Schwarzburg Castle

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View of Schwarzburg Castle, lithograph around 1860

The Black Castle is a baroque , nowadays still largely ruinous castle in the same community in Saalfeld-Rudolstadt , about 65 kilometers southeast of the Thuringian state capital Erfurt . Built on a ridge that juts out into the Schwarza valley from the northwest and slopes steeply on three sides, the former ancestral home of the counts and later princes of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt dominates the region. As a result of large-scale demolition work between 1940 and 1942 and subsequent decades of neglect, only a few buildings remained intact, including the ruins of the main building, the armory and the imperial hall, which is open to the public . Schwarzburg Castle is currently being renovated at great expense (as of 2012).


Schwarzburg Castle, the ancestral seat of the Schwarzburgers
The inner courtyard of the palace around 1890

From the origins to the Middle Ages

When the first fortification was built on the area of ​​the later castle cannot be precisely determined due to a lack of sources. The first tangible reference to the name "Swartzinburg" can be found in a document from Archbishop Anno II of Cologne, which presumably dates back to 1071. However, researchers doubt whether this name already refers to a forerunner of the medieval castle complex. For the first time, a system in connection with a certain Sizzo can be reliably proven, who is named as a witness in a document from the Archbishop of Mainz in 1123 and is dubbed “Graf von Schwarzburg”. This suggests that there must also have been an attached count's seat. The aforementioned Count Sizzo belonged to the noble family of Schwarzburg - Käfernburger , one of the oldest in the Thuringian region.

The first surviving description of the castle complex can be found in a document from 1371. From this it emerges that the Schwarzburg was a staggered building complex, the residential and farm buildings of which were grouped around three functionally separated courtyards. In addition to the further description of the fortifications and defenses, the document also indicates a chapel within the complex. With the extinction of the Schwarzburg-Schwarzburg line of the Count's House in 1450 and the brief transfer of ownership to the Elector of Saxony from 1448 to 1453, the Schwarzburg came to the two existing lines Schwarzburg-Arnstadt-Sondershausen and Schwarzburg-Leutenberg. From then on, the castle was only an adjacent seat and was used regularly by both lines on an equal footing until the 16th century.

The modern palace complex

The conversion of the medieval castle into a modern palace complex began in the middle of the 16th century with the construction of two stately residential buildings, taking into account the existing structure. Among other things, around 1548 the so-called Leutenberg Wing was built on the east side of the ridge and around 1559 the Schwarzburg-Arnstadt-Sondershausener wing (later the main building) on ​​the west side.

In 1584 the Schwarzburg finally fell completely to the House of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt under Count Albrecht VII , who, however, continued to reside on the Heidecksburg .

Under Count Albrecht Anton , the fortress-like expansion of the complex began in 1664 in order to be able to counter a feared invasion of Ottoman troops, which at the time threatened the borders of the Holy Roman Empire . As a result of this work, a bastion was built in front of the gate building on the north side of the complex , the layout of which is still recognizable today. Furthermore, additional fortifications were built around the southern part of the ridge, which had remained undeveloped until then. Later on, other buildings were built here, including the imperial hall building , but also a garden. In 1695 a fire damaged large parts of the palace and destroyed the buildings on the east side of the Schwarzburg. Plans to build a new castle church have now been implemented. This should be attached to the main building at a right angle and connect it to the Leutenberg Wing .

Schwarzburg Castle around 1990

With the elevation of the Counts of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt to the rank of imperial prince in 1710 under Ludwig Friedrich I , Schwarzburg Castle, which had been neglected up to that point, experienced an enormous upgrade as the ancestral seat of the Princely House, and work began on transforming it into a representative manorial subsidiary. The palace church with the princes' hereditary burial , the imperial hall building with adjoining park and a triumphant entrance portal in front of the gatehouse were built by 1744 . The main building was redesigned in the baroque style and received an elaborate portico that still dominates the east facade today. A second fire in 1726 damaged the church, main building and the Leutenberg Wing again .

In the decades that followed, the lords of the castle hardly invested much money in the increasingly neglected complex , which was mainly used as a hunting seat . Only when Prince Albert took office in 1867 and under his successors Georg and Günther Victor did extensive repair and renovation work begin. Among other things, the baroque furnishings of the residential buildings were given up in favor of a historicizing appearance in line with contemporary tastes, the imperial hall was redesigned and the facades were renewed. With the abdication of the last ruling prince, Günther Victor von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, on 23/25. November 1918 the castle fell as property to the state of Thuringia. However, the former princely family received the right to live on the Schwarzburg.

