Johannisburg Castle

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Johannisburg Castle from the southwest

The Johannesburg Castle , formerly Castle Johannisburg in Aschaffenburg served until 1803 as a second residence of the Mainz archbishops and electors . It was built from red sandstone between 1605 and 1614 by the Strasbourg master builder Georg Ridinger . The facility consists of four large wings , each with three floors . At every corner there is a tower , in the four corners of the inner courtyard there are also smaller stair towers . From 1814 until the end of the monarchy in 1918 , the castle belonged to the Bavarian Crown . Today the Free State of Bavaria is the owner and the complex is administered by the Bavarian Administration of State Palaces, Gardens and Lakes . The castle museum and the administration of the museums of the city of Aschaffenburg are also located in the castle .

The castle dominates the image of the city of Aschaffenburg and is its greatest attraction . A local poet from Aschaffenburg once said: "The city is your castle."


Georg Ridinger, architect of the palace
Inner courtyard with keep
Drawing by the architect Georg Ridinger (1611)

Little is known about the building history of the medieval castle , which was built on the same site. In 1284 a new chapel was dedicated to John the Baptist . There are reports of the expansion of the castle from the 14th century, especially the keep , which towered above the magnificent castle complex according to a drawing by Veit Hirsvogel the Younger. This castle was already the second seat of government of the Archbishops of Mainz , who presided over the largest ecclesiastical province of the Holy Roman Empire and at the same time acted as arch chancellor of the empire. Aschaffenburg was the site of various prince assemblies and synods of bishops in the 13th to 15th centuries . Outstanding guests were King Ludwig the Bavarian in 1317 or King Wenzel of Luxembourg in 1383 .

The location gained special importance when Albrecht von Brandenburg , Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, withdrew from Halle to Aschaffenburg in 1539 because of the Reformation . The medieval complex was looted and destroyed in the Markgräflerkrieg in 1552 , whereby many art treasures that Albrecht had brought to Aschaffenburg were lost. Works by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his school, which are now part of the Aschaffenburg State Gallery in the castle (they cannot be viewed from 2015 to 2019 due to the renovation of the building and the restoration of the paintings), have been preserved.

In 1604 the new Elector Johann Schweikhard von Kronberg commissioned the building of the palace. The Strasbourg architect and builder Georg Ridinger was entrusted with the execution . Ridinger had the remains of the old castle torn down; only the large Gothic keep was included as the fifth tower in the new building in the middle of the northwest wing. On the west corner of the construction closed with the main side facing the first phase with a 20 m high substructure ( substructure on) to the old city wall next to the Theoderichstor. The coat of arms of Elector Johann Schweikhard, designed by the sculptor Hans Junker , is embedded in this wall in the central axis of the castle . The name of the castle thus has a double reference, on the one hand to the patron saint John the Baptist and on the other hand to its builder. The coat of arms destroyed in World War II was reproduced during the restoration of the castle. The Suicardusstraße, which runs below the castle on the banks of the Main, also reminds of the client.

The entire structure is kept strictly symmetrical and has external dimensions of 87.5 m by 86 m. Red Odenwald sandstone from quarries in the Miltenberg and Obernburg am Main area was used for the facades . The three-storey side wings are about 13.50 m deep. The eight-story corner towers are 52 meters high, which corresponds to the width of the individual wings. The square inner courtyard has a side length of 51 m. The storey height of the towers corresponds to the side wings on the first three floors, so that over the total width there is an alignment of 15 or 16 windows. Above are three floors, which correspond to the roof height of the side wings. A balustrade runs around each tower around the seventh floor above. Finally, the eighth floor is octagonal with a tapered diameter and forms the basis for the likewise octagonal domes. The four inner stair towers have four floors, of which the lower one is square, the one above it is octagonal. The individual storeys of the outer facade are structured by cornices , so that on the one hand the unity of towers and intermediate structures is emphasized, and on the other hand the large structure appears lively. The profiled draperies of the windows, which are designed differently on each floor, also contribute to this. Finally, the three-storey gable in the central axes of the intermediate buildings, which accommodate the corresponding storey heights of the towers and have artistic ornamentation in the style of Italian Renaissance architecture with obelisks , offer a visual highlight . The castle is bordered by a wide, dry castle moat and can be reached via a bridge in the south-east wing. The current version of the main portal with a balcony and two double columns comes from the Erthal period .

