County of Sponheim

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Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806) .svg
Territory in the Holy Roman Empire
County of Sponheim
coat of arms
Coat of arms Starkenburg.svg Coat of arms Vordere Grafschaft Sponheim.svg
County of Sponheim.png
County of Sponheim after 1417
Alternative names County Spanheim, County Spanheym
Arose from Trechirgau
Form of rule county
Ruler / government Count
Today's region / s DE-RP

Reichskreis Upper Rhine Empire Circle
Capitals / residences Sponheim
Vordere Gft .: Kreuznach
Back Gft .: Starkenburg , Grevenburg , Kastellaun (official seat)
Dynasties Sponheim
1437: Baden / Veldenz
1444: Baden / Pfalz-Simmern
1559: Baden / Pfalz-Zweibrücken / Pfalz-Birkenfeld
Denomination / Religions Roman Catholic , Protestant since the 16th century ( Reformed front county , Lutheran rear county )
Language / n German

Incorporated into 1798: France
1815: Prussia , Oldenburg ( Principality of Birkenfeld ), Bavaria

The county of Sponheim was a former imperial territory of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in the area of ​​the Hunsrück in today's Rhineland-Palatinate . It developed in the early 12th century ( High Middle Ages ) and lasted until the First Coalition War triggered by the French Revolution .


Secure beginnings

Sponheim Castle, ancestral seat of the House of Sponheim
Coat of arms of the Counts of Sponheim
Dill Castle from the Mechtild von Mörsberg heritage

In 1045 Siegfried von Sponheim (earlier spelling: Spanheim, Spanheym) appears in the Hunsrück - Nahe area. He was Margrave of the Hungarian Marks and Gaugraf in Pustertal , but not yet a Count of Sponheim. It is unclear which Spanheim Castle it was named after. Siegfried is regarded as an ancestor of the Spanheimers in Carinthia and Bavaria. His direct ancestors can no longer be determined due to a lack of sources. However, his family relationships with the Zeisolf-Wolframen , the counts in Königssondergau and the remaining branch of the Spanheimers in the Rhineland can be proven. The Rhinelander were in turn mixed up with those of Hochstaden .

The Rhenish branch of the Spanheimers becomes tangible with Stephan I, who was also mentioned in a document around the middle of the 11th century. There was no county of Sponheim at that time. The relationship between Siegfried I and Stephan I is considered to be open; it is documented in terms of ownership, but the degree is uncertain. Around 1124 Meginhard von Sponheim , probably Stephen's grandson, married Mechtild von Mörsberg . Mechtild was the heir to Adalbert von Mörsberg , who had inherited large parts of the property of the Counts of Nellenburg . Above all, the possessions on the Hunsrück, such as Dill Castle , fell to the Sponheimers, who in this way expanded their possessions considerably. Meginhard also called himself Graf von Sponheim for the first time, so that from this time on one can speak of a county of Sponheim.

In the 12th century, the Sponheimers expanded Sponheim Castle as their ancestral seat. They also founded the Sponheim Monastery at this time , after a church had been built on the same site in the 11th century.

The Sponheimers maintained a residence in Kreuznach from an early age . Meginhard von Sponheim issued a certificate for the All Saints Monastery in Schaffhausen in 1127 among his vassals and ministerials . In a - probably forged, but historical reminiscences - document dated 1125, Meginhard determined that the eldest of his sons and, after him, always the eldest of the tribe as Count von Sponheim and Herr von und zu Kreuznach ( Dominus de or . in Creutzenacht ) should be Vogt of the Sponheim monastery. Meginhard's donation from Gut Illnau to the All Saints Monastery was confirmed by Count Godefridus (von Sponheim) on a royal court day in Worms (February 1–13, 1140).

Certainly two, probably even three counts with the name Gottfried appeared in the second half of the 12th century. It was probably the son and grandson (and possibly great-grandson) of Meginhard von Sponheim. An Albert von Sponheim (perhaps the brother of Gottfried III.) Was a close confidante of Emperor Heinrich VI. Also in the subsequent double election of the German king, the Sponheimers were on the side of the Hohenstaufen . Albert took part in the Fourth Crusade in 1201 . His brother Gottfried III. did not return from the Fifth Crusade in 1218 .

