Steinsberg Castle

Steinsberg Castle


Location: Weiler, Baden-Württemberg  Map

Constructed: 1109


Description of Steinsberg Castle

Steinsberg Castle is located in Weiler, Baden-Württemberg region of Germany. Steinsberg Castle was constructed in 1109 and changed several owners over its long and brutal history. This included Counts of Oettingen in the thirteenth century, Counts of the Rhein and Lords of Venningen. Steinsberg Caste was badly damaged during German Peasants' War in 1524–1526. The final blow was dealt in 1777 when by some ironic twist of fate the damage to the castle came from heaven. Lighting struck the donjon and resulting fire badly damaged military fortifications. Part of Steinsberg Castle were restored since 1973 and it is open to the public.


Location and geology
The castle is located on the 333 meter high Steinsberg, a former volcano, the south side of which is planted with vines. Because it can be seen from afar, it has been called the “Kraichgau Compass” since the time of the Peasants' War.

The Steinsberg is first mentioned in 1109 together with the noble Eberhard von Steinsberg. This is probably identical to Eberhard von Hilresbach (Hilsbach), mentioned twice around 1110 and 1123, and belongs to the noble Werinharden von Steinsberg, who also built two castles in Michelbach near Gaggenau before 1102 (Klarhof 1992 and 1997) and from 1109 to around 1180 Counts of Elsenzgau were. The Werinharde von Steinsberg are considered to be the builders of the first castle complex, but there are no ideas about its appearance.

Around 1180 the imperial castle came to the Counts of Oettingen through an heir's daughter. The extinction of the Werinharde and the transfer of ownership to the Oettinger is documented in verses by the minstrel Spervogel from around 1190. On behalf of the Hohenstaufen emperors Friedrich I and Friedrich II. The Counts of Oettingen first had the twelve-sided mantle wall made of reed sandstone around 1180/1200 (including Lutz 1977) and, from 1220, the magnificent octagonal keep (Gehrig 1979) made of Keupersandstone, as a Hohenstaufen symbol of power to protect important trade and escort roads in the vicinity of the free imperial city of Sinsheim. The builder of the keep is believed to have been Konrad von Oettingen, who is mentioned in 1223 and died in 1241/42 (Gehrig 1979). The many stonemason marks in the keep indicate a large construction hut and a short construction period. Octagonal castles and towers, as they were built in Alsace in the last quarter of the 12th and first half of the 13th century, are clear symbols of Staufer power and order (Salch 1994). The Staufer Emperor Friedrich II had the Castel del Monte in Apulia built around 1240-1250, also in an octagonal shape.

Around 1310 Konrad (IV.) Von Oettingen handed over his property to Count Palatine Rudolf and Ludwig. According to a document dated March 29, 1310, Konrad von Oettingen received the property back from the Count Palatine, but he fell out of favor and died out of the country, so that the Count Palatine pledged Steinsberg Castle in 1311 to the Count of Hohenlohe. The pledge was quickly redeemed, but Ludwig, elected Roman-German king in 1314, also transferred the Steinsberg to the Hohenloher family in the following years.

In the house contract of Pavia of 1329, Ludwig, who has meanwhile been elected emperor, determined that the Steinsberg with Hilsbach should go to the Count Palatine Rudolf and Ruprecht. With the Palatinate partition contract of 1338, the Steinsberg and Hilsbach came to the Count Palatinate Ruprecht I and Ruprecht II. From 1350 electoral Palatinate bailiffs sat at the castle, which in 1369 included a building yard, a wine press and over 250 acres of land. After Emperor Charles IV had agreed to pledge the Steinsberg to the Counts of Katzenelnbogen in 1353, the castle was under the administration of these Counts in 1380/81. King Ruprecht documented several times in 1403 and 1406 on the Steinsberg and pledged the castle to Hans d. A. von Leuchtenberg, which is why in 1409 the Steinsberg castle man Albrecht I was transferred from Berwangen to Bretten. In January 1410 the castle was temporarily pledged to Schwarz-Reinhard von Sickingen, after the death of King Ruprecht, his executor allocated the castle to Otto I, the founder of the Palatinate County of Mosbach, in October 1410. With the end of this Palatinate sideline in 1499, the castle came back to the main line. Elector Ludwig V then sold the castle to Hans Ypolit von Venningen in 1517 in the course of an exchange of goods. The Lords of Venningen had already provided a bailiff from the Electorate of the Palatinate from 1422 to 1429 on the Steinsberg with Hans von Venningen. The seat of the Electoral Palatinate Bailiwick for the possessions in the southern Kraichgau then moved to Hilsbach, where the Hilsbach winery took over this function.

