from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Eltz Castle is a Ganerbeburg and the former seat of the Lords of Eltz from the twelfth century
Burghausen Castle , with an extension of 1051 m, the longest castle complex in Europe (continuously expanded since the eleventh century)
The Lahneck from 1226 is a Spur castle
The Tures Castle in South Tyrol (13th to 16th century)
The medieval castle Schönfels (12th to 16th centuries)

A castle is a self-contained, habitable defense structure , also a prehistoric or ancient fortification across epochs , in the narrower sense a medieval residential and defense structure. The castle played an outstanding role in the Middle Ages, during which a large number of castle complexes were built in Europe and the castle was institutionally closely linked to the feudal form of organization of the manorial system.

Today castles are often an important architectural monument , cultural asset and part of the growing cultural heritage for tourism . Many castles bear the mark of cultural property according to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (see International Committee of the Blue Shield ).

Concept history


The history of the term and its New High German name Burg goes back to Roman times , when Germans and Celts settled the parts of Central Europe that are relevant here. In Celtic, bona stood for “foundation, city”. The Romans - so by name Julius Caesar in De bello gallico  - called these fortified city-like settlements of the Celts oppida and distinguished them from smaller fortifications of a purely military nature, which they designated with the loan word burgus ("fortress, watchtower, small border fortress", m.) (see Burgus ). Only later did a feminine variant of the loan word take on the meaning "fortified border settlement, small town". In this coinage was probably a blending of ancient Greek πύργος Pýrgos and Germanic with this related root (then "siege tower, outbuildings" "tower, Wall tower") ( protogermanisch * burgz ) ago. However, the female gender common to all Germanic evidence points to a Germanic origin of nhd. Burg , so in Old High German and Old Saxon burg "Burg, Stadt", the synonymous Old Norse borg , next to it also "Hill, Wall", and Gothic ?????? baúrgs "Stadt" , occasionally “tower, castle” (all f.). According to the German Etymological Dictionary, the castle stands “probably in the ablaut” to nhd. Berg and referred to “originally the fortified height ( serving as a refuge )” ”. Related terms in other Indo-European languages ​​are likely to be the Celtic root * brig- (as in Central Irish brī "hill", Welsh brig "summit") and the Greek pýrgos ( πύργος ).

From the tenth to the thirteenth century, "new centers" formed in the Carolingian domain , [...] above all through the burgi ", which arose" in the vicinity of episcopal cities and castra ". In Latin sources of the time, the newly established fortresses and the surrounding settlements with the original Greek male Lehnwort were occupied, the. Ahd to castle appeal. Until the twelfth century, the basic word -burg was used to describe settlements that "emerged under the protection of an old people's or refugee castle (Würzburg), an old Roman fort (Augsburg, Regensburg) or a fortified feudal seat (Naumburg)". Only then do other formations appear ( e.g. with -stat , from which nhd. -Stadt ), whereupon the castle is restricted to the meaning of “knight's castle, inhabited fortress”. At the same time, the Anglo-Saxon burh has been reproduced as burgus in England since the Norman conquest and can also be found there in numerous place names on -bury , -borough and -burgh , the inhabitants of which can be proven in documents as "townspeople" .

In addition, another root possibly penetrated into the German-speaking area from the Romance-speaking area, which connects with Italian borgo . Unlike the German castle , borgo still stands for a district in modern Italian, for a city expansion (actually outside the city walls) or for a city with trade and agriculture in contrast to città (city) and villagio (village), but not for castle ( castello ). The Italian linguist and dialectologist Mario Alinei runs it. hence borgo from Latin vulgus "simple people". Likewise, the French -bourg stands for city and the English borough for a self-governing municipality.

Change of name

In the course of the Middle Ages, the linguistic expressions commonly used for what is now called a castle changed several times . Up to the 13th century, castles in the New High German meaning of the word were predominantly called hûs ("house"; cf. Niehuus Castle ) and stone . In the 14th century, the name veste ("festivals") or vestunge ("fortress") for castles became widespread , in the 16th century they were also referred to as schlos (" castle "). Some of the castles still have these older names, such as the Veste Coburg or the Chillon Castle . The expressions castle and chateau were still used synonymously in the sources of the 16th century , and the term fortification was also used at this time . It was not until the 19th century that differentiated meanings were assigned to the expressions and thus “castle” was used for a building with a residential and military function, in contrast to “castle” for a representative building.

In today's architectural-historical usage of the word, the medieval castle as an inhabited defense structure is differentiated from the modern castle as an unfortified noble residential and representative building on the one hand and from the purely military fortress on the other. Michael Mitterauer differentiates between Herrenburg and Burgstadt.

Objectives of medieval castles

  • Adel castles, the nobles and their immediate aftermath serve as befitting, fortified residence and almost always the center of a manorial were
  • Imperial and state castles that are integrated into the territorial system of rule of a king or sovereign
  • Monastery and order castles that offer protection and influence to a clerical community
  • City castles or fortress-like fortified cities
  • Refugee castles or people's castles, which serve a complete local population temporarily as a retreat in times of danger. This also includes fortified churches and fortified churches , which were also only used temporarily in their function as refuges.

historical development

Prehistoric and ancient fortifications

Many prehistoric fortifications and settlements were inhabited for very long periods of time and repeatedly expanded or renewed. Historical records are often missing from these monuments, so that they can only be researched using archaeological methods. In the Roman Empire , forts or burgi ( late Roman ) were common as fortified troop locations. The external borders of the empire were partially secured with border fortifications ( Limes ).

