Castle of the week 40 – Schloß Weitenburg

The mists of the Black Forest are covering the valleys, wolves are howling, and lumber jacks chop the wood for the long winter. Still in the 21st century, you can feel this medieval atmosphere over here in the southwest corner of Germany. Between the mountains of the Black Forest and the heights of the Swabian Alps, the river Neckar created a wonderful, mystic valley. The richness of fish within the river let ancient humans settle along its banks. Celtics, Alemans and Romans enjoyed the spirits of the forests and the beauties of the valley. Full of fairy tales and legends, this area is one of the oldest civilized regions in Germany.

As early as 1062 Weitenburg Castle was built high above the River Neckar, as one of about half a dozen fortified strongholds between the cities of Horb and Rottenburg, which was well known in Roman times as Sumelocenna. Within the first 700 years of its history, Weitenburg Castle very often changed ownership and used to be a home for plundering-knights and devoted monks. A story of the 15th century tells us that the knight Hans Pfuser von Nordstetten, who was the present owner of the Weitenburg Castle, kidnapped in 1437 even the royal ambassador to hold him for ransom. The Duke of Württemberg replied with a siege and, at last, the knight was caught and sent to the royal court. Within those times, the plundering-knights of the castles in the valley terrorized travellers, and it wasn’t recommended to pass through the valley without an escort. Different combats and sieges destroyed most of the castles, and Weitenburg Castle is now the only one remaining in the valley.

Ruins of the neighborhood castles give visitors an impression of how the valley was ruled by robber-knights. Next to Weitenburg Castle, hikers can find the ruins of the Siegburg, and it’s not a tale that in dark winter nights smoke steams out of the holes in the ground, and the ghost of the White Lady shows up. The Siegburg Castle ruin is the most mysterious in that area and the baron of Weitenburg Castle, Max von Rassler, could tell you all the stories and tales. What used to be a fortified stronghold is today a three-winged inhabited castle. Its various architectural styles reflect the spirit of the Renaissance, Baroque and Neogothical periods. And even the Duke of Württemberg himself owned the Castle for a limited period of time. In the year 1720 Baron Rupert von Rassler bought Weitenburg Castle. Emperor Leopold I made it possible for the Rassler family to become nobles and honoured Baron Franz Christoph von Rassler by allowing him to display the royal “L” on his coat of arms. It’s told that the Rasslers got fed up with the fogs in the valley and looked for a nicer place to live. The Bishop of Chur gave the credit of 43,000 Rhine-Guldas and three generations of the Rasslers had to pay it back.

Till 1806, the place was part of the Austrian Empire, and during Napoleon times they lost their independence and became part of the Kingdom of Württemberg.

In the 1950’s Weitenburg Castle opened a restaurant and the family hosts business and scientific congresses. In late 1980 a golf course was added, and Weitenburg Castle and the family of the Rasslers have become modern barons. It’s just another tale that a cousin of them became a motorbike rebel and invented the famous Rassler-Trike.

Write-up courtesy of Targan Khan. Pictures courtesy of Schloß Weitenburg