from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The keep in the center of the complex dominates the silhouette of Hocheppan Castle in South Tyrol
Keep near the gate on Genoveva Castle ( Mayen )
Scheme of a keep after Otto Piper
Longitudinal section and floor plan of the keep at Marienberg Fortress (Würzburg)
The keep from the 12th century of Vaduz Castle in Liechtenstein . The shape of the keep is typical of castles in the Alpine Rhine Valley .

The term Bergfried (also Berchfrit , popularly also Burgfried ; French tour-beffroi , English belfry , Spanish: torre del homenaje ) describes the uninhabited main tower ( defensive tower ) of a medieval castle , which has been in place since the 12th century in the German-speaking castle literature Central Europe found widespread use. If the main tower of a castle is set up for permanent residential use, however, it is referred to as a residential tower (see also: Donjon ).

The term "Bergfried"

The term occurs as perfrit , berchfrit , berfride and numerous similar modifications in medieval written sources, but there it refers not only to the castle tower, but also predominantly to other types of towers such as siege towers , bell towers (see belfry ) or storage buildings. The main tower of a castle is often referred to simply as a "tower" or "great tower". In late medieval Low German written sources, however, the designation berchfrit , berchvrede and similar variants often appear in connection with smaller castles.

The castle lore of the 19th century introduced Bergfried or Berchfrit as a general name for the uninhabited main tower, which then became a part of German-language literature.

The etymological origin of the word is unclear. There are theses about a Middle High German, a Latin and a Greek word origin communicated through the Crusades . The opinion often held in the older literature that the keep got its name because it “holds peace” (that is, preserves the security of the castle), could not be confirmed.

Development and forms

(Numerous illustrated examples of the following texts can be found in the separate image section .)

The keep established itself as a new type of building in the course of the 12th century and shaped the image of the central European castle landscape from around 1180 until the 14th century. Numerous specimens from this period have been preserved in almost their entirety. The origin of the construction is not yet fully understood, as towers from the time before the 12th century have been excavated almost exclusively from an archaeological point of view and only the lowest parts have been preserved. Individual examples (such as the Habsburg keep ) can also be found in the second half of the 11th century. The forerunner of the keep is the well-fortified residential tower , which in its representative Western European form is also known as the donjon . Residential towers were also common in German-speaking countries before the appearance of the keep, a forerunner can be found, for example, in the wooden tower of the Motte . Donjons connect the two opposite areas of stately, comfortable living and fortification. In the case of the keep building type, residential use has now been dispensed with in favor of defensibility. At the same time, new types of unpaved residential buildings became widespread, for example the palas was incorporated into the castle. The creation of the keep is obviously related to the differentiation between residential and fortified buildings within the castle complex. In Western Europe , however, the donjon, with its combination of defensive and residential functions, remained the predominant type of building in the further course of the Middle Ages .

Often the keep is located as the main tower in the center of the castle complex or in the position of a wall tower on the main attack side of the castle (the latter especially in spur castles ). It can stand as a solitary structure next to the other buildings of the castle or be connected to them to form a structural structure. It is characteristic, however, that the keep is a self-contained component that is not connected to the other buildings on the inside and has its own entrance. As a rule, this is a so-called high entrance , i. H. the entrance is on the upper floor of the tower and can be reached via its own bridge, stairs or ladder.

In the floor plan are square and round Bergfriede most, besides also often pentagonal and rare octagonal towers as in the case of Cochem Castle found. There are also some examples of irregular polygonal floor plans. The keep in the eastern upper castle of the Brandenburg ruins has a hexagonal cross-section with humpback ashlar masonry and a round structure with smooth stones. Other hexagonal keep can be found at Lichtenberg Castle (Upper Franconia) and Lichtenberg Castle (Salzgitter) . Also unusual is the preserved round keep of the razed Tannroda Castle with a square base and bevelled corners. The reason for this construction is unclear. Static reinforcement can be assumed here.

