Overlooking the Weser - Castle Polle
The book I was waiting for has finally arrived, but since I meawhile had prepared a post about one of the many German castles I’ve visited and never got around to posting about, I’ll give you some info and photos about Castle Polle first. Because castles are always fun. :-)
Unfortunately, there's not much research material so I have to rely on online information and a few tables set up in the castle which I photographed.
Castle Polle seen from the Weser ferry
Castle Polle is one of the castles in possession of the Counts of Everstein
about whom I blogged when I had visited one of their other castles. Other than the Kugelsburg which was held by a chatellain, Polle was frequently inhabited by the family. The castle lies only a few miles south of the main seat at Everstein Castle on the other side of the river (of which almost no traces remain). It occupies a strategically important position on a rocky hill with three steep sides at a bend of the Weser with a good view over the river
. It guarded the crossing, and the counts of Everstein also had the right to take a toll from the ships travelling the Weser. No wonder the possession of the castle would not remain uncontested.
Inner curtain wall seen from the outer bailey
The origins of the Counts Everstein is shrouded in documentary darkness. Their first appearance at the Weser is mentioned in Helmold of Bosau’s chronicle where he tells about a future missionary of the Slavic tribes, one Vicelin, who after the death of his parents was raised in Everstein Castle (1122). The count at that time, Albert I, also founded a church in one of the family’s possessions in northern Germany. The family possessions were spread around in northen Germany and what is today Nordrhine-Wesphalia, along the Weser, and as far south as northern Hessia, the site of the Kugelsburg.
Wall with entrance to the inner castle; replacing the fomer gatehouse
I’ve already mentioned the marriage of Albert II and Richeza, a cousin of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, in my post about the Kugelsburg. Their second son Albert III had a number of children who split into several branches of the family, among them the Everstein of Polle.
Otto II; founder of the second line, married Ermengard of Arnstein who was related to House Ascania, one of the great rivals of the Welfen family in eastern Germany. The alliance made sense for the Everstein since they sided with the Staufen in the conflicts between both families. Their son Albert V (1235 – 1274) married Gisela of Büren, related to House Itter (whose heiress Mechthild had married Konrad of Everstein in 1120).
Castle polle, the landward side
Castle Polle is first mentioned in 1285 when their son Otto IV gave lands near Hannover to a monastery; the castle may thus have been built by his father Albert V. The main seat of the family, the Castle of Everstein, had fallen to the Welfen family in 1284, therefore the family made Polle their new main seat.
The Welfen had been on the rise ever since House Staufen died out with the last male member of the family, Konradin of Swabia who was executed d by Charles of Anjou (who at that time with the help of the pope had become King of Sicily, once part of the Staufen realm) in 1268.
Remains of the palas
Another grandson of Albert II and Richeza, Hermann founder of the 4th line, is mentioned to have been born in Polle in 1226, which would put the date of the castle’s foundation further back in time (if you want to trust Wikipedia). His son Otto V would become Marshal of Westphalia for the Archbishop of Cologne in 1290. This Otto again had a bunch of children, but yet the 4th line would be the last to hold the lands and name, though a member of the 3rd branch moved to Nowogard (Naugard) in Poland where the family survived until the 17th century.
With possessions spread over such a wide area, and duties as marshals, reeves and other positions, the counts of Everstein moved around a lot during the summer months, but they may have spent the winters in Castle Polle.
A window of the former palas
Herman III (son of Hermann I) married Adelheid zu Lippe, their son Hermann VII (there were Hermanns in the other branches, too, thus the odd numbers *) had no surviving sons and the other kids didn’t procreate, either. Since the possessions of the Lippe family who had large territories in northwestern Germany, bordered on the Everstein lands at the Weser, it made sense for Hermann VII to conclude a heritage confraternity with Simon III Lord of Lippe in 1403. Simon III was a son of Otto Lord of Lippe, a brother of Adelheid who had married Hermann’s father. Simon would inherit the Everstein lands at the Weser after his cousin Hermann’s death – they would stay in the family, so to speak.
