Kaiserpfalz Gelnhausen

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Kaiserpfalz zu Gelnhausen 2005, view of the southern Palaswand from the south
Inside of the south wall of the palace

The Kaiserpfalz Gelnhausen , also called Barbarossaburg , goes back to Emperor Friedrich I (Barbarossa) like the town of Gelnhausen, which was founded in 1170 and is closely related to it. The facility served to expand and secure imperial property in the Wetterau and on the Via Regia between Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig by the Staufer . It is considered to be the best preserved palace complex from the Staufer period.


The exact start of construction in the Palatinate is still scientifically very controversial and the discussion revolves around the question of whether the construction of the Palatinate should start a few years before the programmatic founding of the royal city in 1170 or even an earlier castle complex of the Counts of Selbold-Gelnhausen . Various data obtained with the help of dendrochronology point to the years around 1170, when the subsoil was made load-bearing by hammering oak piles for the wall foundations.

Presumably, the construction of the Palatinate was directed by the Lords of Büdingen , who at about the same time built Büdingen Castle as their own residence nearby.

The Palatinate Gelnhausen was the scene of the great court day at Gelnhausen in 1180 , on which Heinrich the Lion was tried in his absence and his lands were redistributed. In the following years more court days took place there. It is not certain whether the palace, which is now in ruins, was already completed to the point that it could be used as a meeting room, but it is suspected. The large number of different stonemason's marks suggests a relatively large number of construction workers working simultaneously on the construction site and thus rapid construction progress.

Kaiserpfalz Gelnhausen Detail on the portal of the Palas

During the Staufer period, the Palatinate was an imperial castle , had a burgrave and a castle man , and as an accessory it had the Büdinger Forest , in which the castle residents had timber rights (construction and firewood) until the 19th century. The decline of the Palatinate began as early as the 14th century, when King Charles IV transferred the castle and town to the Count of Schwarzburg in 1349 and never released it. In 1431 the Count of Hanau and the Count Palatine Ludwig III. Palatinate and city of Count Heinrich von Schwarzburg. At the end of the 16th century, the Counts of Isenburg in Birstein took over the burgrave office, but they did not reside in the castle. In the Thirty Years War , the city and the Palatinate were badly destroyed in 1634. If the commander of the Swedish fortress Hanau , James Ramsey, went down to Gelnhausen, the Pfalz Gelnhausen was sacked and destroyed on his orders.

After the Hanau family died out in 1736, Gelnhausen fell to the Landgraves of Hesse-Kassel . The Palatinate was used as a quarry until 1811; Due to its dilapidation, the chapel had to be partially demolished in 1856 . Around 1810, the Palatinate was one of the first buildings from the Romanesque era in Germany to attract the attention of scholars interested in art.

At the end of the 19th century and during the 20th century, the first securing work was carried out to preserve the remains of the Palatinate for posterity. It was also only at the end of the 19th century that the previously independent municipality of Burg was dissolved and incorporated into the town of Gelnhausen.

Today the Palatinate belongs to the State of Hesse and is maintained by the administration of the State Palaces and Gardens of Hesse . It is open to the public with the attached castle museum.


The moated castle , which was formerly surrounded by the Kinzig , was founded with 12,000 oak piles ( pile foundation ). It consists of a core castle and the outer bailey , in which the property of the castle men in charge of the castle hat was formerly located. Today only parts of the complex are preserved, including the complete curtain wall , the richly decorated courtyard facade of the palace and remains of the castle chapel . These components are among the most important secular buildings of the Romanesque in Central Europe.


  • Thomas Biller: Kaiserpfalz Gelnhausen. The palace of the Staufer Emperor Friedrich I. Barbarossa, founded before 1170 and completed in 1180. (= Small Art Guide No. 2413), 1st edition. Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2000, ISBN 3-7954-6253-3 ( PDF ; 4 MB).
  • Günther Binding : Pfalz Gelnhausen. A construction survey . H. Bouvier, Bonn 1965 ( Treatises on art, music and literary studies . Volume 30).
  • Joachim Ehlers : On the dating of the Palatinate Gelnhausen . In: Hessisches Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte , 18 (1968), pp. 94–130.
  • Waltraud Friedrich: Cultural monuments in Hessen. Main-Kinzig district II.2. Gelnhausen, Gründau, Hasselroth, Jossgrund, Linsengericht, Wächtersbach. Published by the State Office for Monument Preservation Hessen , Theiss, Wiesbaden / Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-8062-2469-6 , pp. 507-511 ( Monument topography Federal Republic of Germany ).
  • Bernhard Hundeshagen : Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa Palace in the castle of Gelnhausen. A certificate from the nobility of Hohenstaufen and the art education of their time . Mainz 1819. ( Proof sheet 1810, digitized from Google Books , edition from 1819 )
  • Tobias Picard: Royal Palaces in the Rhine-Main area: Ingelheim - Frankfurt - Trebur - Gelnhausen - Seligenstadt. In: Heribert Müller (Ed.): "... Your Citizens Freedom" - Frankfurt am Main in the Middle Ages. Contributions to the memory of the Frankfurt media artist Elsbet Orth . Kramer, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 9783782905442 , pp. 19-73.
  • Fred Schwind , imperial city and imperial palace Gelnhausen , in: Patze, Hans (Ed.): The Reichstag of Gelnhausen. A milestone in German history 1180–1980. Marburg 1981, pp. 73-95.
  • Gerd Strickhausen: Castles of the Ludowingers in Thuringia, Hesse and the Rhineland. Studies on architecture and sovereignty in the High Middle Ages . Hessian Historical Commission Darmstadt [u. a.], Darmstadt 1998, ISBN 3-88443-061-0 ( Sources and research on Hessian history . No. 109), pp. 247–249.
  • Alfons Zettler: Gelnhausen as the foundation of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa . In: Herzner, Volker; Krüger, Jürgen (ed.): Castle and church during the Staufer period. Files from the 1st Landau Staufer Conference 1997. Regensburg 2001, pp. 47–55.

Web links

Commons : Kaiserpfalz Gelnhausen  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "Two expert tours through the Kaiserpfalz", GNZ, 22 August 2020
  2. See on the question of the construction time: Binding, Ehlers, Strickhausen, Zettler
  3. Joachim Ehlers: On the dating of the Pfalz Gelnhausen.
  4. Strickhausen, pp. 248f
  5. Gottfried Kiesow: The imperial palace . In: A new town near Gelnhausen Castle . Barbarossastadt Gelnhausen (Ed.), 1995, ISBN 3-924417-09-1
  6. ^ Barbarossastadt Gelnhausen, city history
  7. ^ Hundeshagen, Bernhard: Emperor Friedrichs I. Barbarossa palace in the castle of Gelnhausen. A certificate from the nobility of Hohenstaufen and the art education of their time. Mainz 1819

Coordinates: 50 ° 12 ′ 0 ″  N , 9 ° 11 ′ 44 ″  E