Castles in the early Middle Ages

The "Longobard Tower" in Castelfeder , a Longobard fortification that was renewed in the Carolingian-Ottonian period.
The Hessian Amöneburg has been rebuilt many times as a hilltop castle since the Merovingian era.

In the troubled times of late antiquity and the migration of peoples , both Romans and Germanic peoples withdrew to hilltop settlements . In the 8th century, the historian Paulus Diaconus mentioned numerous castra in the central Alpine region for the year 590 in his Lombard history, based on the historiola of Abbot Secundus of Trento , which has not survived . Today, such a castrum is mostly seen as a fortified hilltop settlement from the Ostrogothic, Byzantine or Lombard times. Loppio in Trentino, the Vigiliusbühl near Perdonig or Castelfeder near Auer, both in the Adige Valley, can be cited as examples . In the Byzantine Empire , fortress cities were called kastron .

In the Franconian Empire , after a break in the 6th century, castle building began again in the Carolingian era at the latest - especially since King Henry I - in order to secure the eastern border of the empire. The oldest facilities, which date back to the 7th century, include the Meersburg , the Büraburg , the Amöneburg , the Schwedenschanze near Stade and the facilities on the Odilienberg and the Christenberg . Large Gaugrafen castles were built, partly through the expansion of prehistoric ramparts . At the same time, that is, in the late 8th and 9th centuries, the Slavs also began building castles, in the special shape of the Slavic ramparts . In the 10th century, huge Hungarian walls were raised in southwest Germany . In the run-up, elaborate riders approach obstacles were created to force the equestrian people to fight on foot. After the battle on the Lechfeld near Augsburg ( 955 ), the expansion of some of these ramparts was abruptly stopped because the danger of the defeat of the Hungarians had been eliminated. Early medieval castles in Central Europe were for the most part fortified with earth walls, which were usually provided with wooden structures.

Many high medieval castles are located within older, much larger-scale ramparts, the timing of which cannot always be clarified beyond doubt. Fortress-technically favorable places were often used for millennia. Due to climatic improvements, there was rapid population growth in the German-speaking area at the end of the early Middle Ages, which enabled the emergence of a new social class, the ministerials . These servants, who were initially unfree, often documented their new status by building a wooden hilltop castle, the Motte . This type of building was originally native to Western Europe .

High and late Middle Ages

Stone-wooden castle (in King Wenceslas' Bible around 1390)

The heyday of castle building was the high and late Middle Ages . Most of the castles and ruins that are preserved today date from this period. There were around 13,000 castles in Germany in the 14th century, around 1,000 of which were destroyed in the German Peasants' War between 1524 and 1526. Only half of the castles at that time were known by name. Today 40% of the remaining castles are in ruins, only 10% have been completely preserved.

Due to the weak infrastructure of medieval Europe, castle building was one of the most important means of exercising power, which is why it was one of the royal rights ( regalia ). Some rulers had forts built in rebellious areas or cities. In contrast, the palaces of the high nobility and the emperors were originally only weakly fortified. While the kings of most European countries were keen to maintain their prerogative to build castles, this right was usually passed on to the territorial princes in the Holy Roman Empire during the late Middle Ages as an imperial fief or pledge. These built residential castles and secured and opened up their territories through numerous smaller castles, which they had built and occupied by employed castle men or ministerials , the ministerial castles mostly by lending the ministerials the respective manorial power independently . Because the many castles not only fulfilled military, but also administrative and economic functions. They were the legal center of a complex of goods of different sizes and structures, the center of a space-encompassing system of sovereign rights and duties, staff associations, judicial powers, hunting rights and all kinds of rights of use and other sources of income, center of agricultural and manual work and trades, and sometimes also holders of exploitation rights to mineral resources ( Iron, silver, gold, etc.). Clearing castles emerged in large numbers in the clearing period between the 11th and 13th centuries in the clearing islands that were forming in the middle of uncultivated primeval forests.

Economic importance also had inches castles and dams that the road forced interspersed with their Wegzoll the expansion and maintenance of trade routes secured - an essential prerequisite for the upturn in the High and Late Middle Ages.

In the area around a castle, the so-called truce , which strictly prohibited feuds , was in force. Through the castle spell living in the catchment area of a castle population was to forced labor committed. This mainly related to military service and in particular to everyday economic - including some quite curious - activities. At the Křivoklát castle z. B. concrete persons obliged to provide grummet for the royal toilet or to breed songbirds for the amusement of the queen.

