Rudelsburg Castle


Location: Bad Kösen, Saxony- Anhalt   Map

Constructed: 11th century


There Saaleck, here the Rudelsburg,
and deep down in the valley
splashing between rocks
the dear old Saale;
and mountains here and mountains there,
to the right and to the left -
The Rudelsburg, that is a place
for feasting and for drinking.
“Dort Saaleck, hier die Rudelsburg”
Hermann Allmers

Rudelsburg Castle is a well preserved medieval citadel in Bad Kösen, Saxony- Anhalt region of Germany. Its construction date back to 11th century.


Description of the castle
The Rudelsburg lies on a west-south-west-east-north-east oriented ridge, which drops steeply to the Saale and a little less steeply to the other sides. It consists of a small inner castle at the western end of a large outer castle that extends over the entire plateau and is located slightly higher. The outer bailey in particular was used as a quarry in the 18th century and can hardly be recognized as such today. However, remnants of the ring walls of the outer bailey in the south and east have been preserved or have been cut repeatedly during construction work. Other wall sections in the outer bailey are only known from excavations in the 19th century. The residences of the Burgmannen (castrenses), but also various production facilities, were located in the outer bailey, which was exceptionally large with a size of approx. 22,000 m².

The main castle, which is separated from the outer bailey by a deep ditch, forms an irregular square about 40 × 24 meters around a small inner courtyard. The approximately 20 meter high Romanesque keep in the southeast is older than the southern curtain wall. It has an approximately square floor plan (7.60 × 8.20 meters) and is crowned with a stone pyramid-shaped spire, which gives the castle its characteristic appearance. At an unknown point in time, a windmill was built on a round castle tower, which can be seen on many depictions until the middle of the 19th century. The mill was destroyed by fire in 1864. In the basement of the keep there is a recently built dungeon.

The rectangular hall in the west, which was built around 1200 after the decoration on the capitals, is integrated with the southern curtain wall. Due to its location on a steep cliff above the Saale, the west side offered the least possible attack surface. The building of the upper floor of the hall and heightening of the northern curtain wall were still carried out in the Romanesque period. In contrast to most other European hilltop castles, this was not built right up to the steeply sloping cliff edge; presumably to prevent the curtain wall from collapsing in the event that the rock edge, which is made of brittle limestone, breaks off.

The Zwinger in the east is likely to have been built in Roman times. The walls, which were probably built around the castle at a greater distance in the middle of the 15th century, together with the corner towers, formed bastions and a surrounding kennel.

Prehistoric and early historical hilltop settlement
Since the end of the 19th century, numerous archaeological finds have been found on the plateau during construction work, unsystematic excavations or as reading finds, which are now mainly kept in the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle and the prehistory and early history collection of the University of Jena. These are mostly ceramic fragments, but also a garment needle of the Trotha type, which show that the area was already intensively populated in the late Bronze and Iron Ages and was probably already fortified. The new reading finds made in the 1980s and 1990s indicated that there was already an early Bronze Age hilltop settlement on the site of the Rudelsburg, which can be assigned to the Aunjetitz culture. Since the spur, on which the main area of ​​the settlement from the Aunjetitz period is assumed, is occupied by the Rudelsburg, archaeological excavations were carried out in the bailey area and on the slope between 2005 and 2006 as part of a research project funded by the German Research Foundation "The Departure to New Horizons. The finds from Nebra, Saxony-Anhalt, and their significance for the Bronze Age of Europe ”carried out by the Department for Prehistory and Early History of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. Under the medieval cultural layers, which are up to 3.50 meters thick in places, prehistoric findings could be documented in the loess, so that the complete destruction of the early Bronze Age settlement remains can be ruled out. However, finds of prehistoric ceramic material in the medieval layers indicate a considerable disruption of the prehistoric and thus also the aunjetitz period horizons. A cultural layer was only found on the slope, from which a ceramic fragment of the Aunjetitz culture, a bone and some charcoal could be recovered. However, the finding ended immediately after the excavation profile, so that the archaeological-typological dating could only be confirmed by radiocarbon dating of bones and charcoal. The numerous prehistoric finds come, like most of the relocated finds, from the Late Bronze and Iron Ages.


