Castle, fortress, hunting lodge, prison, forestry school, hotel – the history of Spangenberg Castle’s use is as varied as the events that shaped it in its over 800-year history. Sold by robber barons, fortified by the Hessian landgraves, spared from modern wars, only to be burnt out in World War II and then rebuilt.
At a glance
Zum Schloss 1
Site freely accessible
Above the small town of Spangenberg in the Schwalm-Eder district of northern Hesse sits a group of buildings on a steep hilltop: Spangenberg Castle with a rectangular inner courtyard, enclosed by a narrow 15th-century zwinger. The site looks back on more than 800 years of eventful history and severe damage.
Fortification of the Modern Era
Nevertheless, the rebuilt complex is a vivid example of fortress construction in modern times. Guests are welcome: A hunting museum and a hotel with a country inn welcome excursionists. A magnificent view over the roofs of Spangenberg and into the Pfieffe valley awaits them.
Spangenberg Castle was first mentioned in a document in 1235. Situated on the trade route between Frankfurt and Leipzig, it was the fiefdom of the Counts of Ziegenhain and the centre of the small dominion of the Thuringian Lords of Treffurt.
Robber Barons Counted among the First Inhabitants
The appearance of the former medieval hilltop castle has not been handed down, but there is news about its inhabitants. Famous and notorious are the brothers Herman and Frederick von Spangenberg und Treffurt, who led a life of robber barons without justice or law.
In 1350, the knight Herman IX sold the castle, together with the office and town of Spangenberg, to the Hessian landgrave Henry II for 8,000 marks of silver. Since then, the castle has been used as a hunting lodge and as a widow’s residence in the area, which is rich in forests and game.
Development into a Castle
Its shape was adapted to the protection needs of the time: Landgrave Louis the Peaceful (1402-1458) strengthened the castle with ramparts and cupolas and converted it into a castle. Landgrave William IV (1532-1592), founder of the Hesse-Kasel line, gave it its present (reconstructed) appearance.
Spared from the Thirty Years’ War
With the advent of firearms, structural upgrades were made. In the northeast, a high rampart with a deep moat was built around the castle, a massive battery tower 22 m in diameter as the cornerstone of the defense system, and an underground passage system. With the approach of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), Spangenberg was strengthened again. It was neither destroyed nor captured at that time and remained in Hessian hands.
For centuries, the castle was considered a strong bastion, and yet on 9 November 1758, during the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), it was captured and looted by French troops. They had simply forgotten to raise the drawbridge. Later, Spangenberg was converted into a state prison. It also served as a prisoner-of-war camp until 1906/07, before a forestry school moved in.
Forestry School for Decades
The schooling ended decades later, because during World War II, prisoners of war were imprisoned there again. Shortly before 1945, the entire facility was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid and all the interior rooms burnt out. In the post-war period, the people of Spangenberg brought about the reconstruction. Only a few remnants of the medieval building substance remain in the walls. The buildings surrounding the courtyard date back to the 13th to 17th centuries.
In the vicinity
Ruins of Felsberg CastleGuided toursMeetings & celebrations possible
Cornberg MonasteryMuseum on siteGuided toursMeetings & celebrations possible
Ruins of the Collegiate Church of Bad HersfeldMeetings & celebrations possible
Fürsteneck CastleMeetings & celebrations possible