Skip to content

Translate this page to: German French Portuguese Spanish

Castle of the Week 42 - Nuremberg

City of Nuremberg

Nuremberg was founded in the year 1040, primarily as a castle by Emperor Heinrich III and used to secure and expand the surrounding imperial estates. As it was the custom for Teutonic (Germanic) people in medieval Europe to set up a castle around which a town would develop, so a city quickly followed. "Nouremberc" was first mentioned in documents in 1050 and, after 1070, the grave of the miracle-working Sebaldus led a stream of visitors to Nuremberg, which then became an important trade center.

In 1332 Nuremberg was declared an imperial city (Kaiserstadt) or city state by King Ludwig of Bavaria; it remained an imperial free city, with its local government answering only to the King, until 1806 when it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Bavaria, now the German state of Bavaria. Nuremberg was the place where the imperial Reichstag (Parliament) met until 1543.

From 1424 to 1796 Nuremberg was one of the three so called "Kaiserstädte" (Emperor cities). Every new king was elected in Frankfort and crowned in Aachen. These cities were called "Kaiserstädte" (Emperor cities), but the Kaiser himself was proclaimed in Rome by the pope. In the Emperor cities only the king was crowned. Nuremberg was the third Emperor city, the repository of the so called "Reichskleinodien", a collection of several holy things, which were very important for ceremonies in the German Empire. From 1485 to 1796 the Imperial crown jewels were kept in the Church of the Holy Ghost in the castle. In 1938 they were returned to Nuremberg and 1945 returned to the "Hofburg" in Vienna, where they are still today. The only part of the treasure that is still in Nuremberg is the empty shrine in which the crown jewels were kept.

Nuremberg was also the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation which began when the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church crowned the first Emperor on Christmas Day in the year 800 AD. The first Holy Roman Emperor was from the Teutonic tribe called the Franks; to most of the world, he is known as Charlemagne or Charles the Great, but he has always been known as Karl der Grosse to the Germans. He was chosen as the Emperor by the Pope because he was Roman Catholic at a time when there were several other Christian sects in Europe. The original city of Nuremberg was established inside a defensive stone wall guarded by 46 fortified towers, surrounded by a moat filled with water and then another outside wall. There were five main gates into the city, four of which are still standing, including the Königstor (Kings's Gate).


Castle of Nuremberg

Nuremberg Castle, or Kaiserburg, is one of the most important castles in the history of the German Empire. Between 1050 and 1571 all the German and Holy Roman Emperors lived there at various times. Nuremberg Castle was built in stages on a sandstone hill on the north side of Nurembergs's old city and there are actually three parts to the castle: the Kaiserburg (Emperor's Castle) in the west and complete in itself, the Burggrafenveste (Count's Castle) in the middle and also the oldest part, and the Stadtburg (part belonging to the Imperial City) on the eastern side. It reached its massive present size and length of 220 meters in three stages of construction between the 11th and the 15th centuries.


Burggrafenveste and Kaiserburg

The Burggrafenveste was leased, first of all, to the burgraves as fiefs but it soon became hereditary however and withdrew from the Emperor's sphere of influence more and more. For the protection of his interests, the newly-elected Emperor Konrad III allowed a second castle to be constructed as an extension to the old Burggrafenveste on the western part of the castle rock, called the Kaiserburg (Emperor's castle). While German emperors never had an actual capital or home base as such but moved around the country, Nuremberg came as close to one as possible since the Emperor and his suite were frequently there. It is one of the very few castles to have had the official privilege of housing the imperial regalia and bear the symbol of the empire on its walls. The government of Nuremberg had to maintain the castle, however they had the right to inhabit it during the absence of the Emperor.

