Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Trifels Castle – Where Richard the Lionheart was held for Ransom

I live in Germany, and you can’t go anywhere in this beautiful country without practically tripping over a castle or castle ruins.  I read somewhere that there are 20,000 castles or castle ruins in Germany. 

This month, I’m posting about one of my favorite castles (well, I should really call it a castle group) – Trifels castle.  The three castles of Trifels sit on hills above the town of Annweiler, in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz.  While visiting the main castle at Trifels, it is only a short 20-minute hike to visit the other castle ruins on the adjoining hills.

Trifels Castle
The main castle is called Trifels.  It was first mentioned in the year 1081, and we know that by 1115 it was an Imperial castle.  The Hohenstaufen Dynasty (Frederick Barbarossa’s line) made Trifels an important stronghold, and it stood in the center of major historical events in Germany for many years.  The castle held the crown jewels from 1125 until 1298.  It was also a prison for high-ranking political prisoners, and is known as the prison where Richard the Lionheart of England was held for ransom.


As Richard the Lionheart was returning to Europe from the 3rd Crusade, he was captured by Duke Leopold of Austria (whom he had publically insulted during the Crusade) in 1192.  Duke Leopold then turned Richard over to German Emperor Henry VI, who held him at Trifels for almost a year (from 1193-1194) for ransom.  His ransom of 150,000 Marks (a huge sum at the time) was paid, and Richard returned to England briefly to regain his crown.  Less than a month later, he went to France to try to regain lands in Normandy that he had lost.  He died in 1199 from complications from a wound he received in a battle in France.


With the fall of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, Trifels diminished in importance.  By the middle of the 14th century, it was minimally manned and reconstruction efforts were restricted to makeshift safeguarding measures.  In 1602, it was struck by lightning and burned out.  It was completely abandoned by 1635, and its walls were robbed out as a stone quarry.  There was renewed interest in the castle in the late 19th century, and efforts began for planning its reconstruction.


Inside Trifels
In 1937, the Nazi premier of Bavaria, Ludwig Siebert, pushed for its reconstruction in order to create a national shrine as a symbol of the “old and the new Reich”.  He commissioned Rudolf Esterer (who reconstructed the Nuremburg Castle and the Marienberg Castle in Würzburg) to complete the reconstruction.  Esterer deliberately strayed from historical accuracy in his plan – instead focusing on making it a national shrine and having it fit in aesthetically with the landscape.  After the War, Esterer was consulted again, and the renovations were complete.



Anebos Castle




On an adjoining hill are the ruins of Anebos castle.  It is speculated that this castle was built in the 12th century to protect Trifels castle.  This castle was already abandoned by the mid-13th century.  All that currently remains are the bedrock that the castle was built into, and a few castle walls.  You can see the holes in the rock, where the castle was anchored – a true visual of the genius of German engineering.








Scharfenberg Castle



On the next adjoining hill are the ruins of Scharfenberg castle.  It was also originally built to protect Trifels.  In the 13th century, it became the German mint.  During this time, it picked up the nickname “Münz”, meaning “coin”.  After the family von Scharfenberg became extinct, the castle was turned over to the Church.  In 1525, the castle was destroyed in the Peasant’s War.








The three castles form a triangle which Viktor von Scheffel refers to in his poem, Trifels, written in 1867.  The castles are open to visitors year-round, and there is a quaint restaurant lower on the hill with spectacular views of Trifels.

Do you have a favorite castle in Germany?

15 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post. Though half my family came from Germany, I've never had a chance to visit, so I can't say I have a favorite castle. They're all gorgeous!

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    1. Oh - you definitely need to get over here to visit!! There are so many great castles! Everyone knows about Neuschwanstein in Bavaria (which the Disney castle was modeled after), but there are so many others. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I was actually completely unaware Germany had so many castles! Great post! Now I just need to figure out a way to get to Germany...

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    1. Come on over!! You know you'll have a place to stay...(well, at least for a little longer)! :)

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  3. I love the castles all over Germany. The one we always toured when we had visitors was Aschaffenburg Schloss in Aschaffenburg. We also visited others. Darmastadt where we visited Frankenstein's Castle at Halloween no less. I would love to be able to return to Germany and see wo many things I missed when we were there in the late 1970's.

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    1. I have never been to Aschaffenburg Schloss...I'll have to get there. I tried to go to Frankenstein's castle during Halloween this past fall, but I was too late to get tickets. There's a trip there that I'm thinking about taking at the end of June... And, I think I'm going to try to get there again next fall for Halloween...I've heard the show is fantastic! Thank you for commenting!

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  4. What a terrific blog, Lacey! I love the castle photos. I haven't seen Trifels before, but it looks wonderful -- both inside and out. I also checked out your beautiful new website (so nice of you to mention how we met at RT, btw!) and really enjoyed learning how you chose your pen name :).

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    1. Marilyn - I am so glad I got to meet you at RT! You are so sweet! Thanks for stopping by my blog and website. :) I'm going to try to participate in your book club for 'A Summer in Europe'... It sounds like fun! http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/549586/dc60daa257/1688501683/b08e48535e/

      Thanks for your comments!

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  5. Great post, Lacey. The one time I visited Germany (longer ago than I care to mention LOL), the only castle we visited was..well...not this one :) I can't recall the name right now but it sat in a lake and was reached across a little bridge. Anyway--so glad to see Trifels. Richard plays a far-background character in my first two manuscripts. Did a good deal of research about his captivity when I was preparing to write that--and had to smile at the relaxed conditions Richard was held in. Love the site.

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    1. Barbara - thanks for stopping by! The castle you visited could have been almost any of them...there are so many! Trifels is only about a 45-minute drive away...I'm at our big US Air Force base, and I'm always surprised at how few Americans in the area know about this castle. Interesting about Richard - I'm fascinated with this time period (obviously, as I'm writing about it) - and the parallels between the Crusades and our current operations in Southwest Asia.... Thanks for your comments!

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  6. From Marion Browning-Baker: Hi Lacy, great post. I lived in Germany for almost 18 years before moving to St Thomas. I loved all the castles around Stuttgart and we have a lot of them.

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    1. Unfortunately, I haven't visited any of the castles around Stuttgart yet...I will get down there one of these days! Thanks for commenting!

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  7. Hi Lacey
    I am retired from the Army and very interested in returning for a visit. Do you recommend staying on military facilities or in German hotels?
    Laddie

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    1. Hi Laddie - I hope you do come back for a visit and enjoy this wonderful country! Mil facilities vice German hotels - I think it really depends on where you go, and what rank you retired at. Ramstein has a beautiful new hotel on base, but it's almost always full. Wiesbaden also has a new hotel on base, I'm not sure how filled it usually is. And, at Ramstein, I know you have to check every night to see if they'll have availability for that night (I think Army policies are a bit different). At Edelweiss in Bavaria, it can be kind of hard to get reservations sometimes...you just need to plan far enough in advance. But there, your reservation stays for the period of time, and they have some good packages for retirees. I think they all pro-rate for your retirement rank...and, in my particular case, I've always found it's cheaper to stay off base at a German hotel. But, it may be different for you. Be advised that, with your retirement ID card, you are not technically authorized to use the BX and Commissary here without going through a painful process with the German customs officials (and you'll be required to pay 19% tax on all your on-base purchases). It's kind of a complicated answer, but I hope it helps! Best of luck. Lacey

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    2. Here's the link for Edelweiss retiree packages (but you can use this link to make regular reservations too): http://www.edelweisslodgeandresort.com/news-deals/retiree-vacations

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