My Illlustrated Travel Journal with Essays about Roman and Mediaeval History and some Geology

  Two Castles in One - The Brandenburg in Thuringia

I've been making the best of the current Indian Summer while it lasts and used the little spare time to visit some more interesting places. One of the castles I visited together with my father gave me an abundance of photos but not so much information about its history. Brandenburg Castle in Thuringia must have been a large and well fortified place once - its remains are still impressive - but it never played a significant role in history.

View from the eastern keep: East gate (left) with gate house and cistern, remains of the palas (right),
inner curtain wall of the East Castle with the Hexagon Tower in the background

The castle is situated on a mountain at the foothills of the Thuringian Forest, guarding a ford across the Werra river and the road from Hersfeld to Eisenach, one of the important roads in the Middle Ages. The Brandenburg is a double castle which means it consists of two separate castles, one - the Westburg - sitting on a promontory, and the other - the Ostburg (East Castle) - on the peak itself; both are separated by a natural trench and have their own sets of curtain walls, towers and gates. Another gate with fortifications may have been at the foot of the hill, there are some worked stones lying around, and traces of an artificial trench. The other side of the hill facing the Werra river is steeper and didn't require additional fortifications.

Hexagon Tower and curtain wall of the East Castle

One can easily imagine that a double castle like this is more difficult to conquer. It takes a larger army to lay siege to it, there are more walls where the defenders can pour and throw down all sort of interesting things, and if you manage to conquer one castle, there's still another one left. As far as I know, the Brandenburg was never besieged.

(The donjon of the West Castle)

For a long time the castle had been a veritable seat of the Sleeping Beauty with trees growing in its yards and vines covering the tumbling walls. During the time of the German separation, the Brandenburg was in the so-called Sperrzone, an area along the East German border that was forbidden for everyone; even the people living in the villages in that zone needed special permits to get in an out - only in East Germany, of course, from the west you could always get as far as the first fence. Thus the castle was abandoned for 40 years, left to the trees and the birds.

One could always see the towers from afar. Nearby Herleshausen was one of the places where you could cross the border into East Germany (which we never did). 20 years after the reunion only a road sign remains where once were fences and mine fields, and the Brandenburg is accessible for visitors.

We had sometimes been hiking in the area before the family moved to Göttingen, often seeing the death zone and watch towers, but this time we could not for sure remember where exactly the border ran so well has it been ereased. After 20 years, a whole generation has grown up without the sight of those fences and forbidden zones, or the attempt to make one of the GDR soldiers in the towers wave back (I remember one did once, shyly and cautiously when his colleague was looking the other direction; it was a dangerous thing to do for them).

Main keep of the East Castle

The village at the foot of the castle, Lauchröden, is first mentioned in a charte dating to 1019, and in 1144, one Wigger of Wartberg and his brother Gottfried are mentioned as protectors and reeves of said village and its church. Wigger is called comes - count. He held the position of châtelain or burgrave of the nearby Wartburg, seat of the Landgraves of Thuringia, since at least 1138. Because of the family's interests in Lauchröden, it is assumed that they built the first Brandenburg castle, the Westburg around 1140.

View from the West Castle to the East Castle (zoomed in)

A few years later, Wigger of Wartberg held possessions along the Werra, around Eisenach and Gotha in Thuringia, and in Hessia (near Kassel). The family certainly was on the rise. His son Burchardt followed his father as burgrave of the Wartburg.

The East Castle likely was built about 1170, but it took until 1224 for the family to take their name after their main seat and not their hereditary position as châtelains at the court of the landgraves of Thuringia: the 'von Wartberg' became 'von Brandenberg'.

Eastern main gate and cistern, with the palas in the background

I could only find glimpses of the Wartbeg / Brandenberg family in the sources, despite the fact they still were châtelains of the Wartburg and their life often connected with the fate of the landgraves of Thuringia. Count Ludwig I of Wartberg participated in the crusade 1197/98 together with Landgrave Hermann I, but contrary to his lord who died of a fever, Ludwig survived. His successor Ludwig II shared the fate of Landgrave Ludwig IV, they both died during the crusade in 1227, and the position of the burgraves of the Wartbug discontinued. Ludwig's cousin Burchard of Brandenberg survived and returned home.

