Imperial Pfalz of Gelnhausen

The splendour of medieval history fell on the imperial pfalz of Gelnhausen when the Staufen ruled in the 12th century. Of the few surviving examples of the palace architecture of this dynasty in Germany, the ruins of the Romanesque moated castle stand out as the most artistically valuable.

At a glance

Opening Hours

Burgstraße 14
63571 Gelnhausen

Next event

08/18, 14:00–15:00 – Staufische Herrscherinnen. Frauen im Zentrum des Reiches

A map of Hessen HESSEN


It takes a little imagination to picture the imperial pfalz of Gelnhausen today, amidst its remains, as a centre of power of the then vast Holy Roman Empire. Under the rule of Emperors Frederick I Barbarossa (c. 1122-1190) and Henry VI (1156-1197), it stretched from the North and Baltic Seas to the shores of the Mediterranean. With the two most important representatives of the Staufian dynasty, their economic and cultural promotion, Gelnhausen experienced a powerful upswing. In the 12th century, kings (usually crowned emperors) and their court moved from one settlement to the next due to the lack of permanent residences. As such a station, Barbarossa (Italian: Redbeard) had a moated castle founded on an island in the Kinzig around 1169/70, which was conveniently located on the Via Regia trade route, and combined three settlements (including “Geilenhusen”) that had been raised to a town.

Gelnhausen, fragment of a chimney

Among the valuable parts of the ruin are two panels with wickerwork ornaments on either side of a fireplace.

Foto: Michael Leukel, 2019

Gelnhausen, arcades

The window arcades on the ground floor of the palas are the highlight of ornamentation in the pfalz.

Foto: Michael Leukel, 2019

Gelnhausen, capitals

Tendrils, foliage, people and animals appear woven into the decoration of the capitals.

Foto: Michael Leukel, 2019