Friday, June 14, 2013

Burg Eltz - Castle Intact

One cannot talk about German castles without discussing Burg Eltz. Burg Eltz is one of the very few castles in Germany that wasn’t damaged or destroyed during the Thirty Years’War, or subsequent wars that ravaged Germany. This is attributed to the Eltz Counts having strong relationships with their allies, who have helped them in times of need.
Burg Eltz

Burg Eltz was first mentioned in 1157 AD, when Frederick I (Barbarossa) commissioned Count Rudolf von Eltz to protect the trade routes between the Maifeld plateau and the Moselle river.

In 1268, the Eltz family split into three branches, and the castle complex was split into three houses to accommodate each family.  The Eltz-Rodendorf line was characterized by a silver lion on the coat of arms, the Eltz-Kempenich line was characterized by a golden lion on the coat of arms, and the Eltz-RĂ¼benach line was characterized by buffalo horns on their coat of arms.

The most significant military offensive against Burg Eltz came in 1331 when Balduin of Luxembourg, the Archbishop of Trier, decided that he wanted the land that the Eltz Counts owned.  So, he built a tower, called Trutz-Eltz (translates to mean “spite-Eltz) on a hill above Burg Eltz and proceeded to bombard the castle.  The local allies of the Eltz Counts assisted them as much as they could, but after two years of the castle being seiged, the Eltz Counts sued for peace and swore fealty to the Archbishop (they had previously been vassals of the Emperor).

In the 18th Century, the Eltz-RĂ¼benach line became extinct.  In 1815, the Eltz-Rodendorf line sold their interest in the castle.  The current owner is Count Karl von Eltz-Kempenich of the golden lion line.  He is the 33rd generation of Eltz counts and is a doctor.  He and his family still occasionally reside in the castle.
Knight's armor from the armory/treasury

The Eltz family has opened some of their rooms up to tourists.  They have taken great pains to furnish and decorate the rooms in the style of the Middle Ages, and many of the items in the rooms are original to the houses.  Unfortunately, photos aren’t allowed inside.  One of the more interesting items is a Renaissance-style painted bed from 1525 in the Countesses’s bedroom.  It is the oldest bed of its type in Germany.  There is also a breastplate and battleaxe in the Countesses’s bedroom.  This belongs to the castle’s resident ghost, Agnes, who, as the story goes, died defending the castle and her honor from an undesirable suitor.  She is definitely someone I want to research further…


The castle also houses an armory and treasury, with artifacts that the Eltz family has held for years.  Tourists are allowed to go through this museum-style set of rooms and take pictures (no flash).  There are some truly beautiful pieces that document Eltz family history.  If you ever come to the western part Germany, Burg Eltz should definitely be on your list as a 'must see'.
Burg Eltz