The construction times varied between a few weeks for a small wooden castle and many decades for a large feudal castle. A smaller stone castle should have been ready for occupancy in three to five years and was usually expanded later. Ideally, the building material available on site was used. The stone could possibly already be extracted during the trench excavation, and quarries have often been preserved in the immediate vicinity of the castle. In stone- poor areas (such as northern Germany), bricks or reading stones were mostly used . The construction time depended on the building material used and the design. Small “arming holes” are often found in the walls at regular intervals. In this construction technique, wooden poles were bricked up when building the walls. Boards were then placed on these poles. From this scaffolding level, masonry could then be built upwards at man's height. This principle was continued until the final wall height was reached. The wood residues that often remain in the scaffolding holes often provide information about the age of the construction phase using dendrochronology . In addition, there were also smaller standing scaffolding, especially indoors. The outer walls of many castles - in contrast to their current appearance - were mostly plastered.

Much has been argued about the influence of Arab and Muslim defense architecture on the development of European castles. Certainly, however, one or the other suggestion reached Europe during the Crusades . This influence is evident in many Spanish castles due to the history of the country. For this reason, there have often been independent developments in Spanish castle building. Buildings such as Coca Castle are unparalleled in the rest of Europe.

The Rhine route from Mainz to Bonn is probably the best-known example of a German castle landscape. Classic "castle nests" are also the Moselle region , the Palatinate Forest , the Swabian and Franconian Alb , the Franconian Hassberge and the like. a. In the German-speaking part of former Austria, South Tyrol should be mentioned here in particular ; in Switzerland the Domleschg . One of the most famous and oldest stone castles still in existence is the Habsburg , the oldest parts of which date from the eleventh century.

There were many more castles in the Middle Ages than is commonly assumed today. Even today, at first glance, areas with few castles were littered with more or less fortified structures in the High Middle Ages. Especially in the first decades of territorial expansion, there was a small castle or at least a fortified courtyard in or near every larger village. These facilities served as homes and, above all, as status symbols for the numerous ministerials and the newly established nobility. Many of these sometimes tiny castles have risen up in Meierhöfe or palaces. The lords of these castles were often not economically strong enough to establish themselves permanently in the lower nobility. Often there were several castles in one community. Especially in the border area between the areas of powerful territorial lords, numerous castles were built to secure their own influence. A good example is the striking density of castles in the Franconian Haßberge, where the two high monasteries Bamberg and Würzburg competed against each other.

Due to the different development of the feudal system and other geographical and political factors, the castles of the different cultures differ significantly. In Germany, the often enormous dimensions of the English and French fortifications are usually far from being reached. Here, too, the exception confirms the rule: Europe's longest castle can be found in Bavaria ( Burg zu Burghausen ). The system is over 1200 m long. The Teutonic Order castles are not representative of the German castle either.

In the (former) German-speaking area, more than 40,000 medieval castles are likely to have been built, 25,000 for today's Federal Republic alone. This number can be explained by the special development of feudalism in the "German" Reich explain the development of the "service nobility" of the majority of the knights and lesser nobility presented. In addition, there is the territorial fragmentation into small and smallest dominions. Most of these fortifications no longer exist in the course of their long history or are only preserved as castle stables . According to some estimates, the ruins of German castles still preserved today are said to have been destroyed or decayed for the following reasons: abandonment, demolition, war, fire, earthquake, etc .; in around a quarter the reasons are unknown. The country with the greatest density of castles is Bohemia .

The development of the castle in Europe largely ran parallel to the development of the city ​​fortifications , whereby both types of settlement influenced each other and had similar elements. So z. B. the donjon its urban equivalent in the residential and family towers of European cities. Many castles are located in the middle of the cities or on their outskirts and were thus linked to the city fortifications in terms of defense technology.

The end of the castle building

The castle lost its importance as a defensive structure in the 17th century. With the advent of firearms , the form of fortification of the castle changed. From the second half of the 15th century, ramparts were built from defensive walls, and battery towers from wall towers, and later bastions and bastions . First round towers were built against the hook boxes , so-called rondels . From the 1530s the first bastions were built to avoid the blind spot in front of the roundels. The bastionary system of citadels was first implemented in 1549 in the Jülich Citadel , from 1559 in the Spandau Citadel and from 1588 in the Wülzburg Citadel . From the early 15th century onwards, a separation of defense and residential functions can be observed within the castle. Due to the erection of ramparts, both functions could no longer be combined in one building.

In the Thirty Years' War , many castles were destroyed and then rebuilt, some with just modest means. The construction tasks of castle and palace on the one hand and fortress on the other were now separated . The French military campaigns under Louis XIV in the late 17th century showed that castles had lost their meaning from a military point of view, but the French destroyed almost all medieval castles in the Alsace, Lorraine, Baden and Palatinate region. Nevertheless, repairs were made to castles that were to continue to serve as a residence or administrative seat. Over time, castles were also sold to non-aristocrats, partly for residential use, partly for demolition. Some castles remained used and defensible, even if only symbolically.

Many castles were also deliberately demolished. In some areas, such as Austria, the property tax was based on the roof area of ​​the property. In order to avoid this roof tax, the roofs of empty building parts were simply covered. Uninhabited castles were left to decay for romantic reasons in order to turn the facilities into picturesque landscape decorations. Artificial castle ruins were built in numerous palace and landscape gardens in the 19th century , the architectural parts of which were occasionally taken from old castles. Numerous castles have been converted into representative buildings, so-called palaces , since the Renaissance period .

The German art historian G. Ulrich Großmann speaks of censuses that indicate a total of 25,000 castles in German-speaking countries and 40,000 castles in Central Europe, which were verifiably built. Estimates assume a larger number.

