Marburg Castle

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Marburg Castle from the southeast
General view from the south

The Marburg Castle (also: Landgrave Castle Marburg ) is one of the most striking buildings in the city of Marburg . It was laid out as a castle in the 11th century and, in addition to its historical significance as the first residence of the Landgraviate of Hesse, is of great artistic and architectural interest.

Location and structural situation

The Marburg Castle, visible from afar, rises to the west above the city and the Lahn valley, which runs in a north-south direction . The Schlossberg has a height of 287 m above sea level. NN and forms an extension of the Marburg Ridge - a red sandstone highland. Due to the relatively steep valley flanks, there was a very good fortification starting point for the construction of a medieval castle , which has undergone numerous structural changes in the subsequent period and up to the present day.

Landgraf-Philipp-Strasse below the vineyard (the Ludwig-Bickell-stairs open in front of the gate)

The core of the castle is formed by a horseshoe-shaped complex open to the east around a narrow inner courtyard. A distinction is made between the so-called landgrave building with the palace chapel in the south and the women's building or the bower in the west. In the north are the hall or prince's building and the younger people's house or kitchen house . The sacristy above the east gate creates a connection between the castle chapel and the people's house. Below the castle are the former Landgravial Chancellery and Wolfsburg , which together shape the cityscape of Marburg to the south.

The cobblestone Landgraf-Philipp-Straße and the angled Ludwig-Bickell-Staircase lead as footpaths from the upper town up to the south gate. Today the castle bus (line 10) drives over the Gisonenweg, which has been expanded to the street .

Significance and current use of the facility

In addition to its historical significance as the first residence of the Landgraviate of Hesse , the castle is of great artistic and architectural historical interest. In addition to the components from the 11./12. Century, especially the castle from the second half of the 13th century, which still determines the overall impression of the complex today. The palace chapel and the hall building with the great hall or prince's hall , which is one of the largest and highest quality secular Gothic halls in Central Europe, are outstanding achievements in European castle architecture.

Today, parts of the castle are used by the Marburg University Museum for Cultural History in the Wilhelmsbau and for cultural events such as B. used for theater performances by the Hessian State Theater in the Fürstensaal. A tour of the facility is possible. The casemates at the castle and the witch's tower can be visited on guided tours. The outbuildings Marstall, Zeughaus and the former smithy have housed the Collegium Philippinum of the Hessian Scholarship Institute since 1946 .

History of the castle, town and surrounding area

The region around Marburg in the early and high Middle Ages

The so-called Landgrave building with the castle chapel from the south
Castle from the northwest

In the second half of the 9th to the middle of the 10th century, the Konradines were the most powerful family in the region, the Oberlahngau. Its most important representative, Konrad I the Younger , was elected King of East Franconia in 911 . As early as the middle of the 10th century - due to the decline of the Conradines during the reign of Emperor Otto the Great - imperial estates not far from Marburg, such as Wetter (Hesse) north of Marburg, fell back to the empire . The beginnings of Marburg Castle were and are often associated with the Conradines, for which there is no evidence at least in the written sources.

King Konrad II enfeoffed Count Werner , who came from Swabia , with the County of Maden in the Kassel-Fritzlar-Homberg-Melsungen area, which was established in the 10th century and which became the County of Hesse in the course of the following two centuries. The Count Werner died out in 1121, and their county was then given to the Gison family , an important noble family in the area of ​​what is now Central Hesse at that time. Their ancestral castle Hollende was west of Wetter near Treisbach. They were imperial bailiffs of the royal canonical monastery Wetter, founded around 1015, and as such endowed with royal estates not far from Marburg. Just one year after the Werner inheritance was given to Giso IV, he died, and with the death of his son Giso V in 1137, this line of men also died out. Probably before 1122 Giso IV had married his daughter Hedwig to Ludwig I , the son of Count Ludwig the Springer of Thuringia. After the death of Gisos IV, his widow Kunigunde von Bilstein married Ludwig's brother Heinrich Raspe I in 1122. With this, or finally after the death of Gisos V , the last Gison, their inheritance fell to the Ludowingians , the counts and from 1131 Landgraves of Thuringia, who were able to extend their rule to what is now Upper and Lower Hesse .

It is not clear from the sources who in the 11th century and in the first half of the 12th century before the Ludowingers were the masters of Marburg and the surrounding area. It is generally assumed that the Gisonen were the founders of the castle and the place. According to recent historical studies, however, it is not the Gisonen, but the Counts of Gleiberg from the central Lahn valley who were the lords of Marburg in the second half of the 11th century.

