This week’s journey takes us back to Drachenfels (“Dragon’s Rock”) Castle, one of our favorite local ruins. Located just 45 minutes south of our home, it’s an attraction we showcase frequently to visiting family and friends!
Situated atop bunter sandstone cliffs on a ridgeline approximately 7 kilometers (4 miles) north of the Franco-German border, Drachenfels Castle is truly an extraordinary sight to behold. While there is little indication, standing at the foot of the castle, of its hidden depths (or more accurately, heights!), this impression is deceiving. Soaring towers (one in the shape of an outstretched dragon’s claw), stairwells that appear to melt before your eyes, and breathtaking views of the countryside are just a few of Drachenfels’ many delights. The others are captured in some of our photographs below.
The castle is but one of many historic ruins in the Wasgau region, an expansive hill range straddling the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate and the French departments of Bas-Rhin and Moselle. Just 3 kilometers (2 miles) to the southwest lies Berwartstein; a similar distance to the northwest are the three castles of Dahn. Lindelbrunn is 6 kilometers (4 miles) to the northeast, while a group of castles – including Wegelnburg (German) and Hohnebourg, Loewenstein and Fleckenstein (all French) lie 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the southwest.
The origins of Drachenfels are largely unclear. Archaeological finds on site can be dated to the mid-13th century, but historical records suggest the castle was already in existence in the early 1200s. In 1314 the lords of Drachenfels were promised compensation payments for a campaign by the city of Strasbourg against nearby Berwartstein Castle, during which Drachenfels was also besieged and damaged. In 1335 there was a conflict with Strasbourg in which the lords of Drachenfels were accused of being robber barons. At this time, the castle was captured and partially destroyed, forcing its lords to gradually sell off parts of the fortress from 1344. As a result, Drachenfels became a jointly-owned castle or Ganerbenburg, an arrangement whereby several families or individuals divided the estate between themselves.
In 1510 the rebellious imperial knight, Francis of Sickingen, also bought a share in the castle. On May 10, 1523, after his defeat by the allied armies of three imperial princes, Drachenfels was finally destroyed. The victors refused to allow the castle to be rebuilt.
After its destruction, Drachenfels was used as a local quarry. In 1778, a descendant of its owners used castle stone to build a manor house – today known as the Schlösschen (“little palace”) – in the nearby village of Busenberg. The church in Busenberg was also built from stones from the ruined castle.
Today, the striking ruins of Drachenfels Castle are free to explore and open year-round. While our most recent visit was this past September, the photographs below represent our journey to the castle on a beautiful sunny day in January 2016.
Thank you for joining us on this adventure! – B. & T. June
Next week’s journey: Pula Arena – Croatia