Castle of the Week 43 – Reichenstein

Castle Reichenstein is situated high up in the wine producing village of Trechtlinghausen in the Rhine Valley between Bingen and Koblenz. The oldest buildings indicate foundations from the early 11th century. At that time the region belonged to the abbey “Kornelimuenster” near Aachen and was a gift from Ludwig the Pious. The abbey appointed castellans for the administration and safeguarding of its rights. One of these castellans was the knight Rheinbodo (1151 – 1196) and his descendants.

His son Gerhard of Rheinbodo, was a robber-knight and rampaged through the region demanding goods violently from travellers, till he was disposed of in 1213. His successor was the knight Philipp von Bolanden. In the year 1241, Philipp von Hohenfels became the new castellan and turned out to be the worst robber-knight of his time. In 1253 the Archbishop of Mainz and the army of the Rhenish town association conquered and destroyed Reichenstein. Philipp von Hohenstein thereupon surrendered and promised good conduct. He used the following period to rebuild Reichenstein stronger and more defensive than ever before, ascended to the high office of Imperial Vicar and carried on with robbing during these politically unstable times and began to steal church property. As a consequence the Archbishop of Mainz banned him from church.

After Philipp’s death in 1277 his son Dietrich von Hohenfels inherited the castle and put his robber-knight father in the shadows. First with the election of Rudolf of Habsburg to the German king, the interregnum ended and with that, the time of the robber-knights of the Rhine. In 1282 the new king besieged the castle Reichenstein.

Nevertheless he did not succeed in storming the stronghold, but he forced the garrison to surrender by means of starvation after 4 years of siege. 1290 the castle was burned down and Dietrich von Hohenfels escaped. The king had forbidden Reichenstein to be rebuilt, but despite that it was restored. In 1344 the emperor Ludwig IV awarded the castle to the Archbishop of Mainz. Until the end of the 18th century, Mainz remained its sole possessor.

In 1361 there were once again restless times and Gottfried of Leiningen, the archbishop, found refuge in the castle. Only after long continuous negotiations could new bloody quarrels be prevented. After that the castle was spared from wars over the centuries. With the invention and development of firearms it had lost its military importance and fell apart little by little.

After various changes of ownership the stronghold at last passed into the possession of the family of Baron Kirsch-Puricelli in 1899, who started to rebuild castle Reichenstein between 1899 and 1902. The restoration was based on old foundation drawings and on views of the castle from the 17th and 18th centuries. In this way, the reconstruction of the main building was authentic. Reichenstein remained in the family’s possession for over 90 years until it was sold in 1987 and parts of the outer castle were converted in a hotel. The center piece of the castle is a museum now.

Write-up provided by Hanarky. Pictures courtesy of Burgenwelt