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


12.1.16
  The Crown of Franconia - The Architecture of Coburg Fortress

I concentrated on photos of the fortifications and those buildings that date back - at least in some remaining parts - to the Middle Ages in the first post about Coburg Fortress, which is also known as the Crown of Franconia due to its size and good state of preservation. This post will give you some more fortifications and some younger buildings which were added to the vast complex over time.

The inner curtain wall and the first zwinger wall

No traces remain of the first chapel and provost's house on the hill. The buildings may have been protected by a timber palisade, but we can't say for sure. Excavations have only found remains of a churchyard on the plateau, but since the site is covered by buildings now, older ruins may be lost forever.

Parapets on the curtain walls

The inner bailey with the palas, kitchen house and chapel, the bower, a keep and a wall tower to protect the eastern side, is the oldest part of the castle. The Romanesque remains of the wall tower have been integrated into the High Bastion built 1533. Engravings by Lucas Cranach from 1506 still show that tower in its original shape.

The palace with the annex and the chapel (to the right)

Some of the buildings had been severely damaged in a fire in 1500 and were altered upon repair. The bower got a staircase tower, and the palace was extended four metres into the yard by addition of a half timbered annex; its former outer stone wall is now an interior one (see also below).

Walls with the High House

The Gothic or High House in the outer bailey, dating to the late 14th century, is the oldest part of the castle that remains mostly unaltered except for repair of fire damage here as well (1489). It was originally used as arsenal. We can trace a chatellain from that time: Count Ernst of Hohenstein-Lohra, most likely a member of the family I blogged about here. They had become important vassals of House Wettin. Count Ernst commissioned the repair. The building now houses the museum administration.

The High Bastion built on the remains of a Romanesque tower

The fortifications already surrounded the entire plateau on the hill; the Blue Tower mentioned several times in the previous post, still shows Romanesque stonework in its lower storeys. There are also remains of Romanesque cellars. Remains of another Romanesque tower have been found in the outer bailey. It is assumed that the first main gate may have been between that tower (today the Bear Bastion) and the Blue Tower, which would make sense since gates usually led to the outer bailey.

Gate tunnel under the walls leading to the Bear Bastion, 1553

From 1553 to 1660, the main entrance was a tunnel under the Red Tower, leading to the Bear Bastion, thus restoring the gate to the outer bailey. The mighty cellar vaults under the Carl-Eduard House and the Duchess' House date to the same time (see below).

Another view of the fortifications

The outer defenses were fortified during the Hussite Wars by Duke Friedrich the Warlike (~1425; see first post). A double, in part triple, row of walls was set up, with zwingers in between, towers, and powder magazines. Gunpowder started to play a role in warfare, and its storage was tricky since it must be kept away from fire. Several of the towers were dismantled when the fortifications were increased further in the 17th century.

View across the zwinger to the bridge

The main entrance today leads into the inner bailey again (like in the 14th and 15th century). The tunnel under the curtain wall dates to the 15th century, but the decorated Baroque gate in front of it was added in 1670. The zwinger was crossed by a a wooden drawbridge which was replaced by a stone bridge in 1859.

The old gate tunnel with portcullis

Duke Johann Ernst (1521-1553), the first Duke of Saxe-Coburg (the Wettin family split into several branches that had to be provided for with lands) moved to live in Ehrenburg Palace at the foot of the castle hill, since the living quarters in the castle had become uncomfortable by the standard of his time. Coburg castle was turned into a Bavarian state fortress, partly financed by the state diet. Bastions were added to the fortifications during 1533 to 1615, the time of Duke Johann Casimir.

The Bear Bastion on the west side from 1614

After the fortress was returned to Duke Johann Ernst (another one; they don't even get numbers because the various family branches are such a shrubbery) during the Thirty Yeas War in May 1635, the fortifications were strengthened further.

But modern warfare made fortified castles increasingly obsolete, and in 1802, the garrison was disbanded; Coburg lost its status as state fortress. The buildings were used as hospital and prison (the High House); since 1838 they housed the art and armour collections of the dukes. The trench was filled in and turned into a park, including a walk around the fortress.

An angle of the Bear Bastion with remains of the old gate foundations

Duke Ernest I put some effort into restoring the fortress in the neo-Romanesque style popular in the 19th century (starting in 1838). Most of the changes were made inside the buildings, but he also altered the chapel, the parapets and the gate tower, and put extra oriels on the towers.