The keep seen from the outer bailey
Hermann VII was married to Ermgard of Waldeck (whose mother was Mechthild of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, to complicate matters, since the Everstein and the Welfen weren't exactly best buddies) and that’s not the only Waldeck connection; Simon’s grandfather (Simon I) had married an Adelheid of Waldeck. We should keep in mind that Hermann VII and Ermgard had a surviving daughter, Elisabeth – she will play a role later on.
The duchy of Braunschweig-Lüneburg was ruled jointly by Heinrich and Bernhard at that time, and they seemed to have gotten along for a change. They certainly agreed upon that they did not want the Lords of Lippe to get any more
lands bordering on theirs. So we’re in for another of those inheritance wars. :-)
The keep seen from the inner bailey, with the well in the foreground
Heinrich and Bernhard invaded the lands of the Lords of Lippe and there was a battle near Hameln (Hemlin) in November 1404. Things went spectacularly wrong for the Braunschweig brothers, though. They lost the battle and Heinrich got captured and dragged away to a castle of the Lords of Lippe where he was held in chains until his brother had paid a huge ransom. Upon release, Heinrich had to swear to forego any revenge and futher military actions.
But as soon as he came home, he wrote letters to the pope and the king, a-whining about his shameful treatment at the hands of Simon of Lippe's retainers. I suspect he forgot to add the little detail about who had started the whole mess, because the King Rupert - still busy sorting out the disorder Wenceslas the Lazy** had left behind, and obviously not really enquiring into the matter - put Simon Lord of Lippe and Hermann Count of Everstein under imperial ban.
Staircase leading to the riverside battlements
The pope followed with the excommunication in 1407 which fred Heinrich from his oath, and at that point the Welfen dukes and some others who had open bills with Lippe and the Everstein, like the Bishop of Paderborn, came swooping down on Simon and Hermann with an army, plundering the countryside, besieging and conquering Castle Polle, and damaging several towns on Lippe territory.
Count Hermann had enough and made his peace with the dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. He married his daughter Elisabeth to Otto, the son of Bernhard, and gave her the county of Everstein including Castle Polle as dowry. Both were still small children at the time but the marriage would eventually take place. Hermann himself spent the rest of his days in exile in Neustadt Palace north of Hannover. I could not figure out what sort of deal Simon of Lippe made but his family continued to rule their lands for generations to come.
The riverside bailey with battlements
Polle was held by a reeve of the dukes of Braunschweig. The castle was plundered and partly destroyed by Tilly's army during the Thirty Years war. The outer bailey was repaired and a new Renaissance style house for the reeve built about 1650, but the inner bailey (Oberburg
) remained a ruin.
The castle was again destroyed towards the end of WW2. It was then renovated in 1984-88 to prevent the remains from crumbling further, and the keep was restored so it's possible to climb it. In 2007 and 2009 excavations took place that brought to light some finds being shown in a small museum. The castle is used for theatre performances in summer.
Riverside curtain wall
Castle Polle must have been quite large, a complex of buildings on several plateaus rising to the Oberburg
(innermost bailey) on top of the hill. Of that one some features remain like part of the palas
, the kitchen, and the restored keep, as well as most of the curtain walls. The well has been excavated and a tunnel between it and the keep was discovered.
The bailey right beneath held the outbuildings like horse stables, houses for the retainers and the chapel, and later the reeve's palace. On the next level were granaries and stables for the cattle. There was another small yard with battlements facing the river. The entire complex was surrounded by curtain walls, dikes and drawbridges protected by gatehouses. Some part of the riverward outer defenses and a few foundation walls in the outer bailey remain.
Landside inner curtain wall and side entrance
* The tables at the castle have him as Hermann VIII but I checked with the family tree and it's definitely Hermann VII, the extra 'I' in need of exorcism is particular to the information from the castle site (I found the same mistake in an old flyer).
** This was the time when the German kings got elected from a pool of candidates from noble houses of pretty much half of Europe (them being intermarried anyway) and thus we got some other names besides Heinrich and Otto. Wenceslas got disposed because he made too good of his nickname. *grin*
There is a vague assertion about the Counts of Everstein being vassals of the Welfen (which would have given them a share of the guilt in starting that war) but the only trace to verify that is that perhaps they swore an oath of fealty to the Duke of Braunschweig when they lost Everstein Castle to him - but in that case they ought to have received it back as fief and that didn't happen.