Division (I) - Front and Back Counties

Count Gottfried III. († 1218) acquired through his wife Adelheid von Sayn right to part of the inheritance of Count Heinrich III. von Sayn , which in 1247 largely fell to his sons. The brothers Johann I , Heinrich and Simon I shared the entire inheritance before 1237:

  • Johann I , the eldest son, received the rear county of Sponheim with goods in the Moselle and Nahe areas (coat of arms: chessboard red-silver) based on the Starkenburg near Enkirch . Furthermore, he inherits the county of Sayn in 1247 . Took over from the sons of Johann
    • Gottfried took over the county of Sayn and became the progenitor of the second count house Sayn,
    • his brother Heinrich the rear county of Sponheim.
  • Heinrich inherited the dominions of Blankenburg and Löwenburg . He married the heiress of Heinsberg and founded a new line as Herr von Heinsberg.
  • Simon I , the youngest brother, formed the Vordere Grafschaft Sponheim an der Nahe from his inheritance (coat of arms: blue-gold chessboard) based on the Kauzenburg above Bad Kreuznach . His son Heinrich I and his wife Kunigunde von Bolanden also founded the sideline of the Counts of Sponheim-Bolanden, based at Tannenfels Castle and in Kirchheimbolanden . She died in 1393 with Heinrich II of Sponheim-Bolanden .
  • The castles Sponheim and Dill remained joint property and were subsequently used as widow's homes or residences by junior lines. The ancestral castle Sponheim lost its former importance.

The designation "Vordere" or "Hintere" Grafschaft seems to have been formed by an imaginary observer with a position in Mainz , the most important city in the area: The areas of the Vordere Grafschaft are closer to Mainz, those of the Hinteren Grafschaft further in Hunsrück.

13-15 century

In 1277 Heinrich von Sponheim, the founder of the Sponheim-Dannenfels line, received part of the Böckelheim Castle . Contrary to the agreements with his brother Johann I , ruling count of the Vorderen Grafschaft, Heinrich sold his share to Archbishop Werner von Mainz . The attempt of Johann to win back the castle led to a nationally significant feud in which the entire nobility of the region was involved. The climax of the dispute was an open field battle near Sprendlingen and ended with the victory of the Archbishop of Mainz (legend of Michel Mort ). The Starkenburg line also took part in the feud. This led to great devastation in the county until King Rudolph finally settled the dispute in 1281. At the same time, some quarrels arose between Johann and his cousins ​​in the Hinteren Grafschaft over the Sponheimer land distribution; the treaty of 1226 enclosed them.

Coat of arms of the Sponheimers shown on Emperor Heinrich's trip to Rome (top right and top left)

In the battle of Göllheim in 1298 the Counts of Sponheim sided with Adolph von Nassau . Count Johann II von Sponheim-Starkenburg († 1324) and his brother Heinrich were participants in King Henry VII's procession to Rome and, identifiable by their coat of arms, are depicted several times in the cycle of pictures from King Heinrich's journey to Rome.

Coin of the county

The two Sponheimischen lines Starkenburg and Kreuznach were not always connected with each other in terms of their political orientation. Sponheim-Kreuznach supported Frederick the Fair of Habsburg in the dispute over the German kingship and thus was contrary to Sponheim-Starkenburg that of Louis IV. To Bavaria was connected. The subsequent victory of Ludwig the Bavarian meant a relative gain in power for Sponheim-Starkenburg. At that time, the Front County was divided into northern and southern halves. The line of division was the Soonwald . Simon II resided in Kastellaun , and Johann II in Kreuznach , who died without legitimate sons. The division ended when Simon's son Walram took office . Walram ruled the united Front County until 1380 and led many feuds. Walram's son Simon III. the Front brought the county by his marriage to Maria von Vianden county Vianden one.

Division (II) - Baden, Pfalz-Simmern-Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld, Electoral Palatinate

County of Sponheim after Nicolas Sanson , 1692 (left)

After the Front Line died out in 1417, one fifth of the Front County fell to the Electoral Palatinate , four fifths went to Johann V. von Sponheim-Starkenburg , based on the Grevenburg via Trarbach . The front and rear counties were reunited in one hand after almost 200 years - but only for around 20 years. For around twenty years, Johann V ruled a "huge patchwork quilt" from the Nahe via the Hunsrück, Middle Moselle and Eifel to the Lower Moselle.

Christoph I of Baden (1475–1515). Margrave tablet .

With the death of Johann V in 1437, who had pledged a further (second) fifth of the Vorderen Grafschaft to the Electoral Palatinate in 1422, the Grafschaft Sponheim (namely the Hintere Grafschaft and the remaining three fifths of the Vorderen Grafschaft) passed to his heirs, the Margraves of Baden and the Counts of Veldenz . After the Beinheim decision in 1425, the county remained undivided and was jointly administered as a condominium . In 1444 Veldenz was inherited by Pfalz-Simmern , which in 1504 repurchased the pledged second fifth from the Electoral Palatinate and passed half of it on to Baden.

