Of all the castles in Hesse, Frankenstein is undoubtedly the one with the greatest creepy factor. The autumn Halloween spectacles within the old walls make sure of that. Apart from that, the northernmost castle in the Odenwald offers a fantastic distant view, which attracted Romantic excursionists as early as the mid-19th century.
At a glance
The castle grounds are freely accessible
Frankenstein. The name of the castle has become internationally famous due to the motif of the theme first told by the Englishwoman Mary Shelley (1793-1851), which has been varied many times in literature and film. In her book “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus”, published in 1818, she has Dr. Viktor Frankenstein create an artificial human being. His creature becomes a monster and a synonym for horror par excellence.
The name of the castle must have had a magical effect on the soldiers stationed in Darmstadt and the surrounding area after World War II. After a live broadcast from the castle by the American Forces Network, which recommended the ruin as “the real home of the monster”, there’s an established tradition of a scary Halloween spectacle at Frankenstein since 1976.
The history of the castle, which lies a few kilometres south of Darmstadt on the northernmost foothills of the Odenwald and belongs to the municipality of Mühltal, begins in 1252. Frankenstein is mentioned for the first time in a document as well as its presumed builder, Konrad Reiz von Breuberg. Together with his wife Elisabeth von Weiterstadt, he founded his own dominion and the Frankenstein family here.
Defense, not Convenience, Was the Priority
The southern parts of the inner bailey from this early period are still preserved. It lies to the right of the west gate, which can be reached from the central visitor car park. The tower towering above it, the kitchen building and the stately palas also belonged to the inner bailey. Even today, the narrowness of the castle and the fact that comfort was not a consideration in the construction of a medieval castle complex is apparent – its sole purpose was to defend against attackers and to protect its inhabitants.
Around 1400, Frankenstein was extended to include the outer bailey to the north with farm buildings and servants’ quarters. After years of quarrelling with the Landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt over questions of religion and the exercise of sovereign rights, the von Frankenstein family sold the castle and dominion to Landgrave Louis VI in 1662. From the proceeds, the Frankensteins acquired a dominion in Ullstadt in Middle Franconia, where their descendants still live today.
The Novelist Shelley Was Never There
The castle, which had never been besieged or destroyed before, fell into disrepair when it was used as a prison and to house military invalids. At the beginning of the 19th century, Frankenstein – surrounded by dense forests and with a magnificent view – became a destination for hikers and excursionists who revelled in the legendary, former romance of knights. However, historians today relegate to the realm of fantasy the fact that Mary Shelley is said to have visited the ruin during her journey along the Rhine in 1814 and was inspired to write her novel there.
The Grand Duke Ensures Protection of the Ruin
Grand Duke Louis III of Hesse and by Rhine had the remaining ruins protected from further decay and, among other things, had the two towers restored according to the taste of the time. In the 1960s, a modern restaurant was set up in the outer bailey in place of the historic farm buildings.
A Place for Celebrations
From the terrace you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Rhine plain, Frankfurt, the Taunus and the Palatinate Forest. The rooms are often used for festivities, such as by wedding couples who say their vows in the late Gothic castle chapel, which was restored around 1850, for civil, church or free weddings.
In the vicinity
Darmstadt Princely Crypt
Prince George Garden DarmstadtMuseum on siteMeetings & celebrations possible
Auerbach CastleEventsGuided toursMeetings & celebrations possibleGastronomy on site
Lichtenberg CastleMuseum on siteMeetings & celebrations possible