Noble seat in the Middle Ages and in the early modern period
It was not until the early Middle Ages that the ridge was used again, as some finds of ceramics from the Leipzig group in Slavic manufacturing tradition show. The extent, intensity and duration of the settlement, which can only generally be put in the 10th and 11th centuries, cannot, however, be determined. The Rudelsburg, however, is likely to have been one of the numerous ramparts in the Saale and Elbe area, such as the Johannisberg near Jena-Lobeda, a few kilometers upstream, or the Alte Gleisberg near Bürgel. In contrast, there is no historical evidence for the claim made by local history research at the end of the 19th century and still frequently updated today that the Rudelsburg was built in or around the year 1030 or 1050 as a border fortification.

In the middle of the 12th century, the bishops of Naumburg had a castle built on the western end of the ridge and occupied by ministerials. In 1171 a Hugo de Ruthelebesburch was mentioned for the first time, who comes from the family of the Lords of Schönburg. The expansion of the castle in its present form began around this time. Most of it was completed by the end of the 12th century. In 1238, the Bishop of Naumburg enfeoffed the Margrave of Meissen Heinrich the Illustrious with oppidum et castrum Ruthleibesberch, who continued to put the exercise of power on site in the hands of ministerials.

In a document issued in 1271, twelve castellani in Ruthleibisberch, d. H. Burgmannen, named by name. In 1293 a priest was first mentioned at the castle. A town-like settlement (oppidum) existed to the east of the castle (castrum) by this time at the latest. The extensive area of ​​the outer bailey was fortified in the west, south and east with a curtain wall, moat and rampart and had two gates to the castle and at the opposite end. This is where the castle and service men probably had their seat. During the archaeological excavations, several remains of stone and half-timbered buildings were found that stretched up to the curtain wall.

Between April 22nd and July 30th, 1348, the citizens of Naumburg under their Capitaneus Johann von Trautzschen besieged the Rudelsburg by decision of the city council as part of a feud with the noble Curtefrund. The sources say that an instrument was used during the siege. It remains to be seen whether it was a slingshot, a so-called blide, or, as is sometimes assumed, one of the first firearms. The Rudelsburg is said to have been stormed and destroyed, with dead and injured on both sides. At least one of the castellans was also taken prisoner. The outer bailey, which the city presumably viewed as economic competition and had been eliminated by the city, was apparently much more affected than the inner castle. A stone cellar investigated during the most recent archaeological excavations was completely filled with fire rubble and contained numerous fragments of tableware, toys and metal objects.

In 1383 the family of the Schenken von Saaleck from the house of the Schenken von Vargula was called "Lords of the Veste, sat at Rottelsburg". A loan document from the Dukes of Saxony from the House of Wettin dated April 2, 1441 shows the brothers Rudolf, Günther and Heinrich von Bünau as the owners of the castle. By 1510 they still had no land outside the castle grounds. In the Saxon fratricidal war between Friedrich and Wilhelm von Sachsen the part of Wilhelm III. belonging Rudelsburg besieged again in 1450 and destroyed a second time. The inner castle was cremated. When the Wettin lands were divided in 1485, the Rudelsburg was added to the Albertine line of the house as the property of the Lords of Bünau. In 1538 the Naumburg bishop Philipp entrusted the lords of Bünau and knights of the Rudelsburg with the donor fiefs they had accrued, and a. the Vorwerk Kreipitzsch and nine Hufen in the Camburg office.


In 1581, Rudolph von Bünau auf Teuchern and Günther von Bünau auf Gröbitz sold the Rudelsburg with the associated Vorwerk Kreipitzsch and Krölp or Krulpe, as well as the place Naumburg because of debts to the district governor of Eckartsberga, Hans George von Osterhausen. During this time, the castle began to decay, which was only marginally delayed. In the book Libellus Continens Salae Flvvii descriptionem, eidemqve adiacentium Oppidorvm, Arcivm, Coenobiorvm Et Episcopalivm sedium, situs, fundationes & antiquitates by Gregor Groitzsch, printed in 1584, the Rudelsburg is still referred to as arx pulcherrima, the “most beautiful castle”. The Rudelsburg and the place Lengefeld belonged as exclave to the Electoral Saxon office Eckartsberga since the middle of the 16th century. The manor district Kreipitzsch belonging to the Rudelsburg, however, was subordinate as a fief of the Hochstift Naumburg-Zeitz to the Amt Naumburg formed in 1544, which from 1564 was under Electoral Saxon sovereignty.