The town and Schloss Schwarzburg were briefly at the center of German history on August 11, 1919, when Reich President Friedrich Ebert signed the Weimar Constitution while relaxing at the Hotel Weißer Hirsch .

The castle between 1940 and 1990

Schwarzberg Castle in the 1930s.

After Prince Günther Victor's death in 1925, his widow Anna Luise continued to live in Schwarzburg Castle. This right of residence was initially not curtailed when the National Socialists came to power in 1933. After the capture of the Belgian King Leopold III. by German soldiers in 1940, however, it was decided to intern him at Schwarzburg Castle. Shortly afterwards, however, the decision was made to convert the complex into a "Reichsgästehaus". Anna Luise had to leave the castle within a few days for financial compensation.

A complete redesign of the entire facility was planned under the direction of the architect Hermann Giesler . To this end, most of the buildings were demolished and new buildings were to be built in their place. Only the completely gutted main building, the church tower, the imperial hall building and the armory remained. The constant withdrawal of workers due to the war slowed down the construction work. The classification of the project as an "urgently important military measure" could not change this either. Finally, on April 17, 1942, on the orders of Reich Minister Albert Speer, construction was stopped for the time being, probably also because of the enormous costs. After the final security measures, the buildings remained in their ruinous state.

The first plans for a reconstruction of the castle were made from 1952 onwards. These were sometimes more, sometimes less based on the original appearance of the original Schwarzburger headquarters. There were also different ideas about the later use. They ranged from a rest home for union members to a hotel with a restaurant and cultural center to a health resort run by the SED party leadership in the 1970s. All of these projects did not get beyond the planning phase due to a lack of funds. On New Year's Eve 1980, another fire, triggered by a firework rocket, destroyed the baroque dome of the castle church tower that was still preserved .

Usage concepts since 1990

As a result of the political turnaround in 1989/90, ideas for a future use of the palace area emerged. With a view to the touristic interesting location in the Schwarzatal, there were again various suggestions from private investors for hotels or for a health clinic. In 1994 the ownership rights to Schloss Schwarzburg were transferred to the newly established Thuringian Palaces and Gardens Foundation . This initially implemented urgent maintenance work on the main building.

The last usage concepts for the entire facility date from 2001. These projects also favored usage as a recreation or event center and as a museum. The existing building stock should be renovated and supplemented by new buildings, some in a modern style. But like all previous plans, these also failed due to a lack of funds.

In 2007, renovation work began on the building of the former armory at the northern end of the facility with start-up financing from the “Förderverein Schloss Schwarzburg eV”. This building is the only surviving, free-standing armory in Germany, the original furnishings of which can be largely reconstructed. The aim was to return and display the weapons collection of the Schwarzburg princes, which was initially still at Heidecksburg Castle in Rudolstadt . The renovation of the arsenal has been completed, and the weapons collection has been back on display there since May 2018. Since 2011, the main building of the castle, which was badly destroyed between 1940 and 1942 and deteriorated further in the following decades, has been taking place with federal funding. Among other things, the roof and the central projection, as well as statically relevant parts of the building structure, have already been renovated.


Armory and weapons collection

The first mention of an armory on the Schwarzburg is in connection with an inventory of weapons dated between 1550/60. The development of heavy firearms since the 15th century meant that the armories that had previously been used became too small. This is how the first arsenals for storing and caring for weapons and all their accessories were built at that time. Spared from the fires of 1695 and 1726, the Schwarzburg armory developed into the central arms depot of the Principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt at the beginning of the 18th century. After the counts were elevated to the rank of imperial prince in 1710, the weapons collection acquired a new, representative role. The building itself received two turrets attached to the side, each crowned with a hood, as decorative elements.

The interior of the armory around 1900

The decision to rebuild the palace complex in 1940 also marked the end of the armory's collection of weapons. The stocks were relocated and were to serve as decoration in parts after the work was completed. The armory building itself was intended as a future garage. Of the around 4000 objects in the collection, around 3500 are still in existence today. The remaining 500 have been missing since the end of the war. Since 1962, a separate exhibition at Heidecksburg Castle has shown around 300 exhibits from the armory collection.

The weapons collection of the Schwarzburger Zeughaus includes some ornate handguns such as rifles , pistols and crossbows , cutting and stabbing weapons , various types of armor , flags, artillery and show weapons from the 15th to 19th centuries. In preparation for the planned return of the collection to Schwarzburg, an extensive restoration program has been running since 2008 with the support of the Federal Cultural Foundation and the State Cultural Foundation . The weapons collection has been exhibited in its original location since May 2018.