Johannes Schweikhard von Kronberg had coins minted for the inauguration of the castle on February 17, 1614, the 10th anniversary of his election as elector, which show the castle on one side and his coat of arms or his portrait on the other. From now on he carried out his government affairs for the Mainz Electoral State from the new castle. The architect Ridinger documented his work in a copperplate engraving , which was printed in 1616, so that important information about the original shape and furnishings of the castle is preserved. The builder died in 1617. The last work on the castle was not completed until 1618/1619.

Inside, the palace on the ground floor mainly contained utility and administrative rooms as well as a number of kitchens. A silver chamber was housed in the left part of the south-east wing, where the castle wine room is today. The elector's apartment was on the first floor in the main wing. As a residence for the emperor, the "emperor's apartment" was on the second floor above the elector's apartment. In addition to the corresponding living rooms, this included the representative imperial hall, which was seven window axes wide.

Lintel at Johannisburg Castle with the Mainz wheel and elements of the von Kronberg family coat of arms

If you take a closer look at the lintels on the first floor, you can see that in addition to the Mainz wheel , the coat of arms of the Archbishopric of Mainz , there are also elements of the coat of arms of the family of the builder, the family of Kronberg : the thistle umbel set in a crown ( helmet ornament of the family coat of arms) and six of the iron hats shown in blue in the coat of arms .

According to an anecdote , the Capuchin Father Bernhard von Trier is said to have saved the castle and town from being pillaged by the troops of the Swedish King Gustav Adolf in 1631 with his quick wittedness . After handing over the keys to the city, the Swedish king announced that he found it a shame to have to burn down the lock, which had only been completed a few years earlier, as he could not take it with him to Sweden . The Capuchin said, however, that he could do this, he just had to roll it there. Gustav Adolf frowned questioningly, and the clever priest referred to the wheels carved above each of the numerous windows on the first floor, which refer to the Mainz coat of arms . It is reported that the king had to laugh as a result and refrained from destroying it.

The Archbishop of Mainz and Elector Friedrich Karl Joseph von Erthal had to flee from Mainz to Aschaffenburg in 1792 because of the approaching French troops. As a result, valuable furniture, over 200 paintings, the electoral library, a collection of valuable paraments and a collection of copper engravings that were lost in the Second World War came to Aschaffenburg. He had the castle and the surrounding area redesigned in the style of classicism according to contemporary tastes. His court architect Emanuel Herigoyen helped with this .

During the Second World War, the castle was badly hit by several bombs and artillery fire in March and April 1945 and burned almost completely. Soon after the end of the war, the desire arose to rebuild the castle. Old records from the construction period helped. It was particularly difficult to restore the tower domes, which were not exactly true to the original. The number of castle windows was also increased during the reconstruction. The interiors were not restored, but redesigned from the point of view of museum use. The city of Aschaffenburg and the Free State of Bavaria took over the financing. In total, the renovation costs amounted to over 20 million German marks . In 1964 the castle was reopened. There were regular palace concerts by the specially founded Collegium musicum Aschaffenburg with renowned musicians. It now contains various museums and collections. The living rooms are currently not open to the public due to the renovation of the building.


St. Martinus and St. Stephen by Lucas Cranach the Elder Ä.

This also includes the Aschaffenburg State Gallery , a branch of the Bavarian State Painting Collections . Today there are paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Ä. , his son and a number of students and Rubens . The Cranach collection is considered the most important in Europe. You can also see a crucifixion group by Hans Baldung Grien and a representation of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg as magnificently dressed and adorned Saint Martin. The collection also includes a large number of Dutch and Flemish masters from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The collection of paintings is followed by the Chamber of Paraments , in which valuable vestments with precious embroidery and other church clothing as well as other liturgical implements from the collections of the Archbishops of Mainz are exhibited.