When Pfalz-Simmern acquired the electoral dignity in 1559 and at the same time inherited the Palatinate shares in the Vordere Grafschaft, half of the Hinteren Grafschaft was transferred to Pfalz-Zweibrücken in an inheritance settlement in accordance with the provisions of the Heidelberg Succession Treaty of 1553 , so that the Vordere Grafschaft is now assigned three fifths of the Electoral Palatinate and two fifths of Baden and the Hintere Grafschaft in equal parts belonged to Baden and Pfalz-Zweibrücken (or its subsidiary line Pfalz-Birkenfeld ).

Since the Reformation was introduced in both counties in 1557 , evangelical exclaves on the Moselle such as Wolf, Traben-Trarbach , Enkirch and Winningen emerged, surrounded by the “black” Kurtrier .

Denominationally, the two parts of the county developed differently. The inhabitants of the Vordere Grafschaft Sponheim were essentially Protestant reformed by the change of the Palatinate electors to Calvinism . Due to the special features of the condominium , however, there was z. B. in Kreuznach the Lutheran congregation founded in 1632 by the Swedish king Gustav Adolf (1594–1632). The rear county of Sponheim remained largely Protestant-Lutheran through Duke Wolfgang von Pfalz-Zweibrücken (1526–1569) and his son Karl I (1560–1600).

It was not until 1707 that the Vordere Grafschaft was actually divided between the margravine widow Sybilla Augusta von Baden-Baden (1675–1733) and Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz (1658–1716). The Electoral Palatinate received the office of Kreuznach, Baden the offices of Kirchberg, Koppenstein, Naumburg, Sprendlingen and the places Sankt Johann , Lötzbeuren and Reckershausen .

In 1776, the rear county was actually divided between Karl Friedrich von Baden (1728-1811) and Karl II. August von Pfalz-Zweibrücken (1746-1795). Pfalz-Zweibrücken received the Oberamt Trarbach with the share in the Kröver Reich, the offices Allenbach and Kastellaun and the shares in the "triple court" as well as village and forest Eisen , Baden the Oberamt Birkenfeld, the offices Herrstein, Dill, Winterburg and the Vogtei Winnigen; Herrstein was incorporated by Baden into the Naumburg Office in Vordersponheim.

With the wars after the French Revolution , the county disappeared. In the Congress of Vienna (1815), most of Prussia , the area around Birkenfeld Oldenburg, was added.

Location and territory

Map around 1800 with the Baden part of the county of Sponheim

The territory of the County of Sponheim extended (somewhat fragmented) in the area between Traben-Trarbach , Kastellaun , Kreuznach and Birkenfeld .

The county of Sponheim did not emerge from a historical county (i.e. an administrative district), but was made up of various rights, fiefs and inheritances of the noble family of the Sponheimers. Areas that were previously in the hands of Berthold / Bezeline (Gaugrafen im Trechirgau ) ( Kirchberg and Kastellaun with the surrounding area) can be verified . How these got to the Sponheimer is unknown. Another inheritance with the Dill Castle , the bailiwick of the Pfaffen-Schwabenheim monastery and associated localities comes from the Counts of Nellenburg / Mörsberg. When the county was divided into a front and a rear county (seen from Mainz), two separate dominions emerged in the 13th century. The Vordere Grafschaft was the larger of the two and included areas from Kastellaun via Kirchberg, Gemünden , Winterburg , Sponheim , Kreuznach to Sprendlingen . The Rear County consisted of three area complexes. The first was on the Moselle with Starkenburg , Traben-Trarbach and Enkirch , the second around Herrstein and the third included Birkenfeld , Allenbach and Frauenburg . In addition, Winningen from the Sayn inheritance belonged to the rear county . The family castles Sponheim and Dill remained undivided. In the period that followed, there were some gains, but also losses. When the Kreuznach line died out in 1417, fundamental changes took place. Winterburg, Kastellaun and Dill Castle and the surrounding area as well as Sponheim Castle became part of the Hinteren Grafschaft.

Back County Sponheim

Coat of arms of the rear Gft.
Grevenburg near Traben-Trarbach, residence of the rear county since 1350
Himmerod Monastery , burial place for the rear county

After the division of the County of Sponheim in 1234, the Starkenburg remained , from 1350 the neighboring Grevenburg , the residence of the so-called Hinteren Grafschaft. Until 1417, the following places on the Moselle and in the Hunsrück belonged to it: 

In addition, King Rudolf von Habsburg pledged the Kröver Empire to Count Heinrich I of Sponheim on November 25, 1274 .