Successors and aftermath

The modern fortresses also initially had a certain resemblance to a castle. The Schaffhausen Munot in Switzerland is a good example of this. In the 19th century, as a result of Romanticism, there was a strong turn to the legends and myths of the Middle Ages. In the castle architecture, this is reflected in historicism . Examples are Neuschwanstein Castle or Hohenzollern Castle . However, these buildings have little in common with the medieval models. It is about fantasy architectures that exaggerate individual elements of the castle architecture into the grotesque. Neuschwanstein was even designed by a set designer . But established researchers such as Bodo Ebhardt also contributed to the romanticization of the image of the medieval castle with restorations , such as the Hohkönigsburg in Alsace . In all of these cases, significant remains of the original fortifications were removed, and the imitation Middle Ages were preferred to the real ones. These buildings shape many people's ideas of a medieval castle to this day.

In 1907 the Mürwik Naval School was established in Flensburg , where Adalbert Kelm oriented himself towards the construction of the Marienburg Order Castle . The building should serve the Imperial Navy . It was completed in 1910 and inaugurated by Kaiser Wilhelm II . The so-called Red Castle is still used by the German Navy today. In National Socialism , too, reference was made to the myth of the medieval castle with the construction of so-called order castles such as Sonthofen or Vogelsang , or the conversion of existing facilities such as the Wewelsburg or Trifels Castle.

The concept behind a castle is still being imitated today. So between 2006 and 2018 the new BND headquarters was built according to plans by the Berlin architect Jan Kleihues . Kleihues had already used the term castle to describe his building design. For safety reasons, the main building was erected behind a high metal fence and placed in a depression about five meters deep - a kind of rampart. This is to prevent you from entering the house at ground level. The security building is protected like hardly any other building in the city, to which, among other things, numerous modern electronic barriers contribute. With 20,000 tonnes of steel and 135,000 m³ of concrete installed, it is the second largest building complex in Berlin after Berlin-Tempelhof Airport . Moats, sometimes extremely thick walls and a windowless base make this building appear as a castle in both a figurative and an architectural sense.

Castle research in Europe has made great strides in the last few decades. Due to the arrival of medieval research, numerous castles were examined and secured or restored as monuments. As part of experimental archeology , medieval castles have also been recreated with old construction techniques and tools for several years. In Schleswig-Holstein a tower hill castle was reconstructed from 2003 near Lütjenburg and in Kanzach a more elaborate wooden Niederadelsburg. The reconstruction of a stone castle in Guédelon, France, which began a few years ago is significant . On the Japanese island of Miyako-jima , the Rhenish Marksburg castle was recreated in its original size in the German theme park .


Characteristic of a castle was its elevation above the surrounding area and the controlled access. In the mountain area, hilltop castles were built on mountain spurs , on slopes and often on mountain heights that were difficult to access. In the lowlands, on the other hand, so-called moths were created on artificial heaps of earth with a surrounding wall and surrounding moat. In the low mountain range, there are both hilltop and moated castles , the latter being primarily built by members of the lower nobility (so-called small rulers).

The location inevitably had a decisive influence on the size and equipment of a castle complex. The characteristic of the typical German castle is the sometimes spectacular location on high mountain tops and boulders. While the great castles of England and Northern France are usually located on rather low hills - or in the lowlands - and the ground plans are much more regular here, “German” castles mostly follow the conditions given by the terrain.

If there was protection through steep slopes or rock barriers, expensive high-rise structures could usually be dispensed with. The structural dimensions of our castles are therefore usually comparatively modest. Similar geographic conditions often gave very similar results in distant areas. Numerous castles in southern France or Eastern Europe, for example, seem very familiar to the Central European observer. Older research has often wrongly assumed a direct “German” influence here. Nationalistic castle historians even saw “ Germanic will to form” in all of Europe's great castle creations .

Important structural elements

School wall map of a knight's castle

Wall, ditch, etc. Ä.

The castle was surrounded by a wall and other fortifications such as a moat , rampart and other obstacles to approach (bridges, hedges, entanglements). In the case of walls, a distinction is made between circular wall , mantle wall and shield wall , depending on the height and shape . Apart from a few forerunners, from the 13th and 14th centuries onwards, the enclosing wall was often fitted with a fence wall .


The until now most obvious part of many medieval castles, the tower, either as a residential tower , in Anglo-Saxon Keep and France Donjon called, or keep was pronounced. The main tower of a castle complex, which was not intended for permanent residential use, but primarily took on military and status functions, is referred to as the keep in German-speaking castle literature. Residential towers usually combined both functions. The castle complex was often supplemented by additional towers, especially at the gates, as well as wall and flanking towers.


The area within the castle was used and structured by numerous buildings, which could result in further defensive sections.

Residential and farm buildings

Residential architecture plays a central role, but one that was often underestimated by older research. The main building of early high medieval castles was a hall-like residential building - the Palas . It contained a large hall, which was mainly used in summer because of the poor heatability, while in winter the bower was the preferred living space. Later on, castles had various types of residential buildings or residential towers.

The living culture of the castle interiors were increasingly murals and frescoes ( Tapestry marked -Ersatz). Castles were not, as is usually the case today, bare and bare inside.