A protocol from the year 1612 testifies that the Lord Marshal von Osterhausen zu Dresden hired a bricklayer and a carpenter to “support the sunken girders, beams, chairs and rafters in need” at the castle. According to the information in the court books of the von Osterhausen family, a court day was held on June 4, 1616 at the castle. At that time only one househusband lived in the castle, to which a narrow driveway led. The yard was covered with grass. Besides a room with a wooden sermon chair, there were deep prisons with very strong doors. In 1640 the Rudelsburg was burned down by the Swedes towards the end of the Thirty Years' War. After this third destruction, the Rudelsburg was abandoned by the residents on April 14, 1641. The owners moved to Gut Kreipitzsch.

From 1671 to 1774 the nobles von Creutz (en) are the owners of the castle. In a lawsuit before the Reich Chamber of Commerce in Wetzlar in 1690 they tried to enforce the imperial immediacy of the uninhabited castle. The villages of Kreipitzsch, Freiroda and Lengefeld, which belonged to it, were considered to be independent fiefs that were either under the rule of the Electorate of Saxony or that were also free from the empire. In 1770 the owner had the walls of the outer bailey torn down in order to obtain stones for the construction of the property. A worker was seriously injured in an accident at work and became permanently disabled. This was seen as a bad omen and work was stopped. The outer bailey was almost completely destroyed by then. Probably only because of this accident did the ruin of the core castle survive. With the death of the Hessian captain Friedrich Adolph von Creutz in 1774, the Frohburg, Ast Rudelsburg line of the male line became extinct.

In the following years the Counts of Zech and the Counts of Brühl were named as brief owners of the Rudelsburg with Lengefeld. The von Schönberg family bought the castle in 1797 and set up a Fideikommiss, an inalienable aristocratic foundation that was supposed to keep the family legacy together. In the 19th century, the von Schönberg family had the coats of arms of the previous owner families affixed to the courtyard of the Rudelsburg:

Hiking destination and tourist attraction
In the 19th century the Rudelsburg became a meeting place for romantically minded hikers, especially students from Jena, Leipzig and Halle.

The condition of the building was desolate, and there was no infrastructure. There was no driveway and there were no closed rooms in the inner courtyard of the core castle, only rubble and rubble. In 1818 the cantor emeritus Johann Friedrich Förtsch described the Rudelsburg:

The inner courtyard of the castle is filled with rubble from collapsed state rooms, halls, armories and storerooms, kitchens, underground vaults, cellars and corridors. Therefore one cannot judge exactly how everything was laid out.
Nevertheless, more and more visitors came. Back then, the lords of the castle from the family of the Barons von Schönberg grew wine on the southern slope of the castle (see: Saale-Unstrut region). One of their former vineyard workers, Gottlieb Wagner, called "Samiel", first looked after the dilapidated walls as a castle warden and began in 1824 to entertain visitors from Gut Kreipitzsch.

During this time, in 1826, Franz Kugler, a Berlin student from Stettin, wrote the famous song An der Saale hellem Strande in the castle when he stopped here during a hike through the Saale:


An der Saale hellem Strande
Stehen Burgen stolz und kühn,
Ihre Dächer sind zerfallen,
Und der Wind streicht durch die Hallen,
Wolken ziehen d'rüber hin.
On the Saale bright beach
Castles stand proud and bold,
Their roofs are falling apart
And the wind blows through the halls
Clouds move over.


In this song, the Saale castles are ruined ruins that only arouse fantasies of old times. There is still no talk of drinking and partying and of the Rudelsburg as an event location. The plaque probably comes from Oskar Mothes, the builder of the Fallen Column, 1872.