After Kaiser Konrad III built the original Kaiserburg, it was reshaped later many times and greatly expanded by the next emperor, Friedrich Barbarossa (Friedrich I, 1152 - 1190). The sandstone-building with its double chapel (Doppelkapelle) from the 12th century is the most important monument in the castle and was built by Friedrich Barbarossa in the second building phase. The chapel has a bright upstairs room and a dark downstairs room connected by an open space in the center. The upper room was for the Kaiser and members of the royal family while the lower room was for the common people. This arrangement is a good example of the hierarchical structure of the Teutonic peoples. The concept of a fortified castle, designed to protect the King from his people, was a Teutonic invention; during the same period in history, the Irish and Scottish Kings lived among their people and did not have castles for protection until this idea was introduced by the Teutonic Normans.

During the reign of Emperor Friedrich III in the 15th century (1440 - 1493) the old Staufer Palas and the ladies' apartments were replaced by new late-gothic buildings. Also the Knights' Hall and the powerful Simwellturm (round tower) come from this time. The Emperor stables (Kaiserstallung) were constructed in 1495. This grain storage building served for keeping the horses, when the emperor visited Nuremberg and the Reichstag (parliament) met. Emperor Charles V had a loaf of bread baked from grain in storage there for over 180 years. Today it serves as a youth hostel.

A framework wellhouse (Brunnenhaus) encloses the Deep Well (Tiefer Brunnen). This well was vital during sieges and in the 12th century had already been dug 50 meters deep into the sandstone rock to protect the drinking-water supply. Today it still holds up to 3m of water. The wellhouse is situated in the inner ward of the Emperor castle.

The Hohenzollern family, a family of European rulers, were counts of the Burggrafenveste from 1192. By using their court- and sovereign-rights, they were able to extend their sphere of influence around Nuremberg in the 13th century. This way the power of the emperor in Nuremberg weakened, although the sovereignty over the Emperor Castle remained in the hands of the Emperor. The building of a watchtower in front of the Burggrafenveste led to a war that ended with an occupation of the Burggrafenveste. In 1420 the Burggrafenveste was destroyed by a fire assault. From the Burggrafenveste only the keep, the so-called pentagon tower (Fünfeckturm), stands today and is the oldest building in the city.

By 1427, the Hohenzollerns moved their main residence from Nuremberg to the "Mark Brandenburg" and the ruin of the Burggrafenveste was sold by Count Friedrich I to the city of Nuremberg. This is where the Emperor Stables were build.

Between 1495 and 1525, a period of prosperity, political power and the atmosphere of intellectual and artistical advance made Nuremberg one of Europe's leading metropolis.The Reformation in 1525 marked an important point in Nuremberg's history. A dispute between the catholic "Kaiserhaus" and the now reformed city of Nuremberg erupted.

During the Thirty Year's War two military commanders, Wallenstein and the Swedish Gustav Adolf fought in 1632 one of the bloodiest battles at Nuremberg. The war left Nuremberg highly in debt and with a decimated population. In the 18th century the pressure of high taxes and the many customs barriers of the surrounding territories paralysed the economic development and, additionally, Prussia and Bavaria occupied rural areas of the city. After 1796 French troops occupied Nuremberg several times. In 1806 Nuremberg was annexed by the kingdom of Bavaria. Nuremberg was deprived of all its political powers and became a meaningless city.

The increasing interest in the romanticism of German castles led, in the year 1834, firstly to repair and then reconstruction of the decaying castle by Karl Alexander Heideloff. A thorough restoration through the Bavarian Castle Administration by Rudolf Esterer started in 1934. In 1933 Nuremberg became the city of the so called "Reichsparteitage", meetings that were held by the Nazi-regime under Adolf Hitler with the intention of reviving the Imperial days but in a modern form.

Thirty-eight air attacks on Nuremberg in the Second World War destroyed 90% of the historical buildings and 40% of the whole city and made Nuremberg one of the most badly damaged cities in Germany.

The castle was heavily damaged, with only the chapel, parts of the Palas as well as the most important towers surviving. It was rebuilt to the previous plans and houses today a branch of the German National Museum. By 1950 most of the war damage to the castle was removed.

Write-up provided by Hanarky. Pictures courtesy of Scrapbook Pages

Previous
Index
Next