It is assumed that the progenitor of the lords and counts of Hanau, Reinhard I (around 1225-1281), built Schwarzenfels Castle, which is first mentioned in a document in 1280. He was the first representative of King Rudolf I of Habsburg (1218-1291) in the Wetterau, entrusted with the duties of a bailiff.

Stronghold, Not a Seat of Power

Reinhard, who extended his power between the ecclesiastical territories of Fulda and Würzburg, secured his new estates, which were far from the core territory of the House of Hanau, with strategic bases. Schwarzenfels Castle was such a place, occupied by bailiffs, but not a seat of power.

The area around the castle, which was given to the Lords of Hanau as an imperial fiefdom in 1333, offered good income with its abundance of forests and game, with agriculture and cattle breeding, and through the collection of road and bridge tolls as well as tithes.

Ruins of Schwarzenfels Castle, stables

The association “Ritter Schwarzenfels e.V.” runs a youth hostel and a café in the Renaissance-era stables of the outer bailey.

Foto: mikesseite.blogspot.com

From Castle to Residence

Major changes were made to the complex when the widow of Count Philipp III of Hanau-Münzenberg, Helene of Pfalz-Simmern (1532-1579), moved into the castle. She had to leave the castles in Hanau and Steinau and adapted the new domicile to her requirements with renovations. Among other things, she had a bathhouse installed and a kitchen wing built. Her husband had previously had a large stable built in the outer bailey.

Schwarzenfels Castle was extended into a residence under Albrecht of Hanau-Münzenberg (1579-1635). A magnificent portal with a fountain porch as an entrance to the castle has been preserved from this formative period. With the onset of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), he had to flee and died in Strasbourg. A short time later, the Hanau-Münzenberg line also ended.

Ruins of Schwarzenfels Castle, inscription with year

Inscription with the date 1561, the time of the rebuilding under Helene of Pfalz-Simmern

Foto: Anja Dötsch, 2016

Ruins of Schwarzenfels Castle, architectural finds

Building finds from the castle are exhibited today in a lapidarium in cellar rooms.

Foto: Anja Dötsch, 2015

Ruins of Schwarzenfels Castle, vaults

View into one of the walled vaults.

Foto: Anja Dötsch, 2016

Destroyed during the War

What remained was a war-ruined complex whose inner bailey had been abandoned and was mortgaged to the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel in 1643. In 1982, subsequent owners temporarily housed a district court and various administrative offices in the modern buildings.

In 1983, the Schwarzenfels was made accessible again as a sight. From 2014 to 2018, extensive monument preservation restoration took place. A lapidarium was installed and the keep was given a steel and glass platform that juts out over the masonry excavation and is a special attraction as the “Schwarzenfels Skywalk”.