The attractiveness of the castle was increased by the hospitality so that in 1827 the district administrator of the Naumburg district asked the landlord Friedrich von Schönberg whether it was not possible to officially open the castle to visitors. As a result, a road was even built to the castle again.

At Easter 1827, Gottlieb Wagner set up the first tavern at the castle, which was initially only open on Sundays. When word of this news got around among the students, they moved from Jena and occupied the castle for three days with loud cheers. A torchlight procession was offered to the castle owner out of gratitude.

The improved infrastructure, also through the Thuringian Railway, which was completed by 1849, and the gastronomic offer continued to increase the attractiveness of the castle and also attracted visitors from greater distances, such as the students from Leipzig and Halle an der Saale.

When a major Prussian military maneuver was held in the area in 1853, the Saxon provincial estates invited King Friedrich Wilhelm IV to breakfast at the castle. Presumably on this occasion, the pump room in the inner courtyard was built that year, which consisted of a covered seating area that was open to the castle courtyard. This hall replaced the old thatched roof, which was supported by simple tree trunks.

In 1863 Hermann Allmers from Rechtenfleth near Bremen (not a student, but traveling in student company in the Saale valley) created the student song "There Saaleck, here the Rudelsburg", the text of which already suggests the new life within the walls. A bronze plaque from 2005, donated by Corps Teutonia Marburg, commemorates this.

In June 1848, 500 corps students met at the Rudelsburg in order to initiate the establishment of an umbrella organization; The decision was implemented a month later at the University of Jena. This oldest umbrella association of German student associations has met in Kösen since 1849 and has been called the Kösener Seniors Convents Association (KSCV) ever since. The Rudelsburg is its center and is used for work meetings and festive events.

Event platform and student symbol
(Re) construction in the imperial era
After the 800th anniversary of the restored Wartburg had been celebrated in 1867, discussions began as to whether the Rudelsburg should not also be restored. Then there was the December storm in 1868, which brought down parts of the surrounding walls. In 1870 the first repair work was carried out on the surrounding wall on the west and south sides. The actual partial reconstruction began in 1871 according to the plans of the royal Saxon building councilor Oskar Mothes, carried out by master bricklayer Werner from Bad Kösen. As part of this work, the entrance and bridge were added, and the knight's hall with front staircase and adjoining room were restored. A large wall breach was added to the northeast corner and windows were broken out in the old north wall. A cannon captured in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 was placed on the bridge. The work was completed at Easter 1872.

In 1872 the first memorial for the corps students was inaugurated on the grounds of the Rudelsburg, the column of the fallen in honor of the corps students who died in the Franco-Prussian War. The Kaiser Wilhelm I obelisk was inaugurated in 1890, followed by the Jung Bismarck monument in 1896. The last corps student memorial for the time being was erected in 1926 in honor of those who fell in World War I.

The partial construction of the Rudelsburg by Mothes, the establishment of the Reich in 1871 and the erection of the monuments in the area of ​​the outer bailey marked a new phase of student use of the Rudelsburg. While in the first half of the century the joy of nature and the romantic setting were in the foreground, the Rudelsburg has now become the representative object of the corps students of the Kösener SC Association. The association became an important state-supporting element of the empire, which was also supported by the fact that the most important political decision-makers of the imperial era, Otto von Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm II, belonged to Kösener Corps. By founding the Association of Old Corps Students (VAC), the previously purely student association has now also created a new source of finance, fed by the contributions paid by the so-called old men. The Rudelsburg became the platform on which this new self-confidence was celebrated.


This also meant that the annual event at the Rudelsburg became more sedate and solemn. Ceremonial speeches at the monuments and the singing of patriotic songs were part of the annual Whitsun program on the grounds of the outer bailey during the imperial era.

During the German Empire and the Weimar Republic, scale models of the Rudelsburg monuments were often made and sold to interested parties throughout Germany and Austria. Even today (as of 2007) these elaborately manufactured pieces are offered in antique dealers from time to time.

In 1913 Paul Schreckenbach wrote the historical novel “The Last Rudelsburgers”, the plot of which is set in the 14th century and which reflects the Prussian-conservative values ​​of the Wilhelmine era.

