September 2019

We continue our cruise on the Rhine River with a discussion of two castles often confused because of their names Reichenstein and Rheinstein. I begin with the former.

Reichenstein Castle stands on a mountain ledge on the eastern slope of the Bingen Forest above the town Trechtingshausen.

The first mention of the castle occurs in 1213, when Philipp III von Bolanden was appointed bailiff by the Kornelimünster Abbey at Aachen. Its purported capture in 1253 remains a subject of debate among scholars, though there is documented evidence that King Rudolph I of Habsburg besieged, captured, and destroyed the castle in 1282. Following its destruction, King Rudolph refused reconstruction.

In the period that followed, the ruins of Reichenstein remained in the possession of the Count palatine of the Rhine and were rebuilt. Ludwig IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, granted the castle to the Elector and Archbishop of Mainz in 1344. At that time, a new double wall was built surrounding an inner court containing a rectangular keep, and a forecourt was added to the north. It began to fall into disrepair after 1572, when it became unprofitable to maintain its upkeep.

Franz Wilhelm von Barfus bought the ruins in 1834 and began the restoration. The Kirsch-Puricelli family purchased the castle in 1899 and completed the restorations in a neo-Gothic style. The family lived in the castle from 1902-1936. The current owner is a direct descendant of the Puricelli.

Reichenstein was the last castle in the area that was rebuilt in the neo-gothic style.

Since 1989, the historic structure has undergone complete renovation. Today, the complex contains a hotel, a restaurant, and a museum. The living quarters reflect the castle as it was a hundred years ago. Many find the Castle grounds the ideal place for special events, including weddings.

Okay, as I mentioned in my July nattering, I still don’t know why the Katz owners wanted an eye view of Reichenstein.

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On board, there was some confusion between Reichenstein Castle and Castle Rheinstein, which is also above the town of Trechtingshausen. I include the latter here.

Originally built around 900 A.D. to serve as a customs post for the German Empire, it was referred to as either the Vogtsburg or the Feitsburg. The castle was home to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph von Habsburg from 1282 through 1286. Within this castle, he passed judgment on the unruly robber knights of three other castles, the Reichenstein, the Sooneck and the Ehrenfels. In addition, Rudolph von Habsburg founded the Noble Knighthood and renamed the castle Konigstein (King’s Tower).

From the 14th to 17th century, the castle was leased to the Archbishops of Mainz. However, it began to fall into disrepair after 1572 when it became unprofitable to maintain its upkeep. (You might notice this is the same information we have for the Reichenstein. I cannot find that scholars have commented on that point.)

In 1823, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig, Royal Prince of Prussia and nephew of King Friedrich Wilhelm III purchased the castle ruin. Thereafter, the castle was rebuilt (as opposed to renovation) and received its fourth, and final, name, Rheinstein (Rhine Stone), due to its imposing rocky location above the Rhine River.

Since 1975, the Hecher family has owned the Rheinstein. They repaired and restored the castle over a period of 19 years to regain its glory from days long ago. It includes The Little Wine Prince Restaurant and a gift shop offering miniature handmade wooden treasure chests, as well as traditional items including postcards and guidebooks for purchase.

It also possesses a working drawbridge and portcullis, which greatly illustrate medieval construction and defense. We have not encountered this at any other renovated or rebuilt castle.

I give a side note on this purchase. The Hare Krisnas wanted to purchase the property, but a German Opera Singer, Hermann Hecher, purchased it to preserve its history as a cultural monument of the Rhineland-Palatine.

Next, we visit Heidelberg, probably the most visited castle on the Rhine, and the Ehrenfels, which is a complete ruin.