February 16


The Harburg – Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance in one bulwark

By Frank

February 16, 2023

Harburg inner courtyard with battlement and fountain

The Harburg is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved castles in southern Germany. Harburg Castle was built in the 11th century by the Counts of Oettingen as a border fortress against the bishops of Augsburg. Over the centuries, it changed hands several times before falling to Bavaria in 1806. The history of the Harburg goes back to the year 1150, a time when the way of life differed from today in many ways. And yet a piece of these past epochs has been preserved on the Harburg. For over 700 years, the Harburg has connected with the House of Oettingen.

The Harburg survived numerous sieges, battles and wars. It once served rulers as the residence and seat of government, imperial and royal celebrities were received. Unique in its kind, the Harburg impresses with its many buildings from almost all stylistic epochs . Buildings from the Romanesque , Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods can be found throughout the area and point to a building-friendly past of the complex.

On February 8, 1150, the Reichsministerialienburg itself was mentioned for the first time. In the early Middle Ages, the ministerials were initially active at the local level and from the 11th century as slave administrators and soldiers for royal estates and monasteries, later also for the nobility .

Harburg Castle consists of various buildings from different eras . The oldest part is the keep from the 12th century, which is still accessible today. It's worth climbing the stairs and enjoying the view. Other parts date from the 16th and 17th centuries, including the Palas and the outer bailey. The knight's hall in the palace is an impressive room with a huge wooden ceiling and medieval furnishings. Here you can imagine how the knights and nobles lived in times gone by.

The Waffenschloss is a building on the outer bailey of Harburg Castle that houses an extensive collection of weapons and armor from various eras. Here you can learn a lot about the art of war and weapons technology of the past.

Harburg Castle was an important base for trade and defense in the region in the Middle Ages. Today it is an important cultural monument and a popular destination for tourists and locals.

Aha! Cool ...

Especially here in Harburg Castle, the use of pitch , which is said to have been poured on the advancing enemy, is discussed. However, it is important to remember that bad luck was very expensive and difficult to win . On Harburg it is therefore believed that quicklime (which has a decomposing effect) was thrown at the enemy...

The keep : The keep of Harburg Castle is one of the oldest surviving towers of its kind in Germany. It dates from the 12th century and is still accessible. From the top you have a great view of the surroundings.

The exhibitions : Harburg Castle has several exhibitions that take visitors into the history of the castle and the region. The " Secret Cabinet " is particularly cool, showing a collection of erotic works of art from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Unbelievable -  ("Woodeye be alert...")

When entering the ramparts, one encounters two unique features : solid wood stairs and so-called bullet loopholes . The bullet loopholes are inventions from the time of the first rifles (precursors of rifles). They consist of a wooden ball with a hole through it.

The ball is embedded in a corresponding hole in the wall. The construction can be turned in all directions in the wall and the weapon in it can be fired in all directions . It is assumed that the saying " Wooden eye be alert " originated here, since the bullet loophole resembles an oversized wooden eye.

Bullet loophole - "Wooden eye be alert"

What is there to see?

The well in the middle of the complex was once a proud 127 meters deep and reached down to the groundwater in the valley. For more than half an hour you had to use the treadmill next to it to pull a bucket of water up .

Due to a road tunnel, the well is only 48 meters deep today. The construction of such a fountain was extremely complex and expensive and shows the importance of the castle.

Brunnen Burg Harburg

Anyone who thinks of a castle has a fortress-like building in mind , defiant, high up on a rock or surrounded by a moat. A castle, on the other hand, is a magnificent building, a representative residence of the nobility and a place where - at least in earlier centuries - lavish festivals also took place. The Harburg has something of both...

A characteristic of the castles is their massive construction . There is of course a reason for this. While the focus of the castles was on defense and protection , the magnificent castles were mainly used for representation purposes . Accordingly, the construction of the castles is much more playful than that of the castles.

Above all, the keep made of hump ashlars next to the box building has retained its medieval character. It was built in the 12th century and is therefore the oldest part of the castle visible today, the upper part dates from a later period and is made of quarry stone .

In terms of time , castles existed long before palaces . The first castles were built in ancient times. However, the heyday of castles was the Middle Ages, i.e. especially between the 6th and 15th centuries.

Harburg Castle has a very pleasant atmosphere . Due to numerous rarities, the elegant separation of private and public areas and the completely preserved ring wall with battlements, the castle looks very rustic and well-fortified .

Visitors have a certain freedom of movement, which invites them to explore and marvel at the individual parts of the castle .

Schloss Harburg

Burgstr. 1

86655 Harburg (Swabia)

About the author

It is more valuable to experience a place in detail than many small impressions of an incomprehensible whole.

Genius Loci - discovering, capturing and experiencing the spirit of a place. Perceive - understand - enjoy!

As a graduate industrial engineer with an additional MBA degree from a renowned university in England (EMBA, EQUIS and AACSB accredited), I have been showing other, often surprising, paths to success for more than 30 years at C-Level (Head of Marketing and Sales worldwide).

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