Portal to the castle chapel
East tower with carillon

In the north-west wing is the two-storey palace chapel between the west tower and the keep, which can only be seen in the inner courtyard through the continuous windows and a particularly ornate portal. The portal to the St. John's Chapel is much more elaborate than the other courtyard portals and, like the interior of the chapel, was probably made by Hans Junker. A round-arched doorway is framed by two Corinthian columns that support a split-segment gable with an extension. Between the flanking columns there are wall niches with statues showing John the Baptist (the patron saint of the castle) and John the Evangelist. On the keystone above the doorway, the handkerchief of Veronica is depicted with the face of Christ. In the extract there is a tufa relief with the baptism of Christ by John. At the top is a statue of Mary with the baby Jesus. From the inside you can get directly from the first floor of the south-west side, the living quarters of the elector, to the west gallery of the castle church. Opposite, behind the altar, is the east gallery. The altar designed by Junker 1614 consists of reddish, black and agate-colored marble and fills the entire height of the eastern wall. The elaborate and artistic design includes around 150 figures, which are sculptured or in relief made of alabaster. The work of redemption and the passion of Christ are depicted. In the central main picture Christ is shown on the cross. Above this is the depiction of the resurrection in the essay. Among other things, there is also a portrait of the client with the model of the castle. On the pulpit, built in 1618, reference is made to the prophets Moses David and Solomon on the shaft. The pulpit cladding contains depictions of the church fathers Ambrosius, Hieronymus, Augustine and Gregory as well as Christ as a world teacher accompanied by the four evangelists and Paul and Peter. The extensive repair and reconstruction work in the castle chapel to remove the damage from the Second World War could only be completed in 1989.

A carillon (carillon) made up of 48 bells (4 octaves) has been installed in the east tower of the castle since 1969 , which sounds automatically three times a day, but can also be played by hand. From time to time famous carillon artists perform in Aschaffenburg.

Cork model of the Pantheon in Rome

Also very interesting is the world's largest collection of architectural models made from cork with 54 numbers in the inventory catalog , which mainly depict ancient buildings from Rome, including a model of the Colosseum , which with its three meters diameter is the largest cork model in the world. It is thanks to the court confectioner and phelloplasticist Carl Joseph May and his son Georg, who began building the models in 1792.

Part of the city collections have been in the castle since 1972. These include sculptures from the palace construction period, cityscapes, guild equipment and furniture. The collections of German and foreign ceramics, especially of faience , stoneware and porcelain, are also special attractions . The rich collection of earthenware that was produced in the Dammer manufactory comes from the region . But modern paintings are also presented, including the works of classical modernism by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Christian Schad .

On the second floor there are the electoral living rooms with the original furniture of Archbishop Friedrich Karl Joseph von Erthal from around 1800.

The Aschaffenburg State Court Library , through which the Aschaffenburg Abbey Library is also administered with approx. 22,000 volumes, 86 manuscripts and 586 incunabula , as well as the castle cellars and the castle wine bars are still located in the castle.

Breakfast pavilion in the palace garden
Garden archaeological studies on the palace terrace 2020

The palace garden stretches from Johannisburg Palace to the Pompejanum and St. Germain Terrace. Because of the space available around Johannisburg Castle - with a Capuchin monastery in the immediate vicinity - a representative castle garden in baroque style could never be created there. This is how the somewhat angled complex on the banks of the Main was created with its narrow, curved paths, arcades and pergolas, walls and seating niches, pedestrian bridges and other architectural elements. The focus of the planting is on Mediterranean plants such as fig and agave , which make up the special Mediterranean flair of Aschaffenburg and which have contributed to the nickname Bavarian Nice . The breakfast pavilion built by Archbishop and Elector Friedrich Karl Joseph von Erthal is located in the palace garden .