A rare shape is the triangular keep of Grenzau Castle near Höhr-Grenzhausen or that of Rauheneck Castle near Baden near Vienna . Towers with triangular and pentagonal ground plans had one corner facing the main attack side of the castle.

Bergfrieds are on average 20 to 30 meters high, but both that of Forchtenstein Castle in Burgenland and that of Freistadt Castle reach 50 meters. Compared to the donjon , which takes up relatively large areas due to its elaborate interior design (living rooms, hall, kitchen, etc.), the keep usually has a much smaller area, which leads to a slimmer shape of the tower at a similar height.

Most of the building material used was the rock that was broken in the immediate vicinity of the construction site. Bricks or field stones were used in stone-poor areas. The masonry is often carried out very carefully, borders can be hump square are accentuated. The keep could be plastered or show exposed masonry. The latter was the case, for example, with the Hohenstaufen towers, which were completely built from humpback blocks .

The two preserved keep (last third of the 12th century and first half of the 13th century) of Mildenstein Castle show a rare construction method , the lower parts of which are made of field stones / humpback ashlars, the upper parts of which are made of fired bricks. The tower shaft (i.e. the main part of the tower between the base and the final upper floor) usually had no or very few windows, often there were only a few narrow vertical slits of light.

The sometimes enormous wall thicknesses of the basement floors usually decrease significantly in the interior of the tower on the upper floors. Wooden ceilings, which serve to divide up the floors, are placed on the resulting wall steps. The lowest storey and the upper storey are often closed off by a stone vault. Occasionally narrow stairways are worked into the masonry, which allow a single person to climb. More often, however, the floors are connected to one another by wooden stairs or ladders. Some of the bergfrieds were habitable to a limited extent, and there are even small chimneys on the upper floors. These heated rooms were usually used by the tower keeper .

The original design of the tower end can no longer be precisely reconstructed in many Bergfrieden, on the one hand because the uppermost layers of the wall of castle ruins have fallen into disrepair and wooden components are rotted, and on the other hand because Bergfrieds in castles that have continued to be inhabited in modern times were often equipped with a new tower closure (examples: Burg Stein , Rochsburg Castle ). In addition, some towers, which at first glance might appear medieval, are in reality historicist new creations of the 19th century (e.g. the Wartburg , 1850s), sometimes free reconstructions based on the ideas of the time about medieval castle architecture ( Hohkönigsburg , 1909 ). Late medieval tower ends (which themselves often emerged from a redesign of the original building condition) have been preserved comparatively more often or can sometimes be reconstructed on the basis of drawings (especially from the 16th and 17th centuries).

The defense platform closing the keep was originally often surrounded by a crenellated wreath . Occasionally, the original battlements have been preserved, especially if they are protected by later superstructures ( Wellheim Castle ). The military platform could either be open or one was from a roof or spire covered. According to the shape of the towers, tent roofs and conical roofs were the most common. The roof could consist of a wooden roof structure with a tile or slate covering or it could be solidly bricked. It often covered the entire defense platform so that the roof sat on the crenellated wreath, but in other cases it was also designed to be set back so that an open connection between the roof and the battlements remained free (examples: Rudelsburg , Osterburg ). In the covered military platforms battlements gaps also similar arranged window openings were the panoramic view of the surroundings and the use of long-range weapons permit (instead Idstein Castle , Sayn Castle ). Partially preserved consoles or beam holes at the tower end point in some cases to wooden superstructures. In the late Middle Ages, the tower roofs were often equipped with small corner turrets and similar structures.

Larger throwing machines or catapults have certainly rarely stood on the defensive plates.