Front County of Sponheim (1234-1417)

Coat of arms of the Vorderen Gft.
Kauzenburg near Bad Kreuznach (around 1638), residence of the Vordere Grafschaft

The Front County included, among others:

Condominiums (partial ownership)

The counts of the Hinteren Grafschaft in the Kröver Reich (with Kurtrier ) and in a third of the rule Züsch (with Hunolstein-Sötern ) had joint rights with other territorial lords . Shares in the “triple court” (with Kurtrier and Braunshorn , later Winneburg and Metternich ), which consisted of the bailiwicks of Strimmig , Senheim and the Beltheim court , came to the Vordere Grafschaft in various ways in the 14th century. As part of the above-mentioned redistribution in 1417, the areas with Kastellaun were transferred to the rear county.


The following castles - mostly as ruins - were built, expanded or acquired by the counts:

For other castles cf. Counties and dominions.

coat of arms

Coat of arms of the Counts of Sponheim in the New Siebmacher Wappenbuch from 1882

The front county of Sponheim had the following coat of arms: blue-gold chessboard. The coat of arms of the back county was: chessboard red-silver. Both still appear in a number of current municipal coats of arms, e.g. B .:


  • Thomas Bergholz: The counties of Sponheim . In: Emil Sehling (greeting): The Protestant church regulations of the 16th century. Volume 18: Rhineland-Palatinate I, Tübingen 2006, pp. 619-684.
  • Peter Brommer: The Sponheimische Amt Winterburg in the year 1746. In: Yearbook for West German regional history. 41, 2015, pp. 201-239.
  • Winfried Dotzauer: The front county of Sponheim as a Palatinate-Baden condominium 1437–1707 / 8 . Diss. Phil. University of Mainz 1963; Bad Kreuznach 1963.
  • Winfried Dotzauer: History of the Nahe-Hunsrück area from the beginnings to the French Revolution . Franz Steiner Verlag 2001, ISBN 3-515-07878-9 .
  • Carola Fey: The funerals of the Counts of Sponheim. Investigations into the sepulchral culture of the medieval nobility . Phil. Diss. Gießen, Mainz, 2003, ISBN 3-929135-41-8 ( online ).
  • Albert Ehrenhart Fichtel: Tnktur and Zimir, the coat of arms of Spanheim. In: Hunsrücker Heimatblätter, Simmern. No. 124, vol. 44, 2004, ISSN  0947-1405 .
  • Friedrich Hausmann : Siegfried, Margrave of the "Ungarnmark" and the beginnings of the Spanheimers in Carinthia and the Rhineland. In: Yearbook for regional studies of Lower Austria. New series Volume 43, Vienna 1977, pp. 115–168 ( PDF on ZOBODAT ).
  • Josef Heinzelmann : Spanheimer chips. Schachwappen and Konradinererbe, in: Yearbook for West German State History 25 (1999), pp. 7–68 Online .
  • Johann Georg Lehmann : The county and the counts of Spanheim (Sponheim) of the two lines Kreuznach and Starkenburg . R. Voigtländer, Kreuznach 1869. Sendet Reprint, 1985, ISBN 978-3-253-02727-7 (digitized on Google Books, [2] , [3] , Ed. 1869).
  • Johannes Mötsch : The counties of Sponheim . ( Historical Atlas of the Rhineland , Supplement V / 4), Cologne: Rheinland-Verlag, 1992, ISBN 3-7927-1341-1
  • Johannes Mötsch: Genealogy of the counts of Sponheim . In: Yearbook for West German State History . Volume 13, 1987, pp. 63-179, ISSN  0170-2025
  • Johannes Mötsch: Regesta of the archive of the Counts of Sponheim 1065–1437 . 5 volumes, Koblenz 1987–1991
  • Johannes Mötsch: Trier and Sponheim . In: Johannes Mötsch and Franz-Josef Heyen (eds.): Balduin von Luxemburg. Archbishop of Trier - Elector of the Empire. Festschrift on the occasion of the 700th year of birth . Mainz 1985, pp. 357-389
  • Klaus Eberhard Wild: The rear county of Sponheim as the Palatinate-Baden rulership (1437–1776) . In: Messages from the Heimatverein Birkenfeld . 1972, vol. 35, pp. 3-32.
  • Klaus Eberhard Wild: On the history of the counties Veldenz and Sponheim and the Birkenfeld lines of the Palatinate Wittelsbacher . Birkenfeld 1982.