An archaeological investigation has been carried out on the palace terrace, the narrow strip between the palace building and the railing on the banks of the Main, since autumn 2019. The basis was a garden plan from 1744, which provided for at least a small baroque garden design. It was not clear whether it was a representation of an existing building or a draft sketch that was not executed. According to a media report on the progress of the work, due to traces in the ground, it is considered likely that there used to be a baroque garden here. The complex had a "three-dimensionality" that is no longer visible today, with height differences of up to six meters, which was not shown on the old garden plan. It was not until the end of the 18th century that the architect Emanuel Joseph von Herigoyen, who also renovated the interior of the castle, put an end to the "baroque playfulness" in the sense of classicism and brought the castle surroundings to a uniform level.

400 year anniversary

Coat of arms with year of construction
Aerial view of the castle

The city of Aschaffenburg celebrated the 400th anniversary of the start of construction on the palace in 2007 as part of the Aschaffenburg Culture Days. The official reason for the date is that the two by three meters high, electoral coat of arms of the builder on the so-called coat of arms wall, which is two by three meters in size, indicates the year 1607 and is therefore the oldest evidence of the start of construction. The inscription under the coat of arms reads:


(German: Johannes Schweikard, Archbishop and Elector of Mainz, by the grace of God, in 1607)

According to the official reading, the date 1605 mentioned in every history book for the start of construction is a historically unproven fiction. The coat of arms wall shows the oldest date and also serves as the foundation of the castle.

At the beginning of 2014, the city of Aschaffenburg celebrated 400 years of the castle with the inauguration date on February 16, 2014 with a pontifical mass in the collegiate basilica. In addition, numerous events took place throughout the year in and around the castle, including multiple carillon concerts that could be heard from the inner courtyard of the castle, as well as parts of the Aschaffenburg culture days in the castle courtyard.


  • Gerhard Ermischer: Castle Archeology. Finds from Johannisburg Castle in Aschaffenburg. Museums of the city of Aschaffenburg and others, Aschaffenburg and others 1996, ISBN 3-924436-05-1 .
  • Georg Ridinger : Architecture of the Johannisburg Castle in Aschaffenburg. Facsimile print of the Mainz edition, 1616. Edited and provided with an explanatory article by Hans-Bernd Spies. 2nd extended edition with a register. Geschichts- und Kunstverein Aschaffenburg, Aschaffenburg 2003, ISBN 3-87965-095-0 ( publications of the Geschichts- und Kunstverein Aschaffenburg eV series reprints 2).
  • Burkard von Roda, Werner Helmberger: Aschaffenburg Castle. Official leader. 9th edition. Bavarian Administration of State Palaces, Gardens and Lakes, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-9805654-2-4 .
  • Otto Schulze-Kolbitz: The Aschaffenburg Castle. Heitz, Strasbourg 1905 ( Studies on German Art History 65, ISSN  0081-7228 ).

Web links

Commons : Schloss Johannisburg  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Museums of the city of Aschaffenburg
  2. Son of Veit Hirschvogel the elder
  3. Coat of arms of the Knights of Kronberg in Scheibler's book of arms
  4. z. B. 1975 with the first German orchestra conductor Hortense von Gelmini
  6. Lucas Cranach the Elder Ä. in the castle museum
  7. It is sometimes claimed that the southern slope leading down from the Schlossgraben to the Main is the meteorologically warmest place in Germany; there is also a vineyard to the west below the Pompejanum . But see Wilhelm Hausenstein in Karl Gruber, Aschaffenburg. City between Castle and Abbey , Amorbach 1962, p. 11: “I can't think that it was a really revealing thought when Ludwig I of Bavaria, the last classic lover of the city, spoke of a 'Bavarian Nice'; but I felt that the park path, with its red sandstone walls and vine leaves, knew how to tune me as if I were in Merano or Bolzano. "
  8. Alexander Bruchlos: Getting to the bottom of the story , in: Main-Echo of May 7, 2020, p. 13

Coordinates: 49 ° 58 ′ 34 ″  N , 9 ° 8 ′ 30 ″  E