A Belligerent Knight and a Faithful Wife - The History of Castle Weidelsburg
It's time for another castle, so I've been digging in my photo archives to find something interesting. My father and I visited the still impressive ruins of Castle Weidelsburg in 2008. The site was undergoing renovation and the western palas (great hall) scaffolded in, but I got enough pretty pics nevertheless. I know most of you like photos of castles and stories about feuds.
Weidelsburg, the eastern keep
The Weidelsburg is situated on a a 492 metres high basaltic conical hill at the borders between northern Hessia, Thuringia, the earldom of Waldeck, and the enclave of the archbishopric Mainz around Naumburg (1). It is the largest castle in northern Hessia and its possession was often contested.
As usual, its beginnings are shrouded in the mists of missing documents. Archaeological traces point at a fortification on the hill dating back to the 7th or 8th century. The castrum Alstat
mentioned in a 12th century chronicle may be indentical with the predecessor of the present castle (2) but definite proof is still lacking.
Weidelsburg, view through the Naumburg Gate into the outer bailey
The history of the Weidelsburg is easier to trace when it came into possession of the archbishopric of Mainz in 1266 (3). The archbishop of Mainz and the landgrave of Hessia (in this case, Heinrich I) were at cahoots most of the time. In one of their feuds, the Weidelsburg was destroyed during the Star Wars
Landgrave Hermann II (4) and Count Heinrich IV of Waldeck rebuilt the castle in 1380, but ran into problems with Mainz again, which claimed the right to the castle. It took several years to sort out the legal mess. The castle fell to the archbishop who ordered his vassal, the Lord of Hertinghausen, with the rebuilding. The remains of the Weidelsburg we can see today mostly date from that time.
The feud between the archbishops of Mainz and the landgraves of Hessia, which had lasted about two hundred years already, went on and the castle was partly destroyed by the landgrave of Hessia again in 1402, together with the Naumburg, the other castle in possession of the archbishop.
(left: The eastern keep)
The next and final step in the feud took place in 1427. Count Heinrich IV of Waldeck (6) and his son Wolrad, vassals of the archbishop of Mainz, had pawned out half of the earldom to Ludwig Landgrave of Hessia in 1424 for the sum of 22,000 gulden
(guilder). But then Heinrich went back on the deal, arguing that he already had given his word to the archbishop of Mainz to whom he then pawned out half of his earldom for 18,000 gulden
(the landgrave would have been the better deal). Heinrich and Wolrad opened their castles to the archbishops of Mainz and Cologne, Konrad of Dhaun and Dietrich of Moers - the latter being interested in getting a foothold in the borderlands because of his interests in the bishopric of Paderborn and the Castle Krukenburg
Landgrave Ludwig had already paid the sum and accepted the oath of fealty from vassals, burghers and farmers of the county. Of course, he was furious. Archbishop Konrad of Mainz offered Ludwig to repay the sum Ludwig had given to Heinrich and Wolrad of Waldeck. But Ludwig wanted nothing of that; it must have been more important for him to hold the power in the lands of Waldeck, so the war continued. How the young man (born 1402) got the nickname 'the Peaceful' is beyond me (7). Well, Ludwig won two battles during the summer 1427, took some 300 knights of the archbishop of Mainz captive - albeit Konrad himself escaped the Battle of Fulda - and with that card up his sleeve returned to the negotiation table.
At the Peace of Frankfurt (December 1427) Mainz paid 44,000 guilder reparation and had to hold all its Hessian possessions as fief from the landgrave. But Ludwig gave the pawn of Waldeck to Mainz and accepted a refund. The Weidelsburg must have remained a fief of the archbishop of Mainz, because it was Konrad who appointed Reinhard of Dalwigk as reeve in 1437. It turned out he let the cat loose among the pigeons by that decision.
Weidelsburg, inner curtain walls
The Dalwigk were an ancient family that first appears in documents in 1036 as ministeriales
of the monastery in Corvey (5). Later, they became vassals of the counts of Waldeck; 'Bernhard and Elgar de Dalewich' were elevated to lords by Count Adolf of Waldeck in 1227. In the 14th century, members of the family also were vassals of the landgraves of Hessia and the archbishops of Mainz.
Naumburg Gate, seen from the bailey
Reinhard of Dalwigk (1400 - 1461) was called 'the Unborn' because he was delivered by cesarean. He married Agnes of Hertingshausen (1412) which may have helped in him getting the position as reeve of the Weidelsburg and probably the fief itself, which had been held by the Hertinghausen family before. The Weidelsburg might have been Agnes' dowry. The Hertinghausen played an important role in the northern Hessian borderlands from about 1250 - 1700.
Reinhard of Dalwigk fortified the castle according to the standard of his time, adding an outer bailey and a zwinger
to the south. He also modernised the living quarters where he is said to have 'held court like a prince'.
(right: Interior of the eastern keep with the well tower on the kitchen level and some windows in the upper storeys)
Reinhard was rich, ambitious, and loved feuds. He kept burning villages and fighting local nobles to an extent that he was considered a breaker of the king's peace. Landgrave Ludwig I of Hessia and the archbishop of Mainz worked together for a change and laid siege to the Weidelsburg in 1443. Reinhard submitted; it seems he got away with an admonition but no real loss in power and ressources. He promptly went back to his favourite pastime and burned some more villages, joined by his nephew Friedrich IV of Hertinghausen. This time he got into real trouble when Landgrave Ludwig I of Hessia appeared before the Weidelsburg with an army in 1448.