In addition to the mostly very representative residential buildings, there were other residential and farm buildings such as workshops, bakeries, stables or storage rooms, especially in the outer castles.

Water supply

The water supply posed a particular challenge in the hilltop castles. It was ensured by cisterns in which the rainwater that ran off the roofs of the buildings was stored, or with the help of donkeys as transport animals on specially created donkey paths. Castle fountains were mostly built in the late Middle Ages and could also reach considerable depths (example: the fountain of the Reichsburg Kyffhausen, which was driven 176 m deep into the rock).

Farm yard

Most of the castles were assigned a farm yard, which ensured that the castle residents were supplied with the necessary goods. In larger castles, the farm yard was sometimes housed in the outer bailey. In the case of hilltop castles, it usually stood in the valley below the castle. In some castles, these courtyards have been preserved to this day and are still managed.

Castle building


The wood-earth constructions of the early Middle Ages only developed into stone structures in the 11th century. Later on, castles were never purely stone structures, but always built using wood, clay and lattice technology. What is striking is the lack of scientific consideration of the historical plastering of the castles, which has only recently been overcome. The visible walling of the castles today was not fundamentally the image of a castle immediately after its construction.

Building regulations

There were building regulations for castles and they required a permit. Extensive legal provisions can be found in the Sachsenspiegel , among others . This legal table also lists when a building was to be considered defensible. Clues for a building were the height of the surrounding ditches, walls with battlements , the filling of a hill as a foundation or a raised entrance.

Picture gallery

Function and everyday life

In recent years there has been a dispute in castle research about the purpose of the medieval castle. While one faction puts the defensive and defensive character of the facilities in the foreground, the other group sees the castle primarily as a symbol of power (e.g. Joachim Zeune ). Many castles were built on trade routes to secure the taking of road tolls and enforce road compulsory for this ; The fiefdom was often connected with the customs revenue or with the obligation to maintain a section of road. But by no means every castle that stood near a highway was endowed with the right of customs and escort (Latin conductus et theloneum ). The road tariffs were justified in the obligation of the customs officers to maintain the roads and bridges as well as to protect them from highwaymen . Arbitrariness in the collection of tariffs and controversial tariff barriers led to frequent conflicts between the nobility and cities in the late Middle Ages. From these contradicting legal conceptions, sometimes extensive feuds arose between aristocratic societies and peace alliances , from which - from the point of view of the cities - the somewhat misleading term of robber barons developed.

Medieval architecture always had a high symbolic content: castles were status symbols and symbols of power. But they also offered real and psychological protection, at least from smaller marauding gangs or wild animals. Last but not least, they wanted to distance themselves from the dependent population and could lock the gate behind them if necessary.

Most German castles were unable to withstand larger sieges for a long time, but resistance has been documented for a few months or years. It must be taken into account here that such a siege could be extremely costly for the attacker. If the enemy refrained from sieging or attacking for financial reasons, the castle had served its purpose. For this reason, many castles never received a single shot. Sometimes it was cheaper to build a small fortress as a siege castle nearby and to besiege the castle from there (e.g. Trutzeltz Castle against Eltz Castle ). In the event of a feud , the castle was usually simply bypassed; it was preferred to plunder the opponents' villages and farms in order to deprive them of their economic basis. For this reason, too, many villages were provided with light fortifications. Wall and moat or a dense hedge of thorns are often detectable, the entrances were reinforced by gatehouses. More important markets often had a massive stone wall with defensive towers and gates, so they were designed to resemble cities. The pre- and early medieval ramparts were often used as hiding places and cattle mountains until modern times (Schwedenschanzen). Occasionally the battered population found shelter in their master's castle for a short time. In the case of individual courtyards, the granaries were often reinforced (weir warehouses).

The number of men capable of arms in a castle was not infrequently extremely small, sometimes only the lord of the castle with his sons and a few servants was ready to defend. Occupation castles, however, could accommodate hundreds or even thousands of warriors ( Krak des Chevaliers , Marienburg ).

The everyday life in a small central European aristocratic castle was very different from that in one of the large royal palaces of the high nobility. Although the small ministerials also tried to emulate court culture and often made significant contributions to it, their daily life was mostly comparatively modest. Often only a few farms and serfs ensured the livelihood of the castle people, who often had to go behind the plow themselves. The living conditions on the small castle complexes were more rural. Most of the time, there was a lack of space in the castle, which also had to offer space for keeping animals. In winter the bower was often the only room that could be heated well, and portable braziers could also provide warmth. In his letter to Willibald Pirckheimer from the year 1518, Ulrich von Hutten vividly describes the cramped and worried conditions at the home castle.

Daily life took place mainly outside, the men went hunting or in the fields, the women were busy with the daily household chores and had to supervise the servants . These daily chores left little opportunity for idleness. Popular pastimes here for the ladies were handicrafts and board games. For example, a mill board was scratched into the rock on the “Teufelsstein” in the Hassberge Mountains. The highlights of everyday life at the castle were the rare visits by the traveling singers and storytellers ( minstrels ) who went from castle to castle. Carved knight figures and dolls were found as children's toys. These valuable testimonies of everyday life can be found today preferably in the old garbage pits and under the lavatories . These lavatory dungeons, which are often mistaken for military guards by the ignorant, have been preserved in countless examples on the outer walls. Often a long wooden shaft led vertically from these outlets into the moat, so the faeces did not fall open to the ground.