Large castle complexes (e.g. Munzenberg Castle ) and Ganerbe castles sometimes have several keep. The very large Neuchâtel of the Landgraves of Thuringia near Freyburg (Unstrut) , consisting of a core castle and two outer castles, used to have a keep in each part of the castle (core castle, outer castle 1 and outer castle 2), making a total of three keep. The also unusually large royal imperial castle Kyffhausen on the Kyffhäuser Mountains consisted of an upper castle, a middle castle and a lower castle. In Oberburg and Mittelburg the two well-known bergfrieds have been preserved or in remnants. Both keep of the Saxon castle Mildenstein have been preserved, that of the former outer bailey and that of the preserved inner bailey. But also smaller castles sometimes have two keep, such as Kohren Castle in Kohren-Sahlis or the very famous Saaleck Castle near Bad Kösen . This is often explained by the fact that there were several owners of the castles at the same time (similar to the Ganerbe castles), who each had their own keep built for reasons of representation or security.

In some regions, almost without exception, round keep were built. So just a few examples rectangular Bergfriede are in Saxony-known: Waldenburg , Castle Lichtenstein (2016 foundations excavated), castle ruins Rechenberg (keep on the castle rock in the 19th century demolished to build a school, now the Town Hall.), Castle Großenhain , Burg / Wartturm Schoenberg , Rochlitz Castle , Eilenburg . This can be explained by the late construction of most of the castles in Saxony, whose keep are usually dated to the 13th century. As the siege technology progressed, the round design proved to be the most statically stable and was therefore used almost without exception in Saxony. Triangular or polygonal keep are not known in Saxony. For Burg Waldenburg, however, an unusually early construction period (around 1165) is documented and the humpback blocks on the preserved rectangular keep also refer to the Staufer period (12th century).

The remains of the keep of a tower hill castle were uncovered in the Saxon deserted area of Nennewitz . This high medieval keep (rest) is rectangular and has rounded corners.

Octagonal keep

The keep on an octagonal floor plan is a rare form . First of all, octagonal keeps appear at some Hohenstaufen castles in Baden-Württemberg, Alsace and southern Italy. The best known is the keep of Steinsberg Castle . At the tower of Frederick II in Enna , a symmetrical octagonal ring wall is added to the octagonal keep. The tower of Gräfenstein Castle can be seen as a special form of an octagonal keep , in which the legs on the attack side are extended to form a triangle, making the tower heptagonal.

In the post-Hohenstaufen period, octagonal keep appeared on brick Gothic castles . The octagonal shape is also due to the brick construction, which prefers angular shapes over round ones. One variant is an octagonal tower above a square basement, for example near Wesenberg Castle in Mecklenburg. Starting from the castles of the Teutonic Order , this tower shape also spread in central Poland (examples: Strasburg Castle ruins in Brodnica , Schlochau Castle ruins , Heilsberg Castle ). Occasionally, order castles also have such towers that are not made of brick (e.g. Paide in Lithuania).

In the 13th century near the Osterburg in Weida, East Thuringia, an octagonal brick floor was suspended on the round quarry stone keep. Later it was rebuilt in such a way that it has only been preserved inside to this day. Its construction time could only be determined in 2004. The tower was later expanded to a height of 54 m (see picture).


The keep was a multifunctional component that could take on various defense functions, but also had a representative value. In the last third of the 20th century, a discussion arose in castle research about the individual functions , which can best be reduced to the abbreviation "Defense building or (more) status symbol".

Shield function

Due to its enormous wall mass - the base storey is even solidly lined in some cases - the tower offered passive protection for the areas of the castle behind it. For this reason, the keep was on the main attack side of many of the systems, often set in the front defensive wall. This enabled the keep to assume a function similar to that of a shield wall . This was particularly the case with castles in which the shield wall and keep are connected to one another to form a structural unit (example: Liebenzell Castle in the Black Forest).

So-called double bergfrieds such as that of Greifenstein Castle in Hesse and Rochlitz Castle (the so-called Jupen) in Saxony represent an intermediate stage between the keep and the shield wall. The two towers standing close together are connected by a narrow piece of shield wall. The same is true for the neighboring Lower Austrian former castles of Pottendorf (both keep with humpback cuboids ) and Ebenfurth .