Ludwig demanded that Reinhard surrender unconditionally. If the following legend is true, that may have implied that there were no prior negotiations and Reinhard would have risked permanent imprisonment or even capital punishment by undergoing a deditio
The legend has it that his wife, Agnes née Hertinghausen, went to Ludwig and pleaded for her husband's life. Ludwig allowed the women to leave the castle, bearing 'what was most dear to them', but the men had to stay and await his further decisions. Not much gained there. But Agnes remembered the legend about King Konrad and the Women of Weinsberg
(8). So she said what was most dear to her was her husband, and carried him on her back down from the castle while her ladies-in-waiting followed with the pretty dresses and the bling. Ludwig was angry, but the legend about King Konrad obviously was strong enough to influence his decision and he, too, stood to his word and spared Reinhard's life.
But Reinhard had to undergo the deditio
, the formal surrender, and lost the Weidelsburg (thus he likely held the castle itself and not only the position as reeve - the feudal relationship is a bit murky due to lack of sources, like so often). Reinhard and his nephew Friedrich of Hertinghausen were allowed to keep the castle Naumburg where they lived together.
Remains of a half tower in the curtain wall, interior
Reinhard of Dalwigk and Friedrich of Hertinghausen didn't learn their lesson. As soon as a good feud showed itself at the horizon, they went to join it with flying banners. Both got into trouble with the family of Elben about the rights to some forests and tithes. The Elben were another noble family with possessions in northern Hessia and related to the Hertinghausen. That did not stop Werner von Elben to join with other nobles as Lords of the Federacy (Bundesherren
) against Reinhard and Friedrich. Between 1450-54, the fire spread to involve more nobles on both sides; villages were plunderned and burned and skirmishes fought. During one of those, Friedrich was severly wounded and captured.
The curtain wall of the outer bailey to the north
Landgrave Ludwig and Count Wolrad of Waldeck - both obviously on speaking terms again after the Peace of Frankfurt - in vain tried to mediate between the warring parties several times. It took a number of dead nobles before Ludwig and Wolrad managed to settle the mess in December 1454. Both sides released their prisoners, Werner of Elben paid a guerdon for Friedrich of Hertighausen's wound that left him badly limping, the tithes in question were granted to Reinhard of Dalwigk. Both parties signed a settlement. That peace held.
Rounded corner of the trapezoid eastern keep, looking skyward
Reinhard von Dalwigk died on the Naumburg in 1461, without known heirs.
Since Reinhard had surrendered the Weidelsburg to Ludwig, the landgrave established a Hessian reeve in the castle, though Reinhard had held the castle from Mainz (maybe it was an Afterlehen
, a fief Mainz held from the landgrave and then enfeoffed to Reinhard). There was a quarrel between the archbishop of Mainz and Landgrave Ludwig II in 1463, after which the Weidelsburg was officially given to the landgrave. It continued to be administered by Hessian reeves.
But the castle was considerend technologically outdated in the 16th century, and no money was invested in its upkeep. A severe fire in 1591 left the Weidelsburg a ruin.
The west palas building (photo taken 2016 after the restoration)
In 1891, a platform was built on the keep - the tourism to picturesque ruins had become popular. Excavations were done in the 1930ies, and restoration work from 1979-87 and again 2008-14. A good reason to go back. :-) Since both the keep and the palas
or great hall are in pretty good condition, as well as remains of gates and curtain walls, the castle makes for an impressive ruin. A post about the architecture can be found here
, and one about our post-restoration visit here
The inner curtain wall with integrated great hall, seen from the outsideFootnotes
1) This is not Naumburg at the Saale with its famous cathedral, but a town with the same name in northern Hessia. The castle of the same name is now defunct.
2) Most of the information I got from the official website of the castle, cross-checking facts where I could.
3) The archbishop bought the castle, but I could not find out from whom. Likely either the landgrave of Hessia or the count of Waldeck.
4) Heinrich IV (1340 - 1397) was married to Mathilde of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. One of their daughters, Irmgard, would marry into the House of Everstein that held possessions in Hessia as well as at the Weser.
5) Dear Wikipedia, you cannot have a family be ministeriales and freeborn nobles in the same article. There was a difference. ;-) I think it's more likely they were ministeriales since it was that group of nobles the monasteries preferably employed. They are not connected with a hereditary castle at first, either.
6) He led the men who murdered Duke Friedrich of Braunschweig-Lüneburg in 1400. Another of the assassins was Friedrich III of Hertinghausen.
7) After the feud with Mainz, Ludwig got involved in a war with the grandsons of Otto the Quarrelsome during which he - unsuccessfully - laid siege to Castle Salzderhelden (1447).
8) During a feud with Duke Welf of Bavaria in 1140, Konrad III had allowed the women to leave the besieged castle of Weinsberg in Swabia under the condition that they may bring along what they could carry, and they came down bearing their husbands. Albeit some of the king's advisors argued against it, Konrad decided that he had given his word and would stick to it.