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 death of Richard Fürst zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg earlier this week saw a surge in interest in my take on the (in)famous will of inheritance looming over the family. One point about the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg inheritance that many seem to find especially curious is the fact that the late Prince Richard never actually owned his family's fortune but that it was instead passed from his father - who went missing during World War 2 - to a yet unborn grandson - who was born in 1969 - (or anyone else, really, who would inherit after Prince Richard). The German nobility, however, isn't short of interesting inheritance constructions - case in point: The Thurn und Taxis inheritance.
The Thurn und Taxis family isn't just famous for their fabulous wealth, estimated at around $ 2.5 billion today - even though Princess Gloria of Thurn und Taxis says it less than a billion - but also for their lifestyle to go along with it. In fact, Princess Gloria of Thurn und Taxis may si…
Confession of a Castleholic: I like castles more than castle ruins. So when Burgdame - visit her blog here - recommended to me to pay a visit to the ruins of Burg Ringelstein in Büren-Harth, I was a little hesitant as it was slightly out of the way of my latest castle adventure. But guess what happened? I loved it, it was a wonderful little piece of quiet during an otherwise very busy day including some eight other castles - more on all of them to come in the coming weeks, so make sure to stay tuned!
The plans to build a castle on a mountain high above the Alme valley was firstly mentioned in 1383 though it isn't certain whether it was an entirely new castle or the reconstruction of a yet older, destroyed one of the same site. It was the Lords of Büren who were tasked with the construction of the new Burg to guard the outskirts of the Archbishopric of Cologne. Rather shortly after its completion, the castle was pledged to the Scharfenberg line of the House of Padberg until it cam…
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!