The fact that keeps with a five- or triangular floor plan are usually aligned with a corner facing the main attack side of the castle is also associated with the shield function: the oblique angle of impact enabled stone projectiles hurled by catapults to be deflected to the side. In some cases, such a "impact wedge" was added to the tower at a later date, and it can also be found on towers with an otherwise round floor plan (examples: Klingenberg in Bohemia and Forchtenstein Castle in Austria). A square keep placed at a corner could also serve this purpose. In other cases, however, the acute-angled floor plan is simply due to the natural shape of the bedrock.


Since the keep was the tallest building in the castle, it usually also served as a watch tower (observation tower ). The apron and the area around the castle could be observed from the upper floor or the defense platform. Watchman ( towers ) were early surveys an approaching enemy and give the alarm, and also in sieges of elevated vantage point for observing the apron was important. A particularly well-preserved example is the Osterburg in Weida , under the brick tower of the keep there is a tower house. Just below the top of the spire there is still an original, small, brick observation platform (almost 58 m high) for the tower keeper. A small tower parlor integrated into the keep wall with Gothic door walls, integrated fireplace and toilet bay with window has been preserved directly under the crenellated platform of the keep of Gnandstein Castle . A half-timbered tower from a presumably Baroque period - a former tower-keeper's apartment - is still located on the keep of Walternienburg Castle .

Raised weir platform

Attackers were able to position themselves above the castle area in the case of spur castles and hillside castles . This height disadvantage could at least partially be compensated for by the height of the keep. The mountainside could be controlled better from the high weir platform than from the lower battlements. Apart from this, the keep generally also takes on the function of a defensive tower . Examples of very high keep were or are those of Rheinfels Castle (54 m) and Osterburg (53 m). Additional battlements could be built onto the tower on the level of a lower story (example: Burg Bischofstein on the Moselle).

Safe storage and use as a prison

Section through the base area of ​​the Hexenturm in Idstein. The basement is only accessible through an opening in the top of the vault.

The massive construction and the inaccessible high entrance of the keep made it a relatively safe place of storage within the castle. Valuables could be stored here, so that the tower took on the role of a safe .

At least in the early modern period , keeps were also used as a largely escape-proof repository for prisoners. In particular, the shaft-like basement room in the base of the tower is often interpreted as a dungeon that was only accessible through a narrow opening in the ceiling. The shape of this room, also known as the perforated cellar , was not necessarily associated with such a use, but results from the overall static construction of the keep: The thickest walls in the basement leave a narrow interior, around four to eight meters high, the is usually closed by a stabilizing vault and is then only accessible via a dome eye in the vertex of the vault. The latter, in turn, results from the fact that the high entrance to the tower is on one of the upper floors. In this context, the dome eye is also referred to as the " fear hole " through which one could get into the cellar via a ladder or cable winch. Wall stairs like those in the old keep of Langenau Castle are a rare exception (further examples: Osterburg , “Dicker Wilhelm” of Neuchâtel , keep of Plau Castle ).

The basement room in the tower base could be used in different ways. In some cases it was used as a storage room or magazine, for example piles of stones were found here, which were held up as projectiles for a siege. In individual cases, the use as a cistern is also documented, and the space often remained unused. A general interpretation of the Lochkeller as the “castle dungeon”, as it occurs in the older castle lore and also in the tourist context, is therefore misleading.

Most reports of the incarceration of prisoners in the basement of the keep date from the late Middle Ages and the early modern period; to what extent this was already common practice is uncertain. Often it is only a question of later conversions, as is also known for numerous city wall towers (see Hunger Tower ) and even entire castle complexes ( Bastille ). The incarceration in the often narrow, poorly ventilated and lighted, sometimes completely dark basement rooms ( dark detention) was not a matter of mere arrest, but a corporal punishment , which represented severe psychological and physical abuse of the prisoners.

