Ruins of Felsberg Castle
The castle ruin at Felsberg is one of the oldest buildings in the Hesse-Thuringia region. It towers 200 metres above a basalt cone and is a landmark that characterises the face of the North Hessian town to the west of Fritzlar. Over the centuries, it served as a residence, administrative and judicial centre, a refuge for the population, an alchemist‘s workshop and a defence base against the archbishops of Mainz with whom the town was in dispute.
The construction of the Steinburg castle above the Eder valley is documented as early as 1060. The builders and official counts of Felsberg (Old German: “Velisberc”) are documented as having lived in the castle until 1286, before retreating to other possessions.
The complex later fell into the possession of the Hessian landgraves, under whom Henry II (before 1302-1376) had the defences extended in view of the invention of gunpowder and firearms. Embrasures and battlements were added and the zwinger or outer ward also dates from this time.
In the struggle with the Electorate of Mainz for supremacy in the region, Landgrave Louis I (1402-1458) had the keep raised. This turned it into a “butter-churn tower”, a two-part, imposing defence tower with a narrower top. Louis was a patron of the castle and the town, but an erroneous belief earned the otherwise clever landgrave ridicule.
An Alchemist’s Workshop at Felsburg Castle
He had brought the alchemist Klaus von Urbach to the castle in the mistaken belief that he could produce gold. But like the other secret scientists, Urbach was not to succeed. He was expelled from the country.
Anna and Politics
In 1486, the Burgmannen families of Felsberg had died out and the castle served as the widow’s seat of various landgravine ladies – the most famous being Anna. As the mother of probably the most important Hessian landgrave, Philip the Magnanimous (1504-1567), who introduced the Reformation in Hesse, she resided for a time in the castle, which is also known as the “Schloss” or palace.
There she campaigned for the continued existence of the Landgraviate of Hesse and the regency of her son, who was still a minor. In a time dominated by men, she succeeded in asserting her political goals against the estates and knights at the Diet in Felsberg in 1514.
Immediately thereafter, Felsberg Castle was no longer used for manorial residential purposes. From 1550 onwards, the castle was gradually demolished in order to advance the construction of the new castle in Melsungen.
Fortunately, the Keep Has Been Preserved
The keep almost did no longer exist either, because documents show that in 1789 a citizen of Felsberg applied for permission to demolish it. The reason given was that he lacked stones for his house. Fortunately, this application was rejected.
The keep has been completely preserved to this day, while the rest of the complex suffered major damage during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). Visitors will still find remains of the enclosure walls and the kennel towers, as well as a museum in the former castle chapel. Today, the members of the Felsberg Castle Association look after the stately ruins as tenants.
In the vicinity
Spangenberg CastleMuseum on siteEventsMeetings & celebrations possibleGastronomy on site
Cornberg MonasteryMuseum on siteGuided toursMeetings & celebrations possible
Ruins of the Collegiate Church of Bad HersfeldMeetings & celebrations possible
Junker-Hansen TowerMuseum on siteGuided tours