Ruins of Geroldstein Castle
Geroldstein Castle was built in seclusion in the romantic valley of the Wisper above the Rheingau Mountains in Hesse. It testifies to the rise of the von Gerhartstein family, who soon built a larger ancestral seat, Haneck Castle, after the first. Both Geroldstein and Haneck have since fallen into disrepair. Two former residences – not bad for today‘s district of the municipality of Heidenrod.
The ruins of Geroldstein Castle sit enthroned on a steeply sloping single rocky outcrop on the southern bank of the Wisper in a part of the municipality of Heidenrod in the Rheingau-Taunus district. The former ancestral seat of the von Geroldstein family was first mentioned in a document in 1215 under the name “Gerardstein”.
However, it was already built at the end of the 12th century, presumably on behalf of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen. Due to its location on an important communication route, it helped to protect the borders between their sphere of influence and the territory of the archdiocese of Mainz.
Members of the von Geroldstein family (also “Lords of Gerhartstein”) were frequently found in the entourage of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen from 1262 onwards. From 1321 onwards, the castle is listed as their fief. The family was not an important or very wealthy noble family. Nevertheless, it succeeded in steadily gaining influence through kinship with the powerful Katzenelnbogens as well as through contacts with the Archbishopric of Mainz.
As the status of knights developed in the Middle Ages and privileges became hereditary, subsequent generations also shaped the affairs of the region. Another significantly larger complex was built above the small ancestral castle, which served as the headquarters from 1390 onwards: Haneck Castle, enthroned 100 metres above sea level, is proof of the family’s growing prestige. The family died out in the second half of the 16th century. Haneck went to the Electorate of Mainz and Geroldstein was already only a ruin around 1585.
A ”spur castle”
Due to its location on the slope, the Geroldstein is a so-called spur castle. The steep slope of the terrain once protected it from three sides. From the fourth side, facing the mountain, the stones needed for its construction were quarried, so that a deep neck ditch was created between the mountain and the castle. Unfortunately, the remains of the 14th-century wall, made of quarry stone, do not allow a clear conclusion to be drawn about the original shape and extent of the castle.
In the shield wall, which is about two and a half metres thick, a small gate opens which led into the castle. This was originally secured by a rectangular tower of about two by three metres. A heptagonal keep integrated into the curtain wall and the foundations of another tower are also visible.