The keep as a residential tower

The fact that chimneys (sometimes several) and, in some cases, several lavatory bays were integrated in many mountain taverns directly during construction shows that mountain taverns were often also regularly used for residential purposes. Current research regards the keep III ("Fat Wilhelm") of the outer bailey II of the lordly Neuchâtel today as a keep built mainly for residential purposes. Its unusual interior floor space, the staircases laid in the wall thickness and existing chimneys and several narrow “windows” (notches) suggest this conclusion. The huge keep "Grützpott" of Stolpe Castle was also designed / built as a residential tower / donjon . This object is also regarded as a tower castle (tower hill with originally only the keep / residential tower as the only building). Particularly artfully designed chimneys in Bergfrieden, for example at Schönburg Castle (Bergfried and chimney around 1230), suggest the regular residential use of Bergfrieden. Also on the Runneburg , the five-storey donjon-like residential tower (residential tower with high entrance) that is directly connected to the palace was originally designed for residential purposes: with chimneys, toilet bay and several staircases laid in the wall. (The actual keep of the Runneburg, the "Streitturm", was demolished around 1750 because it was dilapidated.) The unique selling point - if any - of the keep remains its unusual wall thickness compared to most residential towers.

Status symbol

The 48 m high "White Tower" in Bad Homburg Castle in butter churn construction was retained during the later conversion to the castle

Just like the earlier residential towers of the nobility and other tower structures, the keep also played an important representative role. Some castle researchers emphasize the role of the status symbol, although it has not yet been possible to deduce from medieval sources what symbolic content was actually intended or perceived by contemporaries. The symbol of the tower is ambiguous and does not always have a positive connotation. The Tower of Babel, for example, stood for arrogance and indulgence in man. Since secular rule and especially knighthood (in its self- image as militia christiana ) legitimized itself against a Christian background in the Middle Ages , there is also the thesis in research that the donjon possibly had a Christian connotation as a symbol of Mary . Mary was referred to in the Lauretanian litany as the " ivory tower " and the "tower of David ". But even this symbolic content could not be adequately proven for the castle tower by the sources.

The main tower is often mentioned first in contemporary descriptions of a castle, as an abbreviation (i.e. a pictorial abbreviation) it can often be seen on coats of arms and seals, where it symbolizes the castle as a whole. The medieval towers in some northern Italian and German cities, whose sometimes bizarre heights can no longer be explained in terms of defense technology, are perhaps comparable to the keep in its status symbolism (in addition, for example in Regensburg there were no armed conflicts between the urban patrician families, so the status function here from the beginning to have prevailed). Among other things, the " butter churn attachments ", some of which were built later, speak for the role as a status symbol , which did not provide any additional use for the military function, but only brought height.

At the transition from the late Middle Ages to the modern era, when the development of firearms brought about a revolution in military technology, the keep gradually lost its defensive function, as excessive components were particularly susceptible to cannon fire and detonation. In the case of castles that were expanded into fortresses of a new kind in response to these developments , the keep was therefore often torn down or dismantled, for example at the Coburg Fortress or Wildenstein Castle .

In the modern era, however, the keep was preserved at some castles, which increasingly abandoned fortifications and were redesigned into castles . The keep is often the only component of the medieval castle that has largely been taken over in its original form, which in turn can be seen as an indication of its role as a (now traditional) symbol of rule. Examples are the Bad Homburg Castle (White Tower) or the Wildeck Castle (Dicker Heinrich) near Zschopau. At Johannisburg Castle in Aschaffenburg, the last major Renaissance castle building before the outbreak of the Thirty Years War , the Gothic keep of the previous castle was integrated into the otherwise very regular complex, although it breaks out of its symmetry in a striking way.

In the palace construction of the Renaissance (and to a lesser extent also in the Baroque), towers continue to play an important role as components of stately architecture, even if they now mostly no longer have a defensive function ( Moritzburg , Messkirch Palace ).

