“Burg”, Haut-Koenigsbourg castle, Alsace, 2013.

Around 1114, Frederick II the One-Eyed, duke of Swabia and Alsace, built a first castle called castrum Estufin on the “Stophanberck” (Stauffenberg, “the mount of the chalice”). This castle was meant to complete with the Rapolstein a line of defence against the powerful count of Eguisheim. The problem was that the place wasn’t his property but the one of the Saint-Denis abbey since Charles the Great. The official protestation of the abbey and king of France didn’t disturbed a lot the duke, who kept the place without compensation. It was renamed in 1192, when its owner became emperor, in Kinzburg (Königsburg, “the castle of the king”). Later, in 15th century, the hoh (high), was added, probably to make the distinction with the castle of Kintzheim, which was down the moutain.

In the Middle Ages the castle changed several times of owner. In the 13th century, it was divided in two parts: the Hohenstaufen owned the West part, while the Rathsamhausen own the East one. In the following centuries, both castles changed of owner several time again. Finally it is besieged and taken by the count Palatine of the Rhine in 1454, during his war against the count of Lutzelstein. The half ruined castle was then occupied some years later by the brothers May of Lambsheim, two robber knights who used it as a base to ransom the rich merchants of the region. Unfortunately for them, merchant cities of the area were very powerful at that time and didn’t especially like when their citizen get robbed. Consequently, the cities of Strasbourg, Basel, and Colmar formed in 1462 a coalition and besieged the castle with more than 500 men and the most powerful artillery of the region. As the result, the castle was totally destroyed.

The emperor gave then in 1479 the castle to the count of Thierstein, who rebuild it as a gigantic and powerful fortress, which was especially equipped to fight against artillery, with a strong bastion on West side. The family of Thierstein was however already on the decline and the last count died in 1519 without heir, so the emperor got the castle back. In the following centuries, the castle wasn’t maintained and was gradually abandoned. Consequently, when the Swedes besieged it 1633, the already ruined fortress and its very small garrison wasn’t really a match for them. It still resisted one month before being taken and burnt by the attackers.

After that the castle was definitively abandoned until the city of Schlestadt, which was the legal owner of it at that time, gifted it to the German emperor Wilhelm II in 1899. It was from them a clever move: that way they get rid of a cumbersome ruin and pleased at the same time the new emperor. Wilhelm wanted to show that he was the legitimate owner of the region, the castle was perfect to be a demonstration that his family always had land here. He commissioned then the architect Bodo Ebhardt to rebuilt it with a historically credible look. Ebhardt managed to do it a rather proper way for that time (although it is a bit romantic vision of what a medieval castle was), and the works were finished in 1901.

You can see there the dungeon from the North. There has been at the time of the reconstruction a big controversy about the choice of Ebhardt to build a square dungeon, as some people pretended that it was originally round, on the basis of an old engraving allegedly representing the castle with a round dungeon. It was showed later by archaeological digging that Ebhardt was right and that the whole round dungeon affair was invented and fuelled by French fanatics (like the xenophobic Hansi). If something can be reproached to Ebhardt, it is the height of the dungeon, which is seems to be higher than the original, it was probably intended to increase the value of the symbol. Today, the top of the dungeon house the water reserve in case of fire (like a water tower).
On a side note, the roof is covered with copper and so has been for a long time of a distinctive verdigris colour. But some years ago, it was damaged by a storm and the whole covering was replaced, so for some time the top of the tower can be seen from anywhere in the region with its shiny copper-red covering. Today the copper has blackened and the effect isn’t visible any more.

The South side is visible in Stronghold.

Available as a print here!

Tools and exifs:

  • Canon EOS 450D + Samyang 14mm f/2.8
  • 14mm
  • 1/400 s.
  • f/8
  • ISO 100

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