Weimar Republic and National Socialism
During the First World War there were no student events at the Rudelsburg, but they were resumed after the end of the war. In 1926 the lion monument was inaugurated with great effort. This ceremony was seen as a commitment by the Corps students to the old system of the Empire and was noticed by the press throughout Germany, sometimes even abroad.

The last Rudelsburg event of the Kösener Corps students before the Second World War took place in 1934. In 1935 the Kosen Congress ended with the dissolution of the association by the National Socialists. The Rudelsburg was no longer visited.

During the Second World War, efforts were made at some universities to secretly re-establish the individual corps, contrary to the instructions of the NSDAP. The umbrella organization, the Kösener SC Association, should also be re-established. For this purpose, a meeting was arranged at the Rudelsburg in 1944, which ended there with a Kommers. Both this re-establishment and the persecution by the Gestapo had no consequences due to the chaos of the last months of the war.

After the end of the Second World War, the castle belonged to the Soviet occupation zone and later to the GDR. The noble landowner was expropriated and the castle came into the possession of the city of Bad Kösen.

In the DDR
The student corps on the territory of the GDR moved to the West. The Kösener Congress met in Bonn in 1953 and then from 1954 to 1994 in Würzburg with a view of the Marienberg Fortress. The Rudelsburg and Bad Kösen remained a memory of old times for Corps students in the Federal Republic.

The Rudelsburg continued to deteriorate, as did the monuments. Larger metal parts were partially melted down.

Since it was common in the GDR to use the names of tourist attractions to designate goods and trademarks produced in the area, the name "Rudelsburg" was also used in this way, for example to designate a car radio from VEB Funkwerk Halle and various lime products from VEB Kalkwerk Rudelsburg, Bad Kosen.

In the 1960s, GDR students began to make efforts to revive old student traditions. Information and materials were secretly collected. At the beginning of the 1980s, the first new connections were established, first in secret, later more openly. The Rudelsburg was in the focus of the GDR students.

On June 20, 1987, the association Salana Jenensis (later K. D. St. V.) organized the first alliance commers of the GDR student associations on the Rudelsburg. At the first event of this kind, only 19 participants were present, some of whom had come to the Saale on rafts and in zinc bathtubs. This should refer to the tradition of boat trips on the Saale, which can be seen on old depictions.

Since this year, the Rudelsburg has been the annual meeting point for the student associations that were founded in the GDR before 1990 and that merged in 1990 to form the Rudelsburg Alliance.

Reconstruction after reunification
In 1990 the Corps Thuringia Jena, which had relocated its headquarters to Hamburg in the post-war period, was the first of the “expelled” student associations to return to its old University of Jena. This happened at a time when the GDR still existed. Little by little, almost all corps returned to their traditional universities. As early as 1992, the municipality of Bad Kösen invited the Kösener SC Association to no longer hold its congress in Würzburg, but again in Bad Kösen. A first workshop on this topic took place in 1992. The first Kösener Congress in Bad Kösen after the Second World War in 1995 then also included the Rudelsburg as an event location. This return was associated with extensive repair work in the castle, which enabled Reinhard Schmitt to provide targeted archaeological documentation in 1990 and 1991.


Since the reunification, the corps student monuments have been gradually restored on the grounds of the outer bailey. These campaigns are financed by the Kösener SC Association, through donations from individual corps, but also through private donations from individual corps students. To this day, the song Dort Saaleck, here the Rudelsburg for the Kösener Corps students and the alliance connections, is a song of recognition.

The ruins of the Rudelsburg are still used for gastronomic purposes. The interior of the castle and the keep are accessible during the opening times of the restaurant. The keep offers a view of the Saale valley. In the lower rooms of the keep are some showcases with exhibits about corps students.

In the castle there is a branch office of the registry office of the city of Naumburg, which, together with the surrounding communities, is now marketing itself and its castle as Thuringian Tuscany and via the Saale-Unstrut-Triasland nature park.

In February 2018, Thiemo von Creytz, a descendant of the von Creutz family, returned to the Rudelsburg after 244 years as the new tenant and operator of the Rudelsburg castle restaurant.