The keep as a place of refuge

The more recent research on castles, especially the group around the Bavarian medieval archaeologist Joachim Zeune , questions the function of the keep as a place of refuge in the event of a siege. The withdrawal into the tower was said to have been a "death in installments", which only made sense in expectation of a relief army . As evidence for this thesis, the extensive lack of corresponding findings and records is cited. The high entrance is also given more symbolic and psychological importance.

Critics accuse this view, which emerged in connection with Zeune's "power symbol theory", the complete disregard of the high medieval feudal order and the allegiance. Here Günther Bandmann's methodology has simply been transferred to secular architecture.

Many castles were feudal castles that a powerful feudal lords or a bishopric were under. The territories of that time were secured by a dense network of such small and medium-sized fortifications, which was supplemented by the fortified courtyards of the lower vassals . In the event of an attack, according to this view, the defenders could certainly have relied on the assistance of their liege lord and the associated or allied knighthood . Conversely, the sovereign naturally trusted in the help of his vassals.

The underground levels of the keep are often several meters in the ground. An undermining was therefore not to be feared. The stone architecture also made it difficult to set fire to it. The few light openings could be closed quickly so that fumigation could also be prevented. The “conservative” group of historians therefore sees the keep as a means of passive defense, as a place of refuge for a few days, until relief arrived. For this reason, there are few active defense facilities on these structures. Apparently the main aim was to prevent the attacker from entering. Storming such a tower within a few days is almost impossible. Because of their massive construction, many keep escaped even later demolition attempts by the surrounding rural population, who gladly transported away and recycled the other building materials from abandoned castles.

An attack on such a castle, which was integrated into a functioning feudal system, was therefore almost hopeless. Here it was far less risky to plunder the farms and mills of the enemy. In fact, a large part of the Central European castles were never seriously attacked in the Middle Ages. Consequently, there cannot be much evidence of a retreat into a keep, as the building had already fulfilled its deterrent function.

A siege that promised success only made sense if you secured yourself legally beforehand and asked the sovereign or even the emperor for permission. This was only possible in the case of actual or fictitious legal violations, such as highway robbery , counterfeiting or manslaughter. The hands of the lord's allies were then tied; for legal reasons they could not come to the aid of the attacked person. In such cases, a final refuge in the main tower was actually pointless.

The keep of the castles of the 12./13. Century were originally surrounded by simple curtain walls. Flanking towers and kennels were only added in later construction phases. At that time, many outbuildings were made of wood or half-timbered houses , the stone residential buildings were usually not particularly well-fortified. In the High Middle Ages , a massive keep was undoubtedly the safest building in case of siege, in which women, old people and children could seek refuge during the fighting.

Such a tower was certainly also an effective protection against the surprise attacks of smaller marauding gangs and the local population. A castle was particularly endangered when there were often only a few able-bodied men who were not able to fight or work in the fields. Even without supplies, the remaining inhabitants of the castle could stay in the keep until the return of the men and were protected from abuse and rape . Such a safe retreat was certainly very welcome at a time when state and social structures were only beginning to consolidate.

In later extensions, the added defense towers were often designed as shell towers. The back was therefore open so as not to offer any cover for an enemy who had entered. Such semicircular or rectangular towers have been preserved on countless castles and city fortifications. They are a further indication that a defense system has not yet been abandoned even after the ramparts were stormed.

In the late and post-Middle Ages, some new castle buildings were built, the main towers of which were undoubtedly never planned as places of retreat. From 1418, Friedrich von Freyberg had one of the last large new castle buildings of the German Middle Ages built right next to his ancestral castle Eisenberg in the Allgäu . The Hohenfreyberg Castle was built in the style of a Staufer hilltop castle , a "dungeon" was a must here. The two castle ruins now form one of the most important groups of castles in Central Europe. The Freyberger probably wanted to create a symbol of knightly self-confidence again at the end of the Middle Ages.

In the 16th century, the Augsburg Fuggers acquired the Marienburg in Niederalfingen in what is now the Ostalbkreis in Baden-Württemberg. In the period of the High Renaissance , a "high medieval" hilltop castle was built here from humpback ashlars with a mighty main tower. The Fuggers, who had risen from the simplest of backgrounds, apparently wanted to legitimize their newly acquired nobility with an "ancient" family castle.

