Graefenstein Castle

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Graefenstein Castle
Core area of ​​Gräfenstein Castle with the inner main gate

Core area of ​​Gräfenstein Castle with the inner main gate

Alternative name (s): Merzalber Castle
Creation time : before 1237
Castle type : Rock castle
Conservation status: Ruin , partially restored
Standing position : Ministerials , later counts
Construction: Humpback cuboid
Place: Merzalben
Geographical location 49 ° 14 '28 "  N , 7 ° 45' 23.5"  E Coordinates: 49 ° 14 '28 "  N , 7 ° 45' 23.5"  E
Height: 437  m above sea level NHN
Graefenstein Castle (Rhineland-Palatinate)
Graefenstein Castle

The Gräfenstein Castle is the ruin of a rock castle in Merzalben in the Rhineland-Palatinate district Südwestpfalz .

Geographical location

Gräfenstein Castle is located in the south-western Palatinate Forest about 2 km east of the local community of Merzalben and is therefore also known as Merzalber Castle . She was on a 12 m high rock plateau on the crest of 437  m above sea level. NHN high Schloßberg built.


Graefenstein was first mentioned in 1237 in a deed of division of the Counts of Leiningen . The central system with the keep and Palas probably dates from the 12th century and thus goes back to the Staufer period.

In 1317 the castle came into the possession of the Leiningen-Dagsburg branch. Already in 1367 these 7/8 had to be sold to Elector Ruprecht I of the Palatinate . By marriage, Graefenstein came to the Counts of Leiningen-Hardenburg in 1421 . This allowed the lower castle in particular to be expanded.

The first destruction took place in 1525 in the Peasants' War ; from 1535 the reconstruction took place. In 1540 the castle was sold by the then owner, Count Palatine Johann von Simmern to Count Palatine Ruprecht von Pfalz-Veldenz , who from then on used it as his new residence and who also introduced the Reformation in his territory. Ruprecht, who was born in Zweibrücken in 1506, died on July 28, 1544 at Gräfenstein Castle.

Thereafter, the owners changed until the castle and the associated villages ( Graefensteiner Land ) passed into Baden ownership ( Margraviate Baden-Baden and Margraviate Baden-Durlach ) in 1570 . In 1635, during the Thirty Years' War , the castle became a ruin after a fire ("due to the carelessness of the imperial parishioners, so it was put in post") and was permanently uninhabitable.

Nevertheless, the weir system was still quite well preserved. The first security measures on the ruins took place in 1909/10 and 1936/37. The state of Rhineland-Palatinate had the castle ruins extensively and elaborately restored from 1978 to 1986 .


Gräfenstein Castle is one of the most important Hohenstaufen castle complexes in Rhineland-Palatinate. Its length is about 80 m, its width about 60 m.

Keep and mantle wall
Palas in the upper castle from the keep, in the foreground stair tower
View of the castle courtyard from the keep. Well recognizable are the niches, chimneys and toilet bays in the outer wall, which indicate earlier residential buildings of the castle occupation.


Graefenstein is the only castle in Germany to have a heptagonal keep , the main dimensions of which are 6 × 7.5 meters in diameter and 17 meters in height. This can still be climbed today via a narrow spiral staircase . The shape of the tower results from the combination of an octagon (see Steinsberg ) with a triangle. While in the pentagonal tower a triangular point is added to the square on the attack side of the castle, in the case of Graefenstein two legs of the octagon are extended to a point. Another peculiarity is that the keep of Graefenstein is not directed against an attack side, as the castle lies on a mountain cone that slopes steeply on all sides. This underlines the symbolism of the defense architecture, which is at least equal to the functionality in the High Middle Ages . The ground-level entrance was only recently added.


A mantle wall surrounds the keep , suggesting five sides of an octagon, which is slightly irregular due to the nature of the terrain. The outer wall of the upper castle consists entirely of humpback blocks . Access was via a wooden staircase in place of today's stone design. The gate at this point has not been preserved. In the northern part of the upper castle is the Hohenstaufen palace , the masonry of which is largely preserved up to eaves level . In the ground plan it approaches a pointed triangle. Its windows were renewed in the late Middle Ages , but the Romanesque window arches on the upper floor of the exterior building can still be seen.

The main late medieval ingredients of the upper castle are the toilet tower and a stair tower from the 16th century. There were no further structural changes in the hall.

Lower castle

The lower castle, which is placed in a ring around the rock base of the upper castle, dates back to the late Staufer period, at least in the southern and western sections. The shape of the irregular polygon is repeated on the alleged attack side, so that there is a triple staggering of the circular wall , mantle wall and keep. Accordingly, the southern parts of the lower castle were created shortly after the upper castle at the end of the 13th century. The northern part with the kennel was probably added in the 15th century.

Remains of two-storey residential buildings can be seen along the larger part of the lower castle's ring wall. Although most of the transverse walls are no longer there, seven residential units can be identified on the basis of various architectural details preserved on the upper floor. Each upper floor room in this building had a fireplace, flanked by two pointed arched windows with side seats, and a toilet in the corner of the room. The remains of four chimneys and six lavatory cores can be seen; they attest to the presence of a larger castle garrison. In Gräfenstein Castle, one of the clearest examples of castle mansions can be found that were made available to the lower nobility by a more important sovereign in one of his castles.

Two small round towers with loopholes for handguns protected the entrance on the northeast side of the lower castle. Original stone slabs with vehicle grooves can still be seen in the driveway.


  • Alexander Thon (Ed.): ... like a banned, inaccessible magic castle . Castles in the southern Palatinate. 2nd Edition. Verlag Schnell and Steiner, Regensburg 2005, ISBN 3-7954-1570-5 , p. 58-63 .
  • Jürgen Keddigkeit : Graefenstein . In: Jürgen Keddigkeit, Alexander Thon, Rolf Übel (eds.): Palatinate Castle Lexicon (=  contributions to Palatinate history ). tape 12 .2, F − H, 2002, ISBN 3-927754-48-X , ISSN  0936-7640 , p. 199-212 .

Web links

Commons : Burg Gräfenstein  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Map service of the landscape information system of the Rhineland-Palatinate Nature Conservation Administration (LANIS map) ( notes ) Scale 1: 1,000 (height query)
  2. Burg Gräfenstein - section Kernburg ( Memento from December 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) on
  3. Thomas Biller: Burgmann seats in castles in Germany . In: Peter Ettel (Ed.): La Basse-cour. Actes du colloque international de Maynooth (Irlande), 23–30 août 2002 (= Château Gaillard . Volume 21). Publications du RCAHM, Caen 2004, pp. 7-16, especially pp. 13f. ( online ).