Many castles developed into real multi-family castles in the course of their history. The existing buildings were divided into several independent residential units through inheritance divisions and sales. This castle shape, which is typical for Germany, is called Ganerbeburg .

There were only seldom tournaments at the castles. These medieval folk and sports festivals were mostly held near larger cities. The tournament meadows, which can be found within or near numerous castles, were usually only named later.

As cramped as the space may have been, space for a place of religious devotion was found in practically all castles. Larger complexes had a castle chapel , sometimes richly furnished, while smaller ones were content with an altar niche or a chapel bay. Often there are gate chapels above the castle entrances, so the gate as a weak point of the castle was placed under special "divine" protection. The chapels were often used as burial places for the lords of the castle.

Typology of the castles

Castles, according to Meyers Konversations-Lexikon (around 1885)

Differentiation according to topography

According to the topographical situation, a distinction is made between high and low castles . Dams defy this categorization because they combine both elements.

Hilltop castle


Differentiation according to function

Special construction methods

Other castle types

  • Burgstall : small castle, less noble residence
  • Deutschordensburg z. E.g .: Marienburg (in Poland)
  • Gadenburg : protected storage building for the farmers in a village
  • Fortified church (fortified churches are usually also gadenburgen)
  • Crusader castle
  • Wale ( castle complex) : a small tower castle or a castle stable
  • Wallburg : a system that essentially consists of a fortification wall
  • Ráth : a mostly pre-medieval fortification, similar to the ramparts, which are mostly on the Western European islands and in Scandinavia

Castle research

The center of German castle research is the European Castle Institute , a scientific institution of the German Castle Association e. V. based at Philippsburg Palace in Braubach am Rhein. The task is to "research historical defense and residential buildings and disseminate the research results". The institute works closely with other institutes and institutions with the same objectives in Europe. In the last few years the development of the international castle database "EBIDAT" has become an important task. The institute publishes the bimonthly magazine Burgen und Schlösser , magazine for castle research and monument preservation” . Scientifically based permanent exhibitions were set up at the Marksburg am Rhein, the seat of the German Castle Association founded by Bodo Ebhardt in 1899 , and at the Veste Heldburg in Thuringia ( German Castle Museum ) . The South Tyrolean Castle Institute maintains the South Tyrolean Castle Museum on the Trostburg and two other museums.

Interest in scientific research into castle building did not only arise in the 19th century. The first schematic floor plan of a castle appeared in printed form in the Swabian Chronicle of 1595. A publication by the lawyer Werner Kyllinger in 1620 provided extensive definitions of the term "castle" for the first time. Pastor Johann Gottfried Gregorii compiled historical data on dozen of Central European castles in two high-circulation books in 1713/1715 under the pseudonym Melissantes . In the 19th century, numerous book series with historical texts and lithographs, copper and steel engravings were published, including from 1832 Georg Landau , Die Hessischen Ritterburgen und their owners (4 volumes, 1832–1839). This was followed by the first architectural history treatises by Johann Nepomuk Cori ( building and furnishing of German castles in the Middle Ages ), Georg Heinrich Krieg von Hochfelden (history of military architecture in Germany with consideration of neighboring countries from Roman rule to the Crusades, 1859) and numerous writings by August Essenwein . Otto Piper published a first standard work (Burgenkunde - Bauwesen und Geschichte der Burgen) in many editions since 1895. Bodo Ebhardt published the large-format series on "German Castles" in individual monographs from 1899–1910.

See also

Portal: Castles and Palaces  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of castles and palaces


The international castle literature now comprises several thousand works. Only a (subjective) selection of important work can be offered here. Most of the books cited contain extensive, further literature references.