The castle in case of siege

Attacks on medieval castles in Central Europe were usually not carried out by large siege armies. Often only twenty to one hundred men blocked the entrances to the castle and demoralized the crew with occasional attacks. People liked to throw animal carcasses or rubbish into the courtyard. A blocked castle actually only needed to be starved, but the besiegers also faced the problem of supply. The farmers in the area had mostly hidden their grain in earth stables and drove the cattle into the woods.

The crew of the besieged castle usually consisted of men even less capable of arms. In the event of a foreseeable siege, the castle crew, which in peacetime only consisted of about three to twenty men, was doubled or tripled. At least the higher ranks could find refuge in the main tower in an emergency. At that time a castle was only considered conquered when the keep had also fallen. This could take a few more weeks. During this time, the attacker had to continue to feed and pay his men. Sometimes the besiegers' mercenaries simply ran away or even stood against their employer if success was too long in coming.

There are even real agreements between the commanders, who often knew each other personally and held the same social position. A deadline was negotiated, which was apparently mostly around 30 days. If the liege lord or the allies of the besieged did not appear in front of the castle within this period, the defenders surrendered the fortification without a fight. In return, there was safe conduct and sometimes the household items were allowed to be taken. Such a contract could save lives on both sides and avoid unnecessary costs. Such an agreement certainly presupposes that the castle complex and the main tower have a certain strength. A “defense to the end” could be very risky. For example, the higher ranks of the crew of the English Bedford Castle after the main tower was blown up by the troops of King Henry III. hung in front of the castle (1224). In Central Europe, castles were given up during the German Peasant War against the assurance of free travel.

To protect against fumigation a retracted in the keep Burg crew (after a wall opening. Eg at the bottom of the keep) were incorporated into some Bergfriede one or more brick false ceilings or circular vault. The stairs were either relocated to the wall thickness of the keep (example: Osterburg ) or there were only small hatches that could be locked in the event of siege, similar to the fear hole in the brick vaulted ceiling (example: Ehrenstein Castle ). In the latter case, residential use of the keep in peacetime was practically impossible.

Defense warehouses and fortified churches

Clear parallels to the assumed refuge function of the bergfrieds are shown by the fortified warehouses of the lightly fortified courts of the lower nobility and the stone church towers of the villages and fortified churches.

In the event of war, the population suffered most. Almost every larger village was therefore weakly fortified. Not infrequently, the church was fortified to Wehrkirche expanded or even to Kirchenburg been extended. The massive church tower, in the special case of the round church the entire structure, functioned as a keep, in which the population could find shelter at short notice if necessary. The attackers often withdrew after a short time; active defense was of secondary importance here.

The neglect of the time gain factor in Joachim Zeune's argumentation was also noted by the researcher Hans Jürgen Hessel in an essay on fortified churches in Fortress Journal 32 of the German Society for Fortress Research (2008).

The farms of the small nobility and the large farmers often had small weir stores, which were mostly on islands in ponds. On top of a massive basement there was an excellent upper floor that could accommodate the residents. Most of the examples of such fortified storage towers have been preserved in Westphalia . For Franconia , Joachim Zeune has provided one of the few verified proofs of such a “miniature mountain cemetery ” ( Dürrnhof ).


