August 2019

Katz Castle stands on the ridge overlooking the town of St. Goar. It received its abbreviated name from Count William II of Katzenelnbogen, who built it circa 1371. The name roughly translates into English as Cat’s Elbow Castle, and is popularly linked with that of the nearby Maus (Mouse) Castle.

Katz Castle was used as a military base to protect the Rheinfels Castle, reviewed in the May issue of RPG Digest. Together, they formed a fortified barrier for levying the Rhine toll. Due to the intentionally chosen location on the mountain ridge, Katz Castle could not be conquered from the valley.

Only after the invention of firearms were reinforcements necessary for the Castle. It was also upgraded as protection against Maus Castle. At the same time, the massive inner tower was raised to approximately 197 feet to ensure eye contact with Reichenstein Castle, which is almost two miles away.

The family line of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen died out in 1479.

In a succession of long-lasting disputes on heritage, Katz Castle and Rheinfels Castle were besieged, demolished, rebuilt, and extended several times. Napoleon bombarded Rheinfels Castle in 1806. In the same year, the District Administrator acquired Katz to reconstruct it as closely as possible to the original design.

From 1946 through 1951, Katz Castle served as a local boarding high school, the “Institute Hofmann.”

A note of interest, Katz Castle and its surroundings are the place of action for the Belgian comic book L’Orgue du Diablein the Yoko Tsuno series by Roger Leloup.

There is some contradiction regarding ownership. One belief is that, since 1989, Katz Castle is the private property of a Japanese company and accommodates the hotel Katz Castle. Yet another is that it now houses a privately owned school, and not open for visitors. The name of the comic book series, Yoko Tsuno, gives credibility to the Japanese ownership, and certainly there is a hotel in the complex.


We turn now to Maus Castle (Mouse Castle) which stands above the village of Wellmich, north of Katz Castle (Cat Castle) and across from Rheinfels. Local folklore attributes the names to the Counts of Katzenelnbogen’s mocking the Electors of Trier during the 30 years of construction. The counts reportedly said the castle was the “mouse” that would be eaten by the “cat” of Katz.

Construction started in 1356 and continued for the next 30 years by successive Electors of Trier. The construction of the Maus was to enforce the Elector’s recently acquired Rhine River toll rights and to secure its borders against the owners of Katz castle. Maus Castle was one of the most modern and technically most interesting constructions of its time.

Among the people, the impression arose that the castles spied on themselves like cat and mouse, so both castles got their nicknames, under which they are known until today.

Unlike its neighboring castles, Maus was never destroyed, though it fell into disrepair in the 16th and 17th centuries. (This disputes the belief Marksburg is the only castle on the Rhine never destroyed, as I mentioned in the May issue of RPG Digest.)

Napoleon bombed some castles along the Rhine early in his reign of terror, so it is plausible to believe Maus suffered the same although neither the onboard historian nor Wikipedia give that as definite. It is clear that, in 1806, Friedrich Habel purchased the castle at auction and began renovations shortly thereafter, being careful to preserve its original appearance. Recorded history of the castle between 1806 and 1900 is open to question; however, at some point an architect obtained ownership and restored it with attention to historical detail between 1900 and 1906.

The castle suffered some damage from shelling during World War II, which has since been repaired.

Who owns Maus Castle? Neither the onboard historian nor Wikipedia has the answer. However, the historian did tell us that Maus hosts an aviary that is home to falcons, owls, and eagles. There are flight demonstrations for visitors from late March to early October.

Some scholars maintain these two castles played cat and mouse games throughout the years, with the mouse coming out as winner in terms of longevity and usefulness. The onboard historian disagreed. I say, let the readers decide for themselves.

Two miles from the Katz sits the Reichenstein Castle, as noted above. We go there next, and perhaps will learn why Katz wanted or needed an eye view.