  • Uwe Albrecht: From castle to palace: French palace architecture in the late Middle Ages . Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms 1986, ISBN 978-3-88462-042-7 .
  • Rainer Atzbach, Sven Lüken, Hans Ottomeyer : Castle and rule. Sandstein, Dresden 2010, ISBN 978-3-942422-02-4 (exhibition catalog of the German Historical Museum Berlin ).
  • Thomas Biller, G. Ulrich Großmann : Castle and Palace. The aristocratic seat in the German-speaking area. Schnell and Steiner, Regensburg 2002, ISBN 3-7954-1325-7 .
  • Thomas Binder, Christian Bimberg: Castles proud and bold. Bitter, Recklinghausen 1990, 3rd edition, ISBN 3-7903-0342-9 .
  • Thomas Biller: The noble castle in Germany. Origin - shape - meaning. 2nd Edition. Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-422-06093-6 ( online ).
  • Horst Wolfgang Böhme , Reinhard Friedrich & Barbara Schock-Werner (Eds.): Dictionary of castles, palaces and fortresses. Reclam, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-15-010547-1 , doi: 10.11588 / arthistoricum.535 .
  • Horst Wolfgang Böhme, Busso von der Dollen & Dieter Kerber (Ed.): Castles in Central Europe. A manual. Theiss, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-8062-1355-0 .
    • Volume 1: Designs and Development
    • Volume 2: History and Castle Landscapes
  • Hansjürgen Brachmann (Ed.): Castle - Castle Town - City. On the genesis of medieval non-agricultural centers in Eastern Central Europe (= research on the history and culture of Eastern Central Europe. Volume 86). Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-05-002601-4 .
  • ders .: The early medieval fortifications in Central Europe. Studies on its development and function in the Germanic-German area (= writings on prehistory and early history. Volume 45). Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1993, ISBN 978-3-05-001995-6 .
  • Wilhelm G. Busse (Hrsg.): Castle and palace as places to live in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (= StHum 26). Droste, Düsseldorf 1994, ISBN 3-7700-0831-6 .
  • Lukas Clemens & Sigrid Schmitt (eds.): On the social and cultural history of the medieval castle. Archeology and history (= interdisciplinary dialogue between archeology and history 1). Kliomedia, Trier 2009, ISBN 978-3-89890-141-3 .
  • Johann Nepomuk Cori: Construction and establishment of the German castles in the Middle Ages. 2nd Edition. 1895; Reprint: Bechtermünz, Augsburg 1997, ISBN 3-86047-654-8 .
  • Bodo Ebhardt : Europe's defense construction in the Middle Ages. 1939/1958; Reprint in 3 volumes: Flechsig, Würzburg 1998.
  • G. Ulrich Großmann (Ed.): Myth Castle. Sandstein, Dresden 2010, ISBN 978-3-940319-98-2 (exhibition catalog of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg )
  • G. Ulrich Großmann: The world of castles. History, architecture, culture . CH Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-64510-5 .
  • Hans-Heinrich Häffner (Red.): New research on early castle construction. Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich / Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-422-06569-5 .
  • Hermann Hinz : Motte and Donjon. On the early history of the medieval aristocratic castle (= Journal for Archeology of the Middle Ages, Appendix 1). Rheinland-Verlag, Cologne 1981, ISBN 3-7927-0433-1 .
  • Hartmut Hofrichter (ed.): The castle - a cultural-historical phenomenon. Theiss, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-8062-1134-5 .
  • Friedrich-Wilhelm Krahe: Castles of the German Middle Ages. Floor plan lexicon. Weidlich, Würzburg 1996, ISBN 3-8035-1372-3 .
  • Susann Kretschmar: Castles in Art. With introductions by G. Ulrich Großmann. Nuremberg 2012 (= cultural-historical walks in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Volume 13).
  • Klaus Leidorf , Peter Ettel : Castles in Bavaria. 7000 years of castle history in the air. Theiss, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-8062-1364-X .
  • Heribert J. Leonardy, Hendrik Kersten: Castles in Spain. A trip to the Spanish Middle Ages. Theiss, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-8062-1654-1 .
  • Michael Losse: Little Castle Studies. Regionalia, Euskirchen 2011, ISBN 978-3-939722-39-7 .
  • Clemente Manenti (texts) & Markus Bollen (photographs): Castles in Italy. Könemann, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-8290-1577-1 .
  • Jean Mesqui: Chateaux forts et fortifications en France. Paris 1997, ISBN 2-08-012271-1 .
  • Werner Meyer & Erich Lessing (Ill.): German knights, German castles. Bertelsmann, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-572-07715-X .
  • Luis Monreal y Tejada (among others): Castillos medievales en España. Barcelona 1999, ISBN 84-7782-597-1 .
  • Wolfgang Mothes with texts by Hans-J. Aubert: German castles. Edition Panorama, Mannheim 2010, ISBN 978-3-89823-425-2 .
  • Hans-Joachim Mrusek : Thuringian and Saxon castles. Edition Leipzig, Leipzig 1965 (at the same time the same: Castles in Saxony and Thuringia. Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich 1965).
  • Uwe A. Oster: Castles in Germany. Primus, Darmstadt 2006, ISBN 3-89678-561-3 .
  • Otto Piper : Castle studies. Construction and history of the castle. 3rd edition 1912; Reprint: Flechsig, Würzburg 1996, ISBN 3-88189-388-1 .
  • Charles-Laurent Salch: L'atlas des chateaux forts en France. Strasbourg 1979.
  • Barbara Schock-Werner, Hartmut Hofrichter (Hrsg.): Central functions of the castle. Wartburg / Eisenach 1996. European Castle Institute, Braubach 2001, ISBN 3-927558-07-9 .
  • Plantagenet Somerset Fry: Castles of Britain and Ireland. New York 1997, ISBN 0-7892-0278-6 .
  • Joachim Zeune : Castles - symbols of power. A new image of the medieval castle. Pustet, Regensburg 1996, ISBN 3-7917-1501-1 .

History of science

  • Fabian Link: Castles and Castle Research during National Socialism. Science and Weltanschauung 1933–1945 , including dissertation, Basel 2012, Böhlau, Cologne 2014, ISBN 978-3-412-22240-6 .


