With its two mighty keeps, the towering gable between them and the massive, partly crenellated walls, the Münzenberg castle ruins (or Münzenburg for short) are today the landmark of the Wetterau.

The Staufen Claim to Power

It was once built as a manifestation of the claim to power of the Staufen, the family that provided the Roman-German kings and emperors between the 11th and 13th centuries. With a total of ten castles in the Wetterau at the time, they demonstrated and secured their claim to the land. They were supported by local noble families who - like the family of Hagen-Arnsburg - were directly subordinate to them as imperial ministers.

Kuno von Hagen-Arnsburg, who had the castle built in the middle of the 12th century, henceforth called himself Kuno von Münzenberg after his new domicile. Through his close ties to Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (1122-1190), he and his family became the dominant territorial political power in the Wetterau.

Ideal Image of a Castle from the Staufen Period

Ideal Image of a Castle from the Staufen Period The eastern and southern parts of the inner ring wall, the eastern keep and the Romanesque palas (representative hall of a medieval castle) are still preserved from the first construction phase of the 12th century. Although Kuno did not complete the complex, with these buildings it corresponded to the ideal image of a Staufen-period castle complex. The walls of imposing ashlars and the round arches of the windows on the palas are not only typical elements of Romanesque architecture, as the period between the 10th and 13th centuries is known in art history. The representative residential buildings with the rich sculptural decoration of columns and capitals of the window arcades are also an impressive testimony to the rank and self-image of their builders. The Münzenburg is only slightly inferior to the magnificent Staufen Imperial Pfalz in Gelnhausen.

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The hall on the upper floor of the Romanesque palas received its light through this large arcade, whose columns end with so-called “tape-roll capitals”. The originals are kept in the castle’s lapidarium.

Foto: Michael Leukel, 2020

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On the wall of the Romanesque palas, the chimney is visible between the arcaded windows, its consoles each resting on an elaborately designed column.

Foto: Michael Leukel, 2020

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The mighty ashlars of the inner ring wall are characteristic of Romanesque castle architecture.

Foto: Michael Leukel, 2020

The Castle as a Noble Residential Community

In 1255, the male line of the Münzenbergs died out. As a result, several noble families shared the castle, which was a kind of residential community of different families until the beginning of the 15th century. One of them was the Lords of Falkenstein.

They built the Falkenstein Palace opposite the Romanesque palas around 1260. Like its counterpart, it also had a large hall on the upper floor – its windows with their pointed arches show the then contemporary design language of the Gothic. Furthermore, the Falkensteins completed the inner outer ring wall and the western keep.

Popular Excursion Destination since the Middle of the 19th Century

Finally, around 1500, the Münzenburg was brought up to date for the last time with the construction of a large bulwark. Before 1600, the castle, which was no longer inhabited, began to crumble, and during the Thirty Years’ War it became a complete ruin.

At the time of the Castle Romanticism in the middle of the 19th century, Münzenberg was discovered as a destination for excursions. The first measures for its preservation followed and continue to this day. But even as a ruin, the Münzenburg impressively shows its visitors that it is one of the most important Romanesque castle complexes in Germany.

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The Falkenstein palas was built around 1260. The windows on the courtyard side, which were partially reconstructed around 1900, show the pointed arch, the characteristic stylistic element of the Gothic period.

Foto: Michael Leukel, 2020