Remains of the palas of the East Castle

But the family got in financial troubles, like other nobles of their time. They were obliged to keep up a certain lifestyle, represent, donate land and money to churches and sub-vassals and other expensive habits, and not every family had the income to back this up. In 1280, Albert II of Brandenberg sold Brandenburg Castle to Landgrave Albrecht. He rremained the landgrave's counselor, but with their main possession lost, the family also lost the title of 'count' and became mere ministeriales again (a status from which they had risen with Wigger 150 years before). The last time the family Brandenberg is mentioned dates to 1435; they probably died out soon thereafter.

Albrecht II of Thuringia (nicknamed 'the Degenerate') gave the Brandenburg to his son Apitz in 1290 who spent some time in the castle.

Outer and inner gate of the East Castle with curtain wall in the background, seen from the keep

The last time both castles were held by the same family was 1322 - 1359 when the lords of Heringen took them as fief from the landgraves of Thuringia.

After that time, the East Castle changed hands several times until the lords Herda zu Brandenburg held it from 1415 - 1892, after which the line died out and the castle fell back to the Great Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (no, I didn't make that title up). He forbade further dismantling of the castle and instead had it somewhat restored.

The Brandenburg became a tourist attractions in the early 20th century. Picturesque castle ruins were pretty popular then.

Main gate of the West Castle, seen from the bailey

The West Castle came into possession of the Reckrodt family (1440 - 1720). One of their members, Georg of Reckrodt, was a famous mercenary leader in the 16th century. He died on the Brandenburg in 1559. After that time, both castles were no longer inhabited, and were soon used as quarries to build a modern palace in Lauchröden (a fate the Brandenburg shared with most Roman remains and other castles).

The West Castle changed possession a few more times until 1936 when the last owner sold it to the County of Thuringia. He probably didn't want to pay for the upkeep of some uninhabitable ruins; that can get rather expensive.

View from the gate into the east bailey

After the sleeping beauty was woken again in 1989, it needed some thorough restoration to make the place safe for visitors. Between 1990 - 1994 the keep and gate of the West Castle were partially restored, as well as the keep of the East Castle which houses a little museum (which was alas, closed). Some steps and rails were added to make access easier though it's still a bit of a climb to reach both castles.

The Brandenburg is cared for by the Thuringian Castles and Gardens Foundation. Here's another post about the castle.
Yes, there seems to be some freak weather about! Certainly time to make the most of castle visiting - splendid pix once again!
Fantastic place! And great that you made the most of the stunning weather, Gabriele - it's certainly over now. :-(
Thank you, Anerje and Kathryn.

And Stag haz google-fu again. :) There is a German website, but it's not much more encompassing than this one.
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The Lost Fort is a travel journal and history blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, as well as some geology, illustrated with photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.
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Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account. :-)

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I'm a bit of a writer, too; here are the novel projects on which I'm currently working

Roman Novels (Historical Fiction)
The Saga of House Sichelstein (Historical Fiction)
Kings and Rebels (Fantasy)


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History Blogs - Ancient

Roman History Today
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Bread and Circuses (Adrian Murdoch)
Following Hadrian (Carole Raddato)
Mike Anderson's Ancient History Blog
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Anglo Saxon, Norse & Celtic Blog
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Absolute Write
National Novel Writing Month


May 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / June 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / December 2010 / January 2011 / February 2011 / March 2011 / April 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / December 2011 / January 2012 / February 2012 / March 2012 / April 2012 / May 2012 / June 2012 / July 2012 / August 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012 / December 2012 / January 2013 / February 2013 / March 2013 / April 2013 / May 2013 / June 2013 / July 2013 / August 2013 / September 2013 / October 2013 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014 / February 2014 / March 2014 / April 2014 / May 2014 / June 2014 / July 2014 / August 2014 / September 2014 / October 2014 / November 2014 / December 2014 / January 2015 / February 2015 / March 2015 / April 2015 / May 2015 / June 2015 / July 2015 / August 2015 / September 2015 / October 2015 / November 2015 / December 2015 / January 2016 / February 2016 / March 2016 / April 2016 / May 2016 / June 2016 / July 2016 / August 2016 / September 2016 / October 2016 / November 2016 / December 2016 / January 2017 / February 2017 / March 2017 / April 2017 / May 2017 / June 2017 / July 2017 / August 2017 / September 2017 / October 2017 / November 2017 / December 2017 / January 2018 / February 2018 / March 2018 /



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