Web links

Commons : County of Sponheim  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Départements Sarre , Rhin-et-Moselle and Mont-Tonnerre
  2. ^ A b Province of the Grand Duchy of Lower Rhine , 1822 Rhine Province
  3. Adalbert von Mörsberg (near Winterthur ) was probably a Nellenburger, that is, he belonged agnatically to the dynasty of the Counts of Nellenburg. See [1]
  4. The Margraves of Baden and the Counts of Veldenz were descendants of Count Johann III. from Sponheim .
  5. The rule Züsch consisted of the localities Züsch , Damflos and Neuhütten (without the district Muhl), in today's district of Trier-Saarburg . See article Züsch at
  6. Later an office building (today's "castle") was built in its place.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Hausmann : Siegfried, Margrave of the "Ungarnmark" and the beginnings of the Spanheimers in Carinthia and around the Rhineland , p. 165
  2. ^ Friedrich Hausmann : Siegfried, Margrave of the "Ungarnmark" and the beginnings of the Spanheimers in Carinthia and around the Rhineland , p. 166
  3. ^ Friedrich Hausmann : Siegfried, Margrave of the "Ungarnmark" and the beginnings of the Spanheimers in Carinthia and around the Rhineland , p. 166 f.
  4. ^ Friedrich Hausmann : Siegfried, Margrave of the "Ungarnmark" and the beginnings of the Spanheimers in Carinthia and around the Rhineland , p. 167
  5. Counts of Sponheim at
  6. "Ruine Sponheim" at
  7. ^ Documents of September 21, 1127; Carl Borromaeus Aloys Fickler (arr.): Sources and research on the history of Swabia and Eastern Switzerland . Schneider, Mannheim 1859, No. XXIV and XXV, pp. 48-50 ( Google Books ).
  8. Cf. Karl Hermann May: Contributions to the history of the Lords of Lipporn and Counts of Lauenburg . In: Nassauische Annalen 60 (1943/48), pp. 1–65, especially pp. 42f.
  9. ^ Text of the document from Johannes Trithemius: Chronicon… monasterii Spanheimensis (1506). In: Marquard Freher (ed.): Johannis Trithemij Spanheimensis primo… Abbatis… secvndae partis Chronica insignia dvo , vol. II. Wechel bei Claudius, Frankfurt am Main 1601, pp. 237–435, esp. P. 240 ( Google Books ).
  10. Cf. Winfried Dotzauer: History of the Nahe-Hunsrück area from the beginnings to the French Revolution . Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2001, esp. P. 155 ( Google Books ; limited preview).
  11. See documents from the Staufer Emperor Konrad III. from 1145 and King Frederick I Barbarossa from April 28, 1154; Carl Borromaeus Aloys Fickler (arr.): Sources and research on the history of Swabia and Eastern Switzerland . Schneider, Mannheim 1859, No. XXVI and XXVIII, pp. 50–53 and pp. 55–58, especially pp. 51, 52 (note 8) and 55.
  12. ^ A b c Upmann: Contributions to the history of the principality of Birkenfeld. Annual report of the Society for Useful Research in Trier for the years 1861 and 1862. Published by the Secretair Schneemann. Trier 1864 (complete with Google Books), p. 40
  13. Winfried Dotzauer: History of the Nahe-Hunsrück area from the beginnings to the French Revolution , 2001, p. 255
  14. "Gottfried III. And his descendants" at (English)
  17. ^ Announcements of the Residences Commission of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Issue 16/1, 2006
  18.  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  19. ^ Johannes Mötsch : The counties of Sponheim . ( Historical Atlas of the Rhineland , Supplement V / 4), Cologne: Rheinland-Verlag, 1992, ISBN 3-7927-1341-1
  20. ^ A b Walter Rummel: Witch persecutions in the rear county of Sponheim ,, 2000
  21. ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  22. ^ Giselher Castendyck: The districts of Wolf and Kautenbach , in: Traben-Trarbach. History of a twin city . Published by the city of Traben-Trarbach with editing by Dietmar Flach and Günther Böse, Traben-Trarbach 1984
  23. Martin Sinemus : The history of the parish Cleinich . Cleinich, self-published 1925, p. 9.11
  25. ^ I. Marx: History of the Archbishopric of Trier, the City of Trier & the State of Trier, Churfürstenthum and Archdiöceße, from the oldest period up to the year 1816 ( Memento from September 26, 2007 in the Internet Archive )