The imperial hall

The Imperial Hall Building (2011)

After a previous building was destroyed in the fire in 1695, a garden house was built in the same place a few meters south of the main building . This was redesigned between 1713 and 1719 to become today's Kaisersaal building with a cubic central structure and a western and an eastern extension. In addition to the general baroque reconstruction of the palace complex after 1710, the imperial hall was to contribute significantly to the upgrading of the Schwarzburg as a princely ancestral home. However, the western annex had to be removed again in 1776 due to considerable construction defects.

View into the lantern of the Kaisersaal (2011)

Originally, the Imperial Hall contained 48 life-size depictions of German kings and emperors of the Middle Ages, as well as 100 smaller medallions depicting Roman , Byzantine and German emperors since Caesar . The building formed the center of the Schwarzburg ancestor veneration, especially since the dynasty was represented by Günther XXI. , who was German king for a few months in 1349 , was placed on a par with other great rulers since ancient Rome. Not all of these 148 portraits exist today. They were partly destroyed by renovations in 1870/71 and partly as a result of the work in 1940.

From 1956 to 1971 extensive repairs were carried out on the entire Kaisersaal building , and the original painting was restored as far as possible. Since 1971 the building has been open to the public as a branch of the Staatliche Museen Heidecksburg, today the Thuringian State Museum Heidecksburg, and since 2003 it has housed an exhibition on the history of Schwarzburg Castle.


The Sonnewalde Vorwerk belonging to the castle was converted into a pheasantry in 1715 . At first there was only one house for the pheasant keeper, but it was enlarged in the following years. Pheasant breeding was discontinued around 1820 and the complex was converted into a three-storey, poorly decorated hunting lodge with two short side wings. The princely apartment was upstairs, a forester lived on the ground floor. A small park was created on the site of the former pheasant aviaries . In 1840 a bar was set up in the Fasanerie for the first time, and from 1928 it was used as a restaurant.


sorted alphabetically by author

  • Jens Henkel (ed.): The Black Castle. Cultural history of a castle (= contributions to Schwarzburg art and cultural history. Vol. 9). 2nd, unchanged edition. Thuringian State Museum Heidecksburg, Rudolstadt 2009, ISBN 978-3-910013-70-4 .
  • Jens Henkel: The Schwarzburg armory. From the weapons store to the permanent collection of the Principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. In: Helmut-Eberhard Paulus , Susanne Rott (Ed.): The defensive residence. Armory - Marstall - Military (= yearbook of the Thuringian Palaces and Gardens Foundation. Vol. 12). Schnell + Steiner, Regensburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-7954-2232-5 , pp. 27-40.
  • Jens Henkel: Princely Armory Schwarzburg - A Collection History. Thuringian State Museum Heidecksburg, Rudolstadt 1st edition 2017, ISBN 978-3-910013-99-5 .
  • Helmut-Eberhard Paulus: Orangery and Imperial Hall of Schwarzburg Castle. Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich et al. 2002, ISBN 3-422-03091-3 .
  • Helmut-Eberhard Paulus: The orangery of Schwarzburg Castle. Garden and imperial hall building in the service of princely representation . In: Die Gartenkunst  16 (2/2004), pp. 276–290.
  • Lutz Unbehaun: The expansion of the Schwarzburg into a state fortress. In: Helmut-Eberhard Paulus, Susanne Rott (Ed.): The defensive residence. Armory - Marstall - Military (= yearbook of the Thuringian Palaces and Gardens Foundation. Vol. 12). Schnell + Steiner, Regensburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-7954-2232-5 , pp. 66–74.
  • Lutz Unbehaun: Schwarzburg. In: Stephanie Eißing: Thuringia (= Georg Dehio : Handbook of German Art Monuments. ). Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich et al. 1998, ISBN 3-422-03050-6 , pp. 1129-1130.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. Princely weapons collection back on the Schwarzburg. Süddeutsche Zeitung of March 11, 2018, March 11, 2018, accessed on August 19, 2020 .
  2. ^ Ceremonial opening of the armory at Schwarzburg Castle. Förderverein Schloss Schwarzburg eV, accessed on July 5, 2018 .

Coordinates: 50 ° 38 ′ 18 ″  N , 11 ° 11 ′ 38 ″  E