  • Thomas Biller, G. Ulrich Großmann : Castle and Palace. The aristocratic seat in the German-speaking area. Regensburg 2002, ISBN 3-7954-1325-7 , pp. 74-78.
  • Reinhard Friedrich: keep. In: Horst Wolfgang Böhme (Hrsg.): Dictionary of castles, palaces and fortresses. Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-15-010547-1 , p. 81, doi: 10.11588 / arthistoricum.535 .
  • G. Ulrich Großmann: The world of castles. History, architecture, culture. CH Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-64510-5 , pp. 75-80.
  • Yves Hoffmann: On the dating of residential towers and mountain peace from the 11th to 13th centuries on Saxon castles. In: Historical building research in Saxony. Workbook of the State Office for Monument Preservation Saxony. Volume 4, Dresden 2000, ISBN 3-930382-46-6 , pp. 47-58.
  • Michael Losse : Little Castle Studies. Regionalia, Euskirchen 2011, ISBN 978-3-939722-39-7 , pp. 85-87.
  • Hans-Klaus Pehla: Defense tower and keep in the Middle Ages. Dissertation . Aachen 1974.
  • Reinhard Schmitt : High medieval keep - fortifications or aristocratic status symbol? In: Rainer Aurig, Reinhardt Butz, Ingolf Gräßler, André Thieme (eds.): Castle - Street - Settlement - Dominion. Studies on the Middle Ages in Saxony and Central Germany. Festschrift for Gerhard Billig for his 80th birthday. Beucha 2007, ISBN 978-3-86729-012-8 , pp. 105-142.
  • Stefan Uhl, Joachim Zeune : The keep. In: Deutsche Burgenvereinigung (Hrsg.): Castles in Central Europe. A manual. Volume 1. Theiss, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-8062-1355-0 , pp. 237-245.
  • Joachim Zeune: Castles - symbols of power. A new image of the medieval castle. Regensburg 1997, ISBN 3-7917-1501-1 .

Web links

Commons : Bergfried  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Otto Piper: Burgendkunde. Construction and history of castles. Würzburg 1912, p. 174.
  2. ^ Hermann Hinz : Motte and Donjon. On the early history of the medieval aristocratic castle. Cologne 1981, pp. 53-58.
  3. Castles in Central Europe. Published by the Deutsche Burgenvereinigung e. V. Stuttgart 1999, p. 237.
  4. Hans-Klaus Pehla: Defense tower and keep in the Middle Ages . Aachen 1974, pp. 203-242.
  5. Hans-Klaus Pehla: Defense tower and keep in the Middle Ages . Aachen 1974, p. 206 f.
  6. Castles in Central Europe. Published by the Deutsche Burgenvereinigung e. V. Stuttgart 1999, p. 74: “Bergfrieds as pure defensive structures without a noteworthy residential function are in castles of the 11th century. not yet to be found (...) ". See also: Thomas Biller: The Adelsburg in Germany. Origin, form and meaning. Munich 1993, p. 135.
  7. ^ Thomas Biller: The Adelsburg in Germany. Munich 1993, p. 145. As a further example, Biller cites the Große Harzburg , p. 143 f.
  8. ^ Thomas Biller: The Adelsburg in Germany. Origin, form and meaning. Munich 1993, p. 134.
  9. Examples u. A .: Hocheppan Castle , Falkenstein Castle (Taunus) , see. Hans-Klaus Pehla: Defense tower and keep in the Middle Ages. Aachen 1974, p. 305.
  10. Hans-Klaus Pehla: Defense tower and keep in the Middle Ages. Aachen 1974, p. 294 f.
  11. Castles in Central Europe. Edited by of the German Castle Association e. V. Darmstadt 1999, p. 238.
  12. Hans-Klaus Pehla: Defense tower and keep in the Middle Ages. Aachen 1974, pp. 101-105.
  13. Castle World of Thuringia. Thuringian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Spring / Summer 2017 magazine.
  14. ^ Joachim Zeune: Castles. Symbols of power. Regensburg 1997, p. 44.
  15. Manfred Lurker (Ed.): Dictionary of Symbolism (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 464). 5th, revised and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-520-46405-5 , p. 774.
  16. ^ Günther Bandmann: Medieval architecture as a carrier of meaning. Berlin 1951
  17. ^ Hans Jürgen Hessel: Fortified churches (fortified churches), a neglected chapter of German history. In: Fortress Journal. No. 32. Marburg, German Society for Fortress Research, 2008