Marburg under the Thuringian Landgraves

In the first documentary mention of Marburg in 1138/39, a Lu˚dewicus de Marburg appears together with other ministers of Landgrave Ludwig I of Thuringia . By 1140 at the latest, there was a first coin in Marburg that required a market settlement. Apparently the upgrading of the place to the market goes back to Landgrave Ludwig I. Construction work in the castle must have been connected with it. Under Count Heinrich Raspe II (1140–1154 / 55) the castles of Marburg, Gudensberg and Kassel were also renewed and expanded. A Conradus de Marburg is mentioned in a document from Emperor Frederick I in 1174 . In the first half of the 13th century, the Landgraves of Thuringia documented several times in the castle or city of Marburg. The most important Ludowingian ministerials in Upper Hesse sat here, the later Schencken zu Schweinsberg .

Marburg as part of the Landgraviate of Hesse

After the Landgraves of Thuringia died out in 1247, the Landgraviate should initially fall to the Wettins , but Sophie von Brabant (1223–1275), a daughter of St. Elisabeth of Thuringia (1207–1231), also made inheritance claims for her son Heinrich from 1248 valid. As a result of the Hessian-Thuringian succession dispute in 1247–63, the Hessian part of the Landgraviate was split off and a new Landgraviate of Hesse was created, the first ruler of which was Heinrich I (1256–1308). In 1292 he was raised to hereditary imperial prince status by King Adolf von Nassau and the Landgraviate of Hesse was officially recognized under imperial law. The efforts to gain recognition and ultimately the success are reflected accordingly in extensive construction measures, which should also document the Landgrave's claim to the outside world.

Heinrich's son Otto (1308–1328) moved the landgrave's seat to Kassel as early as 1308 , and Marburg lost its importance accordingly. Between 1458 and 1500 a branch line under Heinrich III resided here again . (1458–1483) and Wilhelm III. (1483-1500). However, Marburg Castle only played a stronger role in political development under Landgrave Philipp the Magnanimous (1518–1567), who succeeded in unifying Hesse, introduced the Reformation here in 1526 and founded the first Protestant university . The Marburg Religious Discussion between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli took place in the castle in October 1529 . After Philip's death in 1567, Marburg became the residence of one of the four sub-counties for the third time under Ludwig IV of Hesse-Marburg (1567-1604).

The history of Marburg since the Thirty Years War

During the Thirty Years' War , the city and fortress of Marburg were taken by Tilly's troops in 1623 . After the Hessian War , they were returned to Hessen-Kassel by the Hessen-Darmstadt line in 1648 . Marburg's importance declined increasingly, it only played a role as an administrative seat and military base. In the following period, especially between around 1700 and 1740, an extensive fortress was built. As early as the Seven Years' War 1756–63, Marburg was again conquered several times, which showed that the fortress no longer corresponded to the military developments. From 1770, therefore, began to grind down the fortifications. The fortress was finally abandoned and blown up in 1807 after it was occupied by Napoleon's troops .

From 1809 the castle was used as a prison, which could not be moved to Kassel until 1869. Viktor von Meibom : “At the same time [1851] I was given the upper management over the multi-storey building, which was housed in the Marburg Castle. According to the then Electoral Hesse law, the iron and stick penalty was the heaviest imprisonment, which was only applied to men and differed from the penitentiary penalty in that it worked hard and wore iron greaves. In my time there were 180 to 240 serious criminals in the Marburg Castle, many of them sentenced to life imprisonment or pardoned instead of the death penalty. ”() In 1866 the Electorate of Hesse was annexed by Prussia , which also meant the end of the Electorate of Hesse. In 1869/70 the Prussian State Archives moved into the castle and remained the main user until it moved into a new building in the city in 1938. During the Second World War , the castle was largely empty. In 1946 it came into the possession of the Philipps University of Marburg , and in 1976 the conversion to today's museum began.

The structural development of Marburg Castle

In particular, the five main medieval building phases, which are almost always directly related to political events, but also the further development of the building clearly reflect the social changes after the Reformation, between the Thirty Years' War and the Napoleonic War, in the German Empire and the 20th century to the present day.

Phase 1 - the first castle of the high Middle Ages

The core of the complex is a rectangular building (16 by 9.5 meters), which was excavated under today's west wing in 1989/90. A large part of the west wall has been preserved up to a height of four meters. The building, known as the “well-fortified hall-storey house”, was initially connected to the castle of the Conradines by the archaeologist Christa Meiborg and dated to the late Carolingian - Ottonian period (9th / 10th centuries). Taking into account more recent results, for example from Querfurt Castle , in 2003 she put the long rectangular stone building, which she “typologically probably calls a so-called fixed house ”, in the period around 1000. However, the building, which can only be described generally as a residential building, is still being built possible in the 11th century or early 12th century. There are also doubts about the settlement of the castle plateau as early as Carolingian times and about the existence of the first castle complex, possibly made of wood, as early as the 9th and early 10th centuries. At least clear evidence is still pending. Neither the Konradiner nor the Count Werner nor the Gisonen can be accepted as the founders of the castle with any degree of certainty. With the current state of research and publications, the question of the founders or owners of the castle before the Ludowingers must remain open.