Closeup of the palace / Duke's House

Coburg Fortress had come into possession of the County of Bavaria in 1918, but since Duke Carl Eduard and his family had the right to live in the fortress, extensive repairs were done to the palace, chapel, guest house, the fomer sheep stables and several bastions. The architect, Bodo Ebhardt, removed the pseudo-historical additions of the 19th century and replaced them with more 'modern' and less fancy elements.

The palace seen from the curtain wall side

Duke Carl Eduard was heavily involved in the repairs. He often visited the site and had an input in the plans. He also set up a lottery to fund the renovations (though the County of Bavaria invested money as well).

The palace, now called Duke's House, was completed in 1920. Today the palace is used to present parts of the art collection. The extended structure with the half timbered annex from the late 15th century was kept; the style ties in well with the curtain wall side of the building.

The Guest House

The ducal family also lived in the Guest House in the inner bailey - they were large enough to need more than one house, I suppose. The building replaced a 19th century inn. Prior to that, half timbered buildings from various times had occupied the site, Mediaeval outbuildings as well as 18th century barracks.

A hall in the Stone Bower

The Stone Bower which I already mentioned in the first post was restored in the early 1980ies. Massive foundations were discovered under the ground floor, maybe the remains of the first building (before the fire of 1500). When Luther stayed in Coburg Fortress, he got a room in this house.

Carl Eduard House

Several buildings frame the yard of the outer bailey:

The Carl-Eduard House was erected on the ruins of an older building known as the Red Bower. Its 16th century cellar vaults still exist. The new house was finished in 1924. One of the rooms in the house is a great hall which is called the congress hall, though I could not figure out where the name comes from.

Duchess' House

The Duchess' House originally was a sheep- and grain house from the 16th century. It too, was modernised in the 1920ies.

Both the Carl-Edward House and the Duchess' House suffered damage during the last days of WW2; they were repaired in the 1950ies and 60ies, and again between 2003-2008, after the last member of the ducal family who had the living rights of the fortress died in 1998. Today, the State of Bavaria has the care of the fortress.

View from the High Bastion to the Thuringian forests and Sonneberg

Literature
Guidebook: Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg. Regensburg, 2008
 
Comments:
My trebuchet would have to work hard to get troops inside Coburg Fortress. :) I do so hate bringing ladders to a siege, but...
Thanks for the views of the gate tunnel. It gives me a few ideas for stories that have a fortress in them.
 
Ich kann mich nur wiederholen - eine sehr sehenswerte Anlage. Deine Fotos sind echt verlockend, sich die Veste Coburg einmal anzuschauen. Wieder ein schöner Post mit super Fotos und interessanten Erläuterungen dazu. Danke dafür und liebe Grüße von der Silberdistel
 
Constance, glad you found the pictures of use. And better bring some really long ladders. :-)

Vielen Dank für die netten Worte, liebe Silberdistel. Die Veste Coburg ist auf jeden Fall ein lohnendes Ausflugsziel. Nicht weit entfernt ist Bamberg mit seinem schönen romanischen Dom und der hübschen Altstadt, und wandern kann man im Frankenland auch gut, zum Beispiel zum Heil'gen Veit von Staffelstein. :-)
 
Thank you for yet one more informative and entertaining post, Gabriele! The fortress with all its parts is really impressive. By Lucas Cranach you mean the father? The younger Lucas is famous in Poland for his portraits of the Jagiellons, King Zygmunt II August, his mother, sisters and wives.
 
Bamberg haben wir schon relativ oft besucht - gefällt uns sehr gut. Auch mehrmaliges Anschauen dieses so hübschen Ortes wird nie langweilig. In Franken haben wir überhaupt auch schon einige hübsche Orte entdeckt. In der Nähe von Bamberg sind wir öfter einmal unterwegs.
Liebe Grüße von der Silberdistel
 
Dann sollte Coburg das nächste Mal mit auf die Liste. :-)
Nach gemeinsamer Besichtigung der Veste kann Frau Silberdistel sich dann die schönen alten Gläser und Gemälde anschauen, während Herr Silberdistel sich den Rüstungen und Schusswaffen widmet. Es sei denn, Frau Silberdistel hat mehr Spass an Rüstungen als an Gläsern, was bei mir in Museen schon immer der Fall war. ;-)
 
Och, ich schaue mir da gern sowohl als auch an ;-)
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel journal and blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, Flanders, and the Baltic Coast. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, and some geology, which are illustrated with lots of 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 hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)


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