Castle Hornberg is a stronghold 228m above the Neckar valley in Germany’s southