Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle

Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle, locally known as Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, lies on a mountain west of the village of Orschwiller, in the Bas-Rhin department in France. This area is also known as the Southern Alsace or the Southern Vosges.

Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle was first mentioned in 1147, when monks complained to King Louis VII of France about its unlawful construction by the Hohenstaufen Duke Frederick II of Swabia. It was built on a rocky promontory over 700 m high, dominating the Alsace plain beneath it. Already later that same century it was known as Königsburg (King's Castle).

In the early 13th century, the castle passed from the Hohenstaufen family to the Duke of Lorraine, who entrusted it to the local Rathsamhausen family and later the Lords of Hohenstein. In 1359 it was sold to the Bishop of Strasbourg but before the end of that century it had again become an Imperial possession.

In 1453 the castle was mentioned as Haut-Kœnigsbourg (High King's Castle) for the first time, to distinguish it from nearby Kintzheim (from Koenigsheim; King's House). In 1454, the Hohensteins had sided with an enemy of the Elector Palatine Frederick I. This led to a successfull siege by the latter but the castle was returned to the Lord of Hohenstein after serious concessions on his part. By 1462, however, the Lord of Hohenstein was sheltering some robber barons in the castle. This led to a new siege, this time by a combined force of troops from several cities and rulers, after which the castle was dismantled.

In 1479, the Habsburg emperor Frederick III granted the castle ruins in fief to the Counts of Thierstein with permission to rebuild it. They did and in the process enlarged it and adapted it for artillery. Henri de Thierstein sold the castle to the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in 1517. During the rest of that century the castle was in the hands of contractual stewards of the Austrian state and was mainly used as a garrison fort instead of a residence which caused it to dilapidate.

During the Thirty Years' War, in 1633, the dilapidated castle however put up fierce resistance against a siege by Swedish troops. It finally fell after 52 days after which it was burned, looted and subsequently dismantled. From then on Haut-Kœnigsbourg remained a ruin.

In the 19th century romantic historic interest for the large castle ruins grew and means were sought to consolidate or even restore the castle. This led the town of Sélestat, its owner, to gift it to the German emperor Wilhelm II in 1899. The emperor, wishing to create a symbol of the revived empire, then had the present Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle rebuilt by the architect Bodo Ebhardt between 1900 and 1908. Ebhardt relied heavily on historical records and archaeological findings at the site and in the area to rebuild the castle but also had to fantasize parts and elements for which he had no sources. This caused the restoration to be viewed as controversial and sometimes nothing more than a fairy tale castle similar to Neuschwanstein Castle.

At present Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle can be visited for a fee. This is a castle I strongly recommend; it may be an early 20th century rebuild and often overrun by tourists but it is beautiful. Also don't forget to visit the small ruin of Œdenbourg Castle, which is situated on the same mountain just a 5 min easy walk over a forest path behind it.


Gallery

Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle

Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle, locally known as Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, lies on a mountain west of the village of Orschwiller, in the Bas-Rhin department in France. This area is also known as the Southern Alsace or the Southern Vosges.

Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle was first mentioned in 1147, when monks complained to King Louis VII of France about its unlawful construction by the Hohenstaufen Duke Frederick II of Swabia. It was built on a rocky promontory over 700 m high, dominating the Alsace plain beneath it. Already later that same century it was known as Königsburg (King's Castle).

In the early 13th century, the castle passed from the Hohenstaufen family to the Duke of Lorraine, who entrusted it to the local Rathsamhausen family and later the Lords of Hohenstein. In 1359 it was sold to the Bishop of Strasbourg but before the end of that century it had again become an Imperial possession.

In 1453 the castle was mentioned as Haut-Kœnigsbourg (High King's Castle) for the first time, to distinguish it from nearby Kintzheim (from Koenigsheim; King's House). In 1454, the Hohensteins had sided with an enemy of the Elector Palatine Frederick I. This led to a successfull siege by the latter but the castle was returned to the Lord of Hohenstein after serious concessions on his part. By 1462, however, the Lord of Hohenstein was sheltering some robber barons in the castle. This led to a new siege, this time by a combined force of troops from several cities and rulers, after which the castle was dismantled.

In 1479, the Habsburg emperor Frederick III granted the castle ruins in fief to the Counts of Thierstein with permission to rebuild it. They did and in the process enlarged it and adapted it for artillery. Henri de Thierstein sold the castle to the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in 1517. During the rest of that century the castle was in the hands of contractual stewards of the Austrian state and was mainly used as a garrison fort instead of a residence which caused it to dilapidate.

During the Thirty Years' War, in 1633, the dilapidated castle however put up fierce resistance against a siege by Swedish troops. It finally fell after 52 days after which it was burned, looted and subsequently dismantled. From then on Haut-Kœnigsbourg remained a ruin.

In the 19th century romantic historic interest for the large castle ruins grew and means were sought to consolidate or even restore the castle. This led the town of Sélestat, its owner, to gift it to the German emperor Wilhelm II in 1899. The emperor, wishing to create a symbol of the revived empire, then had the present Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle rebuilt by the architect Bodo Ebhardt between 1900 and 1908. Ebhardt relied heavily on historical records and archaeological findings at the site and in the area to rebuild the castle but also had to fantasize parts and elements for which he had no sources. This caused the restoration to be viewed as controversial and sometimes nothing more than a fairy tale castle similar to Neuschwanstein Castle.

At present Haut-Kœnigsbourg Castle can be visited for a fee. This is a castle I strongly recommend; it may be an early 20th century rebuild and often overrun by tourists but it is beautiful. Also don't forget to visit the small ruin of Œdenbourg Castle, which is situated on the same mountain just a 5 min easy walk over a forest path behind it.


Gallery