Steinau Palace towers imposingly above the Kinzig valley, on what in the Middle Ages was an important trade route between Frankfurt and Leipzig. Presumably founded as a castle in the late 13th century and repeatedly extended, the original building fabric is still reminiscent of the various eras. However, the conversion to a bastioned pentagonal Renaissance fortress under the Counts of Hanau-Münzenberg in the early 16th century is characteristic for the appearance of the complex.
Fortress and Palace at the Same Time
The individual forms are still strongly influenced by the late Gothic period. Saxon castles with their characteristic curtain arch windows were the main model for the building. Gun embrasures, a wide moat and gates secured with drawbridges and portcullis made the castle a fortified structure. These elements of contemporary fortress architecture are combined with a geometric severity and elegance that corresponded to the representative demands of a Renaissance castle.
In this spirit, the Counts of Hanau-Münzenberg also had the interiors splendidly decorated. High-quality wall paintings with Renaissance ornaments and antique portrait medallions adorned the halls and living quarters. Tables, benches, but also Renaissance chests and portraits in the court room recall the furnishing period. The kitchen was equipped with 19th-century utensils, but they hardly looked any different around 1550. The dimensions of the complex, the fine execution of the building details and the elaborate furnishings indicate that Steinau Palace was originally intended to serve as a secondary residence for the Counts of Hanau-Münzenberg, although it was largely used as a Hanauian widow‘s residence.
Good Preservation Gives Authentic Impression
When the County of Hanau fell to the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel in 1736, the castle lost its former importance and was largely spared any subsequent alterations. After the end of the landgravial rule in 1821, it was used by various state institutions and has been in the care of the State Palaces and Gardens of Hesse since 1957. The palace‘s former loss of importance was a stroke of art historical luck. Thanks to its exceptionally good state of preservation, the complex conveys an authentic impression of the appearance of a fortified castle building at the transitional period between the Middle Ages and modern times.
Today, the palace can be visited as a museum, and in addition to exhibits on the history of building, it also houses a Grimm exhibition. The famous brothers spent their childhood in Steinau, which is why original pieces from the family estate are now on display in the castle, bringing the brothers’ lives and works to life.