Ruins of Hohenstein Castle
Hohenstein is one of the largest castle ruins in the Taunus. It lies 330 metres above sea level near Bad Schwalbach in the Rheingau-Taunus district of Hesse on a rugged rock in the Aar valley. In its expanded state, documented by the architect Wilhelm Dilich at the beginning of the 17th century, it was once a magnificent chapter in the history of castle building.
The mighty ruins of Hohenstein Castle in the village of the same name near Bad Schwalbach, which visitors find today, are spread over several terraces. This expanse alone tells of the size it once occupied in its expanded state.
Once a Dream of a Castle
In fact, architectural drawings by the master builder and artist Wilhelm Dilich (1571-1650) from the early 17th century attest to a dream of a castle: coloured ground plans and elevations show an inner bailey perched on a spur high above a steep slope, a lower-lying angular outer bailey, a neck moat and a drawbridge. Everything was densely built.
Around 1190, the “Hoynstein” was built by a collateral line of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen – as a bulwark in the border area to the territories of the archbishoprics of Mainz and Trier as well as the County of Nassau-Idstein. Meanwhile, the ancestral seat of the von Katzenelnbogen family was only 15 km away.
In the Possession of the Hessians during the 15th Century
From the first half of the 13th century, it was the main residence of the younger line. With the extinction of the Katzenelbogen in 1479, it fell to Hesse and was extensively rebuilt and modernised under Landgrave Moritz of Hesse-Kassel (1572-1632). He had fortifications reinforced and made it habitable again.
Heyday in the 15th Century
He himself often resided at Hohenstein Castle at that time. The drawings by his master builder Dilich, who precisely documented the castle in its heyday, date from this period. They provide valuable information on its components in the 14th century (first major extension) and on the modernisations around 1600, especially on the partly multi-storey half-timbered superstructures. According to this, the courtyard of the inner bailey was once completely surrounded by residential and representative buildings. Today, the area behind the shield wall and the rock is empty.
Hohenstein had been bombarded during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48). Subsequent inhabitants were not interested in rebuilding it or failed to do so. Since then, it fell into disrepair. In 1864, the remains of the palace collapsed into the valley.
A Stately Ruin
Nevertheless, the ruinous ensemble of the present is still extremely stately and is being preserved as a listed building: Among other things, an older inner shield wall enclosed by high six-storey towers with slit embrasures and battlements, an outer late Gothic shield wall with gate tower and the polygonal keep have been preserved.
A modern restaurant on site replaces a former cowshed as a structure. Once a year, the Hohenstein serves as the backdrop for the Taunusbühne ensemble’s castle festival.