On May 12, 1525 the castle was burned down during the Peasants' War. The city of Eppingen, where the rebellious farmers had come from, then had to pay 5,000 guilders in damages. However, the entire sum did not go into the reconstruction, since after the death of Hans Ypolit von Venningen in 1526 inheritance disputes broke out between Ludwig von Venningen and the allodial heiress Katharina Ulner von Dieburg. Elector Ludwig finally awarded the castle to Ludwig von Venningen in a document dated July 27, 1526, while Katharina Ulner von Dieburg received 2000 guilders from the compensation. The reconstruction of the castle is documented by dates and heraldic tablets from 1527 and 1556. A relief stone that is now attached to the entrance to the castle restaurant is a reminder of the reconstruction of 1527.


The castle was inhabited for around 200 years by the Lords of Venningen until 1718, when Georg Friedrich von Venningen, who accidentally shot himself on the Steinsberg, the last representative of the Steinsberg line, died. The fiefdom over the Steinsberg was then renewed in June 1719 by Count Palatine Karl Philipp for Karl Ferdinand von Venningen, who, however, lived in Eichtersheim.

In 1761 the nearby Anna chapel on the Steinsberg was repaired. However, the castle seems to have been in decay by this time, as images from 1759, 1762 and 1776 show the keep without a roof. Another tower roof, probably one of the gate towers, was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1777. After Karl Philipp von Venningen had all roofs and beams removed in 1779, the castle fell into disrepair for around two centuries. Construction work was only carried out in isolated cases.

In 1972 the von Venningen family sold the castle to the city of Sinsheim, who carried out extensive restoration and security measures and had the castle ready for gastronomic use. The keep, some farm buildings as well as two surrounding moats with defense towers and battlements have been renovated and can be visited.

From 2011 to 2016 the city of Sinsheim invested 2.2 million euros in the castle. Since the end of 2015 there has been a viewing platform on the southern inner defensive wall. Since 2017, the city of Sinsheim has invested around 1.5 million euros in the renovation of the masonry of the castle keep, of which around 238,580 euros have been received from the state of Baden-Württemberg's conservation program.

The central, 30-meter-high keep is unique, built from Keuper sandstone around 1220. It is octagonal in plan and is reminiscent of the octagons of Eguisheim, Guebwiller, Wangen and Kilchberg. The heptagonal keep of Gräfenstein Castle, developed from an octagon, should also be remembered, and last but not least, the Apulian Castel del Monte. The original entrance to the tower was 11.80 meters high and could only be reached via a wooden walkway and a drawbridge. Shortly before 1800 the tower was made accessible again via a ground level entrance after there was no longer a footbridge. Numerous medieval stonemason marks have been preserved on the outer and inner walls of the tower. The keep can now be climbed via an internal staircase as a viewing tower and offers a good panoramic view of the Kraichgau.

An irregular polygonal circular wall surrounds the keep. The tower and curtain wall are built all around in regular humpback ashlar masonry. Even the loopholes are bordered by humpback blocks. The residential and farm buildings of the castle lean against the inside of the curtain wall in the style of a border house castle. The buildings, which had been in ruins for a long time, have now been restored in a simplified form and mostly reduced to one storey. The original hall was converted into a workshop in the 16th century, presumably during the reconstruction after the destruction in 1525, from which its current name as the band house (cooper's workshop) derives. The building, now called the Palas, was built in the 16th century. Due to the major renovations and the centuries of decay, the rooms of the buildings can no longer be clearly assigned.

Twice to threefold castle walls are spiraling around the main castle. Up to the main gate of the complex you have to pass three front gates, the middle of which was built under Count Palatine Otto I in 1436 and still has a two-storey defensive tower with a battlement. The third gate shows a grimace of envy, which is supposed to keep evil spirits away from the castle.

The castle has been owned by the city of Sinsheim since 1973, which is investing a lot of money in the restoration of the castle complex. The ring wall and the keep of the main castle are largely preserved and renovated. A restaurant is now located in the modern farm buildings within the main castle.

Bicycle traffic
The Kraichgau-Stromberg Castle Tour runs around Steinsberg Castle, an approximately 52-kilometer regional cycle route that connects the castle ruins with the surrounding towns of Steinsfurt and Waldangelloch.