Series of publications:

  • Castles, palaces and fortifications in Central Europe. Ed. Vd Wartburg Society for Research into Castles and Palaces. Regensburg, 1999 ff. ISBN 3-7954-1216-1 ff. (Popular science guides to individual castles)
  • Research on castles and palaces. Ed. Vd Wartburg Society for Research into Castles and Palaces. Munich u. Berlin 1994 ff., ISSN  0947-9708 ( volumes of academic articles on the Society's annual meetings )
  • Series of publications of the Deutsche Burgenvereinigung e. V.


Web links

Wiktionary: Burg  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Burg  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Knight castles  - sources and full texts
Wikiquote: Castle  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Defined in Article 16 of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property of May 14, 1954
  2. ^ Xavier Delamare: Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Paris 2008.
  3. a b c Wolfgang Pfeifer et al. (Ed.): The Etymological Dictionary of German . Unabridged, revised edition. dtv, Munich 2 1997, pp. 184f.
  4. ^ Karl Friedrich Werner: The origins of France up to the year 1000 . Stuttgart 1989, p. 464.
  5. ^ Henry Royston Loyn: Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest . Harlow, 2 1991, p. 138.
  6. Cf. Franz Beyerle : On the question of type of the city constitution . In: Journal of the Savignystiftung for legal history. Germanic Department, Vol. 50/1930, pp. 28ff .; see. also Walter Schlesinger : City and castle in the light of the history of words . In: Carl Haase (ed.): The city of the Middle Ages . Vol. I, Darmstadt 1969.
  7. Mario Alinei, Francesco Benozzo: Dictionnaire Etimologico-semantico della lingua italiana. Come nascono le parole . Pendragon, Bologna 2015, p. 114.
  8. ^ Giacomo Devoto, Gian Carlo Oli: Dizionario della lingua italiana , Firenze 1971, p. 306.
  9. Lexicon of the Middle Ages . Vol. 2. Munich-Zurich 1983, pp. 962-964.
  10. a b c Ulrich Schütte: The castle as a fortification, fortified castle buildings from the early modern period in the old empire. Darmstadt 1994.
  11. ^ Michael Mitterauer : Herrenburg and Burgstadt. In: Friedrich Prinz u. a. (Ed.): History in society. Festschrift for Karl Bosl on his 65th birthday. Stuttgart 1973. Reprinted in Wolfgang Mitterauer: Market and City in the Middle Ages. Stuttgart 1980
  12. ^ Castles and palaces in Hildesheimer Land , Margret Zimmermann / Hans Kensche: Castles and palaces in Hildesheimer Land, 1st edition. Hildesheim: Lax, 1998, p. VIII. ISBN 3-8269-6280-X .
  13. Tomáš Durdík . Encyclopedie českých hradů. Prague 1996, p. 181.
  14. Hans Held: Die Mosel, Cologne 1984, p. 20.
  15. Thomas Biller: The beginnings of the Adelsburg (not only) in the Alemannic area. On the history and fundamentals of research , in: Friedrich I. (1079–1105). The first Staufer Duke of Swabia, Göppingen 2007, pp. 134–160, p. 136.
  16. Ulrich Großmann : Castles in the Middle Ages and Modern Times. In: Exhibition cat .: Mythos Burg , Ulrich Großmann (Ed.), Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Dresden 2010, pp. 58–61.
  17. Anja Grebe: Burgenglanz und Burgendämmerung. In: Exh. Cat .: Castle Myth. Ulrich Großmann (ed.), Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg 2010, Dresden 2010, pp. 278–293.
  18. G. Ulrich Großmann: The world of castles. History, architecture, culture . Munich 2013: CH Beck Verlag. P. 15.
  19. a b c
  22. ^ Vlora Kleeb: Federal Intelligence Service in Berlin - The secret service has a new home., February 7, 2019; Dirk Jericho: Sports field of the spies - BND headquarters . In: Berlin Week of February 7, 2019.
  23. ^ Adolf Lehmann's cultural-historical pictures . Leipzig school picture publisher.
  24. G. Ulrich Großmann: The world of castles. History, architecture, culture . Munich 2013: CH Beck Verlag, from p. 46.
  25. G. Ulrich Großmann: The world of castles. History, architecture, culture . Munich 2013: CH Beck Verlag, p. 55
  27. ^ Thomas Kühtreiber : Street and Castle. Notes on a complex relationship . In: Kornelia Holzner-Tobisch, Thomas Kühtreiber, Gertrud Blaschitz (eds.): The complexity of the street. Continuity and change in the Middle Ages and early modern times , publications by the Institute for Reality Studies of the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times 22, Vienna 2012, pp. 263–301.
  28. ^ Ulrich Andermann: Chivalrous violence and civil self-assertion . Investigations into the criminalization and fight against robber barons of the late Middle Ages using the example of North German Hanseatic cities, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1991. Kurt Andermann (ed.): “Robber barons” or “righteous people from the nobility”? Aspects of Politics, Peace and Law in the Late Middle Ages . (Upper Rhine Studies 14). Sigmaringen 1997, ISBN 3-7995-7814-5 (basic).
  29. Digital Archives Marburg: Excerpt from Ulrich von Hutten's (1488–1523) letter to the Nuremberg patrician Willibald Pirckheimer (1470–1530) about life in a castle, October 25, 1518 ( ).
  30. EBIDAT - The Castle Database , website of the European Castle Institute as a facility of the DBV; accessed on July 9, 2020.