Phase 2 - the expansion under the Thuringian Landgraves around 1140

In a second construction phase, the northern part of the rectangular building was converted into a square tower with a side length of 9.50 meters. The south-west corner with careful corner blocks and the west wall of the tower have been preserved up to eight meters high inside the west wing. In the west, south and north of the tower, a ring wall that has been preserved up to the same height has been proven in several places , the masonry of which corresponds to that of the tower. The area between the curtain wall and the tower was filled with thick layers of red sand. This strengthened the main attack side in the west and the tower was partially " mothballed ", so to speak , probably to protect the backfilled curtain wall from destruction with siege equipment. Further remnants of this circular wall have been preserved in the south wing or could be excavated in and near the Leutehaus together with the associated transverse walls. It is therefore a type of castle with a tower and individual buildings in the edge of the house on or on the ring wall.

The dating is again controversial. Christa Meiborg assumes that it will be converted into a typical Salier period residential tower around 1100. The stone work and a piece of wood recovered in the area of ​​the hall building from the time 1140/41 (d) , however, suggest that the construction work dates back to the first half or towards the middle of the 12th century. The extensive construction work can therefore be combined with the takeover of the castle by the Ludowingers and the expansion into a center of power. They can most likely be dated to the time around 1140, when Heinrich Raspe II also had Kassel and probably Gudensberg expanded.

Somewhat more recent construction measures from the second half of the 12th century can only be captured by some older components such as a stone decorated with braided tape, which were walled up in the late medieval castle complex (so-called spoilage ). The extent and appearance of this expansion, which was probably carried out under Landgrave Ludwig II , cannot, however, be determined. Changes in the immediate vicinity of the castle were made necessary by the construction of the first city ​​wall of the market settlement, which was expanded considerably to the west around 1180/90. At two points in the west wing and under the basement of the Wilhelmsbau, the connection of the city wall to the castle wall was recorded during excavations.

Phase 3 - the expansion in the first half of the 13th century

In the southwest corner of today's Leutehaus in the northeast of the facility stood a slender tower that is younger than the curtain wall around 1220 (d) . The new dungeon (1372: nuwe bergfrid by the Kuchene ) should the eastern part of the castle and especially the goal area and connecting the city walls back up. The square tower in the west was rebuilt and a two-story hall building was added to the southern part of the circular wall around 1250 (d) .

In the first half of the 13th century, the development of the castle hill was also extended to the east to include today's Wilhelmsbau or an existing outer bailey was renewed at this point. An at least two-storey solid building of unknown function was built on the northern city wall. Around 1230/40 the city was expanded to the west, whereby the youngest city wall that was built had to be connected to the west wing of the castle. A gate with the outside to the north, which presumably belonged to a bailey, has been preserved on the back of the Renaissance gate to the north terrace. The main entrance to the castle must have been coming from the west along the south side in order to then reach the main castle through the east gate.

Phase 4 - the extension to the Hessian residence in the late 13th century

Retaining wall with arch segments from the south

The current structural design of the castle is mainly determined by the extensive conversion to the Hessian residence in the late 13th century. With the erection of magnificent individual buildings, the high standards and the new landgrave rank of the builder gained in 1292 should be underlined. Marburg is one of the few well-known princely castles from the second half of the 13th century and the early 14th century, which often still followed the “classic” castle concept of the Hohenstaufen era.

Castle chapel vaulted ceiling with leaf mask and foliage ornament polychrome and partially gilded in the eastern polygon

The eastern end of the south wing is formed by the castle chapel, consecrated in 1288. The subsequent four-story Landgrave building shows two construction phases. The second floor was built in the late 13th century on the preserved part of the Romanesque defensive wall . The women's building in the west is attached to the landgrave building, but its shape is still largely unknown in the second half of the 13th century.

In the north of the main castle, on the front side, the rectangular, three-storey hall building rises. It was completed around 1292/1300 (1296 ± 8 (d) ). The Great Hall or Prince's Hall , often incorrectly called the Knight's Hall , on the upper floor with an area of ​​482 m² is undoubtedly the most important and important room in the entire palace. It was accessed from the courtyard through an external staircase. The niche in the middle risalit on the north side, which for a long time was referred to as the throne niche , played a central role in stately banquets. In the 14th century, this was the location of a buffet or the counter where the beer was tapped. The Leutehaus adjoining the hall to the east shows hardly any traces of older masonry on the outside and essentially dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. The gate to the high castle is between the castle chapel and the Leutehaus. The sacristy above probably dates from the late 13th century and also acted as a bridge between the two components. Apparently the gate had no special defensive structures.

The construction of a kennel and possibly also the construction / expansion of the western outer bailey are connected with the construction work in the main castle . In the south, an elaborate retaining wall made of arched segments was erected and the castle was placed on a base, which raised it and at the same time increased the monumental and representative effect of the castle buildings.

Phase 5 - late Gothic modifications

Hexenturm on the north side
Construction phase plan (according to Großmann, Marburg Castle, 3rd cover page)
Wilhelmsbau from the southwest
Transition to the Wilhelmsbau from the south
Rentkammer from the south

Considerable reconstructions took place in the 14th and 15th centuries, especially in the second half of the 15th century under Wilhelm III. The west wing was expanded from 1471 to 1486 into the so-called women's building, the residential wing of Landgravine Anna, and received its current appearance. Further renovations concerned the south wing in 1481 and 1486, the chapel, the hall and kitchen and the expansion of the western outer bailey. The Marstall was built in the north of the complex . Both the west gate and the south gate have been expanded. As early as 1478, the three-storey Witches Tower or White Tower was built northwest of the castle on the Halsgraben to meet the new requirements of war technology.

The most important building measure of this time, however, is the construction of the Wilhelmsbau 1493–97. As an extension of the castle to the east, a modern, three-storey hall and residential building was built, which partially overlays the arched retaining wall.

The reconstruction of this phase were mainly due to the Landgrave court architect Hans Jakob von Ettlingen executed, among other things, the castles Hauneck and Herzberg newly built and Wasserburg Friedewald rebuilt.

Phase 6 - Renaissance buildings

In the Renaissance period , the palace underwent hardly any major changes under the politically important Landgrave Philip the Magnanimous and his son Ludwig IV . In the Hochschloss, only new floor slabs were drawn in and windows added. In 1572 Ebert Baldewein built the rent chamber south of the chapel , which bears the coat of arms of Landgrave Ludwig IV of Hesse. Baldewein also renewed the armory and in 1575 the stables in the outer bailey. The south gate was probably redesigned around 1580. At the southwest corner of the outer bailey, a large battery tower (Rondell) was built in 1521-23, but it was removed again at the end of the 16th century, with the exception of a few remains.

Phase 7 - the 17th and 18th centuries

In the 17th and 18th centuries, too, minor modifications were necessary in the upper castle, especially in the women's and kitchen building. Otherwise, the construction work in the castle was largely limited to the commercial buildings, such as the conversion of the former forge in 1605/06 to a commanders' house and the small stables in 1631. The two upper floors of the stalls were veneered with sandstone facades on three sides in 1628-30 in connection with the Repair of war damage in the Thirty Years War .

The establishment of the fortifications , which took place between 1700 and 1740 in particular, brought about significant changes to the entire complex . Among other things, the remains of the large bastion built in 1701 have been preserved . The south gate was extended to the west in the 17th century and a small bastion was built in front of it on the mountain side.

Phase 8 - the 19th and 20th centuries

Shortly before 1800, the demolition of the fortifications began again. Some renovations, such as the multiple changes in the floor heights, are related to the use of the castle as a prison from 1809. In the Wilhelmsbau and Frauenbau in particular, new, fireproof ceilings with Prussian cap vaults were drawn in. In 1890 all roofs and roofs were changed and steel roofs were put on. In addition to the high palace, the outer bailey areas also underwent minor changes. Renewed renovations were carried out in 1924–32 and as a result of the incorporation of the Marburg University Museum from 1976. This was connected with extensive building studies and archaeological excavations, which produced numerous new results on the building history of the facility. However, even during this period there were still considerable losses of medieval building material, such as the removal of a late medieval kitchen.


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Web links

Commons : Marburger Schloss  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

supporting documents

  1. Jürgen Vortmann (ed.): The memoirs of the lawyer Viktor von Meibom (1821-1892): a legal life between theory and practice. Elwert, Marburg 1992, ISBN 978-3-7708-0986-8 , p. 76 f.
This version was added to the list of excellent articles on August 10, 2004 .

Coordinates: 50 ° 48 ′ 36.8 ″  N , 8 ° 46 ′ 1.3 ″  E