The Castle of Ages – Hohenzollern Castle

Sitting atop some breathtaking foothills in the Swabian Alps is the grand and enticing Hohenzollern Castle. It acts as the imperial seat of the House of Hohenzollern and is the third of three castles built atop Mount Hohenzollern. Many people who have visited Hohenzollern Castle have said that it is like nothing they are have ever seen before and it is insanely impressive.

Hohenzollern Castle is said to be in an entirely different league compared to other castles due to how grand and breathtaking it is. It sits just south of Stuttgart on the edge of the daunting and enticing Black Forest. Hohenzollern Castle itself is essentially in the middle of nowhere in the mountains and it is recommended that you drive there for peak accessibility.

Hohenzollern Castle has also been named as one of the top ten castles to be visited in Germany, and it isn’t hard at all to see why that has come about. With only a glance, you can see the grand castle sitting tall over the historic towns of Hechingen and Bisingen in central Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It’s time to take a deeper look at the stunning Hohenzollern Castle.

Hohenzollern Castle
Hohenzollern Castle. Source: Flickr

Hohenzollern Castle

The history of Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle in Germany may look grand and delightful, but its history is far from that. Its history has been extremely tumultuous and over time, it has been completely destroyed on not one, but two different occasions. It is widely regarded throughout Germany and is one of the most visited castles there. It has a yearly footfall of around 30,000.

The castle is mesmerising for a number of reasons but especially for its large height above the town. It has a height of 855 metres on just the mountain cones of Hohenzollern and is located around 50 kilometres from Stuttgart.

The early history of Hohenzollern Castle

The first original Hohenzollern Castle was constructed back in the early 11th century. Over the many years, the imperial house of Hohenzollern underwent many refurbishments, fragmentations, and various divisions, however, the large castle still remained intact throughout these times. In these times, it was a highly valuable and gargantuan piece of architecture and was adored by people all over Germany.

Some sources even referred to the castle as the ‘Crown of all Castles in Swabia’ and also as the ‘most fortified House in Germany’. However, unfortunate times arose in 1423 when the castle was completely destroyed after a 10-month siege put together by the free imperial cities of Swabia.

The second castle

After the castle was besieged and destroyed in 1423, it became even bigger and better. The second castle built was much larger, stronger, and even sturdier than the previous one and was constructed between 1454 and 1461. During the 30 Years War, the castle readily served as a refuge for the Catholic Swabian Hohenzollerns. It was transformed into a form of fortress within this time as well and remained as that afterwards.

It underwent several changes within this time and repeatedly changed owners. Despite the castle being expanded, it was conquered and occupied for only a short amount of time in 1634 by the Wurttembergers. Afterwards, it was under the control of Habsburg which lasted for around a century. French soldiers also occupied the castle between the years of 1744 and 1745 during the War of the Austrian Succession.

After the war had finished, the castle fell back into the hands of Habsburg and was rarely occupied. After the last Austrian owner fled the castle in 1798, it began to become a ruin. The maintenance of the building soon became neglected and the castle had become ruins by the time the 19th century came around.

Once the castle had been officially ruined, several dilapidated buildings were completely demolished. The castle was demolished because of the fact that various different powerful voices had spoken up and said that the castle had lost its strategic importance. Out of all of the constructions you see in the present day, only the medieval chapel is from the original structures.

Aerial view of Hohenzollern Castle
Aerial view of Hohenzollern Castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The third and last castle

In 1819, the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern House was ordered to be reconstructed by Crown Prince Frederick William. Then, in 1844, he wrote a letter as King Frederick William IV which stated: “The memories of the year 1819 are exceedingly dear to me and like a pleasant dream, it was especially the sunset we watched from one of the Castle bastions, … now this adolescent dream turned into the wish to make the Hohenzollern Castle habitable again…” Much to people’s disbelief, the castle you see now isn’t the first original one built, it is the third! This rendition of Hohenzollern Castle was built between the years of 1846 and 1867 as a family memorial.

After he released that letter, he went on to create one of the most architecturally stunning castles in Germany. He stayed true to his word and watched his long-lasting dream become reality. The neo-gothic style of Hohenzollern Castle is absolutely magnificent and not a sight to be missed. Even with only a glimpse of this architectural landmark, you can feel the passion of King Frederick William IV radiating throughout the castle walls. With many different towers and fortifications, it was named as an acclaimed masterpiece piece of military architecture in the 19th century.

The well-known architect Friedrich August Stüler based his stunning design on English Gothic Revival architecture and the Châteaux of the Loire Valley. Every single statue/sculpture inside Hohenzollern Castle and its surrounding areas is the exquisite work of Gustav Willgohs. Hohenzollern Castle is a monument to German Romanticism which has been lovingly incorporated into an idealized version of a medieval knight’s castle.

Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia
Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The construction of Hohenzollern Castle in Germany was funded completely by the Brandenburg-Prussian and the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen lines of the Hohenzollern family. When the castle was eventually completed, no member of the Hohenzollern family never settled for a regular or permanent residence at the stunning castle, instead, it was used as a showcase piece. Even in the late 19th and early 20th century, none of the three German emperors ever occupied the castle, though, in 1945, it briefly played home to the former Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, son of the last Hohenzollern monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II after he had left Potsdam ahead of Soviet army forces during the closing months of World War II.

He and his wife, Crown Princess Cecilie were buried on the grounds because when they died, their family estate had been occupied by the Soviet Union. Aside from the castle’s beauty, another addition to its grandeur is the fact that it is located in the most beautiful mountain in Swabia which highly contributes to its picturesque appearance and landscape. The lovely Hohenzollern Castle owes its life wholeheartedly to King Frederick William IV as he dedicated a large chunk of his life to refurbishing this once ruined castle.

From the moment the idea sparked to the time it was complete, around thirty years had passed, and King Frederick William IV was there throughout it all. In 1952, Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia started to add Prussian memorabilia and valuable artwork throughout the castle from the Hohenzollern family’s collections. Two centrepiece items are the uniform that belonged to King Frederick the Great and the Crown of Wilhelm II.

The caskets of Frederick Wilhelm I and his son were in the chapel from the years 1952 to 1991, though they were afterwards moved back to Potsdam following German reunification in 1991. In the mid-1900s, the castle was once again under repair after a significant earthquake hit and damaged the castle.

The present day

These days, the castle is presented to people all over the world and any reconstruction needing to be done is paid for in admission fees. It is very well maintained and is in a generally perfect condition for its age. Instead of being ‘just a castle’ like many are these days, Hohenzollern Castle plays more of a performative role and showcases the significant and honourable past.

Nowadays, you can also bear witness to many different concerts, exhibitions, cinematic events, and theatre productions held on the castle grounds which are awe-inspiring. The special Christmas markets are also a significant event at the castle and people from all over flock to get a glimpse of the glamourous castle and beautiful markets. Hohenzollern Castle is very much adored for how well it has been preserved.

Not many castles in the world have remained this nice over time as well as carry forward their heritage. For people with a good imagination, Hohenzollern Castle is certainly a sight to behold. The castle now also plays home to many intricate and intriguing artefacts such:

  • The Crown of Wilhelm II
  • Perso George Washington’s letter thanking Baron von Steuben of the House of Hohenzollern for his contributions in the American War of Independence.
  • Personal artifacts of King Frederick the Great

The castle is open throughout the year and for only a small admission fee of 10 euros, you can explore a beautiful and majestic piece of history.

Fun facts about Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle has an amazing and intriguing history, so there is no doubt that it is fully packed with many, many interesting and fun facts to explore. Let’s take a look and talk about all of the amazing facts that you likely don’t know about Hohenzollern Castle.

  • Hohenzollern Castle is one of the most visited castles in all of Germany and has around 300 000 to 400 000 visitors every single year! The castles spot may make it a little more difficult for people to make it there, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be putting people off by looking at the figures.
  • Hohenzollern Castle has been privately owned by the Hohenzollern family for almost a thousand years now. Sometimes known as just the Zollerns, the Hohenzollern family were a local house of nobles who had settled within the region.
  • Members of the Hohenzollern family still reside within the castle at times. Although they have owned the castle for a long while now, they never officially used it as a permanent residence, however, these days they will sometimes stay within the castle.
  • Though the castle is so beautiful, it certainly had its fair share of burials on the surrounding property. Many family members that died were buried there and their bodies are still buried there to this day. Some people buried there include Crown Prince Wilhelm and his wife Crown Princess Cecilie, Princess Alexandrine of Prussia, Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia, and even Prince Hubertus of Prussia.

You can read about other castles in Germany here.

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