17.07.2015 - 17.07.2015
Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the area attracting more than 500,000 visitors each year.
We decided to take a guided tour to learn and understand more of the history and significance of the castle. We had the full attention of the guide as we were the only visitors to take the English speaking tour on that day. Even better!!
First mentioned in historic records in the 12thC, Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg was a medieval castle located at Orschwiller, Alsace, on a 700metre high peak of a mountain overlooking the Upper Rhine Plain below. This was a strategic location at the junction of two important trading routes. Possession of the castle was held by a number of different noble families through to 1633 when, during the Thirty Years' War which opposed Catholics to Protestants, the Imperial castle was besieged by Protestant Swedish forces. After a 52-day siege the castle was burned and looted by the Swedish troops. It was then abandoned and left unused for two and a half centuries.
In 1865 the castle came into the possession of the nearby town of Sélestat which gave the ruins to the German emperor William II in 1899. William decided to commence a complete restoration of the castle as he wanted to mark symbolically his power over Alsace which had been returned to German rule in 1871.
After a detailed survey of the ruins, a series of photographs, and advanced archaeological, historic, and architectural observations, meticulous restoration work was carried out from 1900 to 1908. Although not a completely accurate reconstruction, the finished castle is a unique and credible impression of castle life led during the middle ages.
Unfortunately for Germany the restored castle was confiscated by the French state after World War I according to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. It was officially designated a national historic site by the French Ministry of Culture in 1993.
The castle is very impressive. A look at this short video shows what an amazing achievement it was to transform the ruins and complete the reconstruction in eight years Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
The views in all directions from the castle are spectacular. There are many small villages dotted around the plains below, some only a few kilometers from each other, and the Rhine River is easily seen in the distance. Very picturesque.
It was a great visit.