Ruins of Merenberg Castle
The ruins of a hilltop castle on a prominent basalt cone are the landmark of the town of Merenberg. Only remnants remain of the ancestral castle of a successfully rising noble family. But its name is still alive. “Lord of Merenberg” and bearer of many other titles is Henri of Nassau, the current Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The connection to him goes through Weilburg Palace and Palace Park – another property of the State Castles and Gardens of Hesse.
At a glance
Outdoor area freely accessible
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the central Hessian town of Merenberg are separated by 250 km and at first glance they have nothing in common. And yet the present Grand Duke of Luxembourg bears the title of “Lord of Merenberg”.
Through skilful marriage policies, the once small dynasty of the von Merenbergs developed in the Middle Ages into an influential family with family ties to the great noble houses of Europe.
Gateway to the Westerwald
The ruins of its ancestral castle, the landmark of Merenberg, rise high above the Lahn valley. As the gateway to the Westerwald, it lay on the old Frankfurt-Siegen-Cologne trade route. There the lords of Merenberg offered protection to travellers, filled their pockets with road tolls and laid the foundation for their social rise.
In what is now the Limburg-Weilburg district, a “Hartrudus de Marinberg” first appeared in a document in 1129. Whether he also built the castle is unclear. With him, the family began to gain in rank, titles and lands. His descendants married into important families in the regions, including the high nobility of the Solms family and the Nassau-Weilburg line.
A rare privilege: daughters inherit
The last representative of the dynasty was Hartrad VI, who had two daughters but no male heirs. However, he obtained from Emperor Louis (1326) the rare privilege of passing on his possessions to his daughters. When he died shortly afterwards in 1328, one daughter rejected the inheritance and went into a monastery, while his other daughter, still a minor, was promised to the Count of Nassau-Weilburg.
Incorporated into the Later Duchy of Nassau
Thus the dominions changed to the influential dynasty of counts and became part of the later Duchy of Nassau. The Grand Dukes of Luxembourg emerged from the Nassau-Weilburg line in the 19th century.
The family name has survived to this day, but their ancestral seat, Merenberg Castle, has been in ruins since 1646. In the destructive times of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), it had gone up in flames like so many castles in the region.
There was no reconstruction in peacetime. The fire raged heavily, but there is still some old building substance to discover today. The long, rectangular complex has remains of outer walls, cellars and the once three-storey palas.
The 22-metre-high round keep serves as a lookout tower and enchants with a panoramic view of the nature of the Lahn valley all the way to the Feldberg. A little lower, there is a plateau on which the outer castle and a kennel probably stood.