Follow Me to the Beauty and Splendour of Germany's and the World's Castles and Palaces
Whenever I tell friends that I am going to visit a castle, there are slightly perplexed that there are still some left. (Hundreds and thousands, in fact.) However, in the vicinity of where I live, there actually aren't too many. By visiting Schloss Herzberg in what was probably the last castle adventure of the year a few weekends ago, I think I crossed the last (publicly open) current and former Guelph castle off the list. (See them all here.)
Truth be told, even though the castle is open to the public, there are not many signs of royal life left for it hasn't been used as a residence in 300 years. Today, Schloss Herzberg is used as the district court and also houses a restaurant in addition to being a museum with one part of it dedicated to the castle's history and the Guelph family who has owned different castles situated on the same hill since 1158. That year, Heinrich (Henry) the Lion received the castle during an exchange of possessions with Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa. Already previously the Guelphs had meddled with the castle's history owning it at different points in time.
For 708 years, the Guelps continued to own the Schloss until the annexation of the Kingdom of Hanover by Prussia in 1866. In 1218, Maria of Brabant, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor, temporarily stayed at the castle. It was later used as a home for the widow of Duke Albrecht the Great before becoming the residence of the Grubenhagen line of the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg in 1290 until their line went extinct again in 1596. During their time at Herzberg, the current Schloss was built. A serious fire in November 1510 destroyed much of the previous castle with the ducal family saved at the last minute. The duke's shield bearer and the duchess's chambermaid, however, died in the fire. Afterwards, the present castle was erected as an enclosed four-winged building made out of sandstone basements and half-timbered upper storeys. Construction was completed in 1528.
The most famous member of the Guelph family connected to Schloss Herzberg probably was Elector Ernst-August, who was born at the castle in 1629. The first Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg was married to Sophia of the Palatinate, who went on to become heiress presumptive to the British crown, and father to King George I of Great Britain. Ernst-August's parents, Duke Georg of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Landgravine Anna Eleanor of Hesse-Darmstadt, lived in the castle until 1635.
The castle towering over the small town of Herzberg remained a royal residence until 1714, the year the Guelphs ascended to the British throne, when it was given up and all furniture moved to other estates of the family. In 1882, the castle became the seat of the district court of Herzberg. A museum was opened in 1900. While times had generally been kind to the Schloss and there hadn't been much violent damage for more than 400 years, the Second World War changed that. In spring of 1945, a mighty explosion at a nearby ammunition dump, where 40,000 kilos of explosives and 8,000 mines had been stored, shook the castle and surrounding town. The roof of the castle was blown off and the museum was destroyed and subsequently looted. In 1947, further damage was caused when some nearby military bunkers were blown up.
Luckily, the castle was later restored after the war with sums in the double-digit millions going into further renovations works in the past 15 years. The castle's museum portrays the history of the forestry industry in the Harz mountains, the castle's history and that of the Guelphs, as well as the history of local arms manufacture as well as organ making - and while it isn't the first Guelph castle I would recommend you to visit, it was definitely worth the trip.
The oldest one of all of Sintra's castles is the Castelo dos Mouros or Castle of the Moors. As its name suggests, its history dates back to the times of the five-centuries-long Muslim rule over Portugal which ended in 1249. During the Middle Ages, the term "moors" referred to the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula who initially were Berber and Arab peoples of North African descent. It was them who built the fortification in the Sintra mountains in the 8th and 9th centuries to protect the surrounding areas. Calling it a castle these days might be a bit of a stretch as only ruins remain of the Castelo dos Mouros. Still, the breathtaking views are worth the visit alone. Somehow, there is something magical in climbing walls that are over a thousands years old. It seems unimaginable these days to what length they went to achieve such architectural feats. Just don't forget to take an extra jumper as it can get quite windy up there!
With more than 30,000 castles in Germany, it's no wonder that current usage is very varied. Case in point: Schloss Hamborn, which serves as a centre for anthroposophy and is home to a school and rehabilitation clinic named for the 19th century esotericist Rudolf Steiner, who was the founder of both anthroposophy and the ideas of Waldorf education. It was also during the 19th century that Schloss Hamborn came to be even though its Weser Renaissance-style architecture might suggest it is a century or two older. During the mid-1800's, the noble von Hartmann family from nearby Borchen purchased two feudal estates in the area and united them into one. Construction on the Eastern wing of today's Schloss started in 1868. The coat of arms of the family featuring a heart and three roses can still found above the main entrance of that wing.
Already three years later, in 1871, Schloss Hamborn passed from Bernhardine von Hartmann to her nephew Hermann von Mallinckrodt. In 1878, the c…
While the history of the little village of Wewer, today a part of Paderborn, can be traced back to the 9th century, today's Schloss by the same name isn't quite as old. This relatively simple Baroque-style castle was built for Baron Jodokus Godfried of Imbsen between the years 1684 and 1686 in stead of a former castle nearby. At the time, the historical district of Wewer was split between the Imbsen and the Brenken families after one half had been sold by the Imbsens to a female line of the family who had married into Brenken family at the beginning of the 16th century.
The Barons of Brenken in Wewer died out in male line in 1817 with their inheritance going to another line of the family who home was Schloss Erpernburg. Only a few years later, in 1833, the Barons of Imbsen also died out in male line. Their indebted estate, including Schloss Wewer, went to the daughters of the family who decided to sell it to pay the debts. It was their heirs of the Barons of Brenken who decid…