there. The Association of Franconian Artists held regular exhibitions at the castle. A permanent exhibition of contemporary works demonstrates the diversity of local art and includes, for example, the painting Ash Wednesday by Hans Lewerenz, who lived on Plassenburg from 1948 until his death in 2006.

Today the castle houses the German Tin Figure Museum, the State Museums Plassenburg with the Army Museum Friedrich der Große and the Museum Hohenzollern in Franconia as well as the Landscape Museum Obermain with exhibits on the local history of the Kulmbach area. The inner courtyard of the castle (called Schöner Hof) is used for cultural events. There are guided tours through the entire facility all year round.


Plassenburg part of the municipality
With the community edict, Plassenburg was assigned to the Kulmbach tax district formed in 1811. From October 18, 1831, the previously unincorporated Plassenburg belonged to the rural community of Ködnitz and was part of the same community. On February 28, 1908, Plassenburg was reassigned to Kulmbach.

The widespread legend of a white woman has its origins in the Plassenburg.
The Plassenburg is the setting for the historical novel Die Margräfin by Sabine Weigand (ISBN 3810523658) about Barbara von Brandenburg and the socially critical novel Die Gefangen auf der Plassenburg by Jakob Wassermann (ISBN 376613972X).
Contrary to popular belief, there is no underground access from the town of Kulmbach up to the castle.
The razing of the castle by Napoleonic-Bavarian troops to its present size took several months despite the use of explosives.
The Franconian Marienweg runs through the grounds of the castle.