Harburg Castle on the Romantic Road

Harburg Castle on the Romantic Road

In our article "Harburg an der Wörnitz" we also mentioned Harburg Castle itself, but we were unable to visit it at the time due to time pressure.

It was already early afternoon when we passed Harburg and spontaneously drove up to the castle. The Harburg on the Romantic Road is one of the oldest and best-preserved castle complexes in southern Germany. We parked the vehicle a bit away from the castle, where a well-kept green area with benches invites you to linger. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side this time, because dark clouds promised rain and therefore no good photos. Anyway, once again arrived in Harburg, we wanted to at least get inside the castle.

The Harburg is one of the largest castle complexes in Germany

burg harburg 1So the cobblestone street led us through the first castle gate, then turned right to end a little later through the second castle gate in the huge castle courtyard.

First mentioned in a document as Staufische Reichsburg in the middle of the 12th century, the Harburg is one of the largest castle complexes in Germany. Towards the end of the 13th century, the Harburg came into the possession of the counts and later princes of Oettingen, to whom the Harburg owes its current appearance.

On our way to the castle, a Dutch vehicle passed us and drove into the courtyard. Parts of the inner castle buildings are now used as a hotel, as we were to find out a little later. Celebrations are also held in the princely castle tavern, so visitors can also marvel at the medieval backdrop at night.

Heinrich VI was the son of King Konrad III

burg harburg 2Our appearance must have seemed a little unsettling, because a gentleman who was busy adjusting the castle flags turned to us and asked about our concerns. We briefly explained our activities during our first round trip through Germany and our origin from Alanya, whereupon he initially only replied that unfortunately we had caught the rest day of the week to visit the castle, but then he immediately picked up the phone and asked us briefly waiting. During this time, the Lord also explained the connections of the former lords of the castle to Istanbul. The Harburg was first mentioned in writing in 1150 AD, when the Staufer Heinrich VI, who was 13 at the time, sent a letter to his aunt, Empress Irene, in Constantinople. Empress Irene was married to Manuel Komneons, the Byzantine Emperor at the time. Heinrich VI was the son of King Konrad III and even then shared the crown with his father. In the letter to Empress Irene, Henry VI reported on the Battle of Flochberg and his whereabouts, Harburg Castle.

Family house Oettingen-Wallerstein

burg harburg 3A little later, the Harburg Castle employee, who had already been on the phone, appeared and we were not a little surprised when she addressed our friendly gentleman with "Your Highness". Without knowing who gave us the first information about Harburg Castle, we met the lord of the castle himself, Prince zu Oettingen-Wallerstein.

In 1299, King Albrecht I of the House of Habsburg pledged the castle to the Counts of Oettingen, a common option at the time to obtain liquid funds to finance wars or other matters. After the line died out, the castle became the property of the Haus Oettingen-Wallerstein family in 1731. The condition of the castle during the 18th century is essentially what can be seen today.

Unfortunately, we have forgotten the name of the castle guide, who was kindly provided by the prince, but she accompanied us on a really exclusive tour of parts of the castle. And that despite the rest day. Our heartfelt thanks for this.

The Palas as the actual princely building

burg harburg 4So it went first along the defense systems on the ramparts of the castle walls. The courtyard is surrounded by a partially double ring of walls with six towers, which are among the oldest parts of Harburg Castle. These oldest parts include the Bailiwick, the two keeps, the palace as the actual princely building, the box house, the draw well, which once had a depth of 129 metres, the castle church and the crypt chapel. In front of the actual castle is the Vor Burg with its farm buildings, which also include the Red Stables. The Red Stables are said to have been sketched during a visit by Carl Spitzweg in 1858.

The above-mentioned well is now only about 50 meters deep, as the well unfortunately fell victim to the construction measures due to the tunneling of the Harburg through the B25. However, records show that it took more than half an hour to transport a bucket of water from the depths with the help of a treadle. So far we had only seen a deeper well at the Barbarossa Castle in Kyffhäuser.

Wall walk with the usual loopholes

burg harburg 5The defensive wall of the castle dates from the 15th century. During the tour, our castle guide points out a special feature that we hadn't seen before: a buffer for hanging arquebuses. Otherwise there are the usual arrow slits, dump holes and bullet slits in the battlements. Another special feature in the ball slits are movable, circular wooden balls with a hole that have been walled in. The shooter behind him thus had full cover from his attackers. Burning lime or pitch could be poured through the pouring holes.

Continuing our tour of the defensive wall, we reach the area of ​​the plateau behind the castle complex. In the past, this was always the weakest point of the fortifications, which is why it received additional walls, casemates and a kennel with two semi-circular wall towers.

Walls are three meters thick in the basic area

burg harburg 6The walkway leads us to the two keep, the thief's tower and the digestion tower, both of which are among the oldest buildings in the Harburg from the 12th century. Keeps were always the last refuge of the castle residents when the enemies had already entered the castle. The access opening to the keep was therefore almost 6 meters above the ground and could therefore hardly be reached by intruders from the outside.

With the help of a ladder, the Harburgers climbed the keep in case of danger, which was always well stocked with supplies for this purpose. The older western keep, known as the thief's tower, is very high and its walls are three meters thick at the base. We are told how to transport the necessary stones using ox carts and an adapted ramp so that the stones could be installed on the spot.

The basement room was converted into a prison

burg harburg 7Even later, the keep was still used for storage. With the help of a winch, the goods to be stored were lowered from the first floor into the 9 meter deep basement. Since this room was always cool due to the 3-meter-thick walls, it was ideal as a storeroom. Later the storage room function was given up and the basement room was converted into a prison. There were even two torture chambers above the basement room, one of which could be heated to a great extent, the other did not let any daylight through.

After the torture, prisoners were lowered into the basement, which is why the basement opening was also called the fear hole. Today, access to the keep has been opened from the side of the battlements, so that you can see down into the cellar. The digestion tower was rebuilt in the 18th century and subsequently served as a stairwell for the hall construction. The very interesting roof design as a snail hood also dates from this time.

Modifications to the armory and stables

burg harburg 8The inn and the castle hotel are housed in the bailiwick built in 1562. Originally designed as a half-timbered house, it is an excellent example of medieval architecture. The box house, originally built as a granary, also dates from the 16th century. Later conversions to the armory and stables took place in the 18th century. Where today the castle shop provides visitors with all sorts of tasty and interesting things, there used to be the Pfisterei, as the bakery where the bread was made was once called.

When Prince Ernst Albrecht needed a large, representative hall for various events and festivals between 1717 and 1721, he had the hall building, which had originally served as accommodation for the castle crew, completely extended and opened up as a stairwell via the digestion tower. The wooden ceilings with their paintings built into the hall come from the demolished Tiergarten Palace, and the depictions in the paintings are largely based on Greek mythology.

Oettingen-Wallerstein library and art collection

burg harburg 11In 1948/49, Prince Eugen had the princely house converted into a library and housed the Oettingen-Wallerstein library and art collection there. In 1980, the entire inventory of the library was sold to the Bavarian for 40 million DM, who then integrated it into the central library of the University of Augsburg.

Every two years since 1996, the multi-day Harburg Castle Festival has taken place on the grounds of the castle. So if you are interested in castles and the Middle Ages, you should not miss the spectacle, which is known far beyond the country's borders. All proceeds are donated to charity.

Geographical location 48° 47′ 5.9″ N, 10° 41′ 13.1″ E

Please also read:

Illuminated for Christmas – Schönbrunn Palace

Day trip to Lychnidos - today Ohrid



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