Fürsteneck Castle

The hilltop castle in the Hessian Rhön Mountains – located not far from Eiterfeld – dates back to a late medieval castle founded by the prince-abbots of Fulda. First mentioned in a document in 1330, the castle complex served for a long time to protect the diocese of Fulda and to safeguard its extensive possessions.

After it had almost fallen into ruin, it underwent structural changes in the 18th century and in the 1950s, so that today you can go on an architectural journey through time from the late Middle Ages and the Gothic period to modern history.

At a glance

Am Schlossgarten 3
36132 Eiterfeld

The outdoor grounds are freely accessible.

A map of Hessen HESSEN


When you enter the idyllically situated Fürsteneck Castle through the once very narrow castle gate, an almost rectangular castle complex opens up with buildings from various centuries of ecclesiastical usage. The square keep, which has not been preserved to its full height, still bears witness to the late medieval fortifications. The ring wall with the residential buildings leaning against it on the courtyard side can also be traced back to the founding period.

Fürsteneck Castle

The keep is part of the late medieval fortifications and originally rose higher up in the air.

Foto: Stephan Peters, 2015

Another eye-catcher is the three-storey residential building at the end of the main castle area. Its core is late Gothic, as are the buildings opposite. They are thus architectural testimonies to the long transitional phase between the Middle Ages and modern times. The fortifications, including the battlements and a small bastion, were probably added in the 16th century. The ramparts, ditches and the outer bailey were levelled.

Almost Continuously in Church Ownership until the Beginning of the 19th Century

The different building materials, such as dark basalt rubble stone and lighter sandstone ashlars in the castle walls, connect the long and eventful history of the castle. The region around Fürsteneck belonged to the sphere of influence of the Fulda monastery since 845 and remained in the possession of the church almost throughout until secularisation in 1803. The Fulda territories stretched from the coast to the Alps and at that time were considered the largest contiguous territory of all the abbeys in the Empire.

The abbot‘s castle was first mentioned in a document as a border fortification in 1330, after it had been commissioned by the prince abbot Heinrich von Weilnau (see the Ruins of Altweilnau Castle). However, the abbot spent his money freely at the time, which is why his pockets were often empty and the abbots were forced to pledge the castle to various bailiffs. The office and castle were often bought back by the churchmen of Fulda shortly afterwards.

Destruction during the Thirty Years‘ War

After the castle had already shown signs of dilapidation in the middle of the 16th century, it was destroyed in some places almost down to the foundation walls during the Thirty Years‘ War (1618-48). The entire region suffered from the consequences of the war and the plague that spread as well. Thus, only three male inhabitants were registered in Eiterfeld after the war years. The castle did not survive the turbulent years either – after 1633 it was destroyed.

Fürsteneck Casstle, residential building

The three-storey residential building at the end of the main site.

Foto: Stephan Peters, 2015

Fürsteneck Castle, view of the castle gate

View of the castle gate and the easily recognisable Romanesque Einstein twin window from the 12th century.

Foto: Stephan Peters, 2015

Fürsteneck Castle, courtyard

View of the castle courtyard with the stately manor house and castle gate [EE1] in the background.

Foto: Stephan Peters, 2015

Fürsteneck Castle, north tower and north gate

View of the castle courtyard with the north tower and north gate.

Foto: Stephan Peters, 2015

But the decay was followed by a period of reconstruction. Between 1708 and 1710, Prince-Abbot Adalbert von Schleifras invested in Fürsteneck Castle and had it rebuilt. His coat of arms above the door frame of the manor house, which identifies him as the rightful owner and purchaser, still bears witness to this today.

Fürsteneck Castle, coat of arms

The coat of arms of Prince-Abbot Adalbert von Schleifras above the door frame of the manor house.

Foto: Stephan Peters, 2015

For a time, the now palace-like converted complex served as the summer residence of the Fulda abbots. But with secularisation (1802), the ecclesiastical property was finally lost to the high chapter. As a state domain, it was occupied until recent times, before it was extensively rebuilt and modernised after World War II.

A Place of Learning

Under the architect Otto Bartning, who was close to the Bauhaus and known for his church buildings, it was converted into a residential adult education centre while largely preserving the original building fabric. Today, it is used as a place of learning by the Akademie für berufliche und musisch-kulturelle Weiterbildung (Academy for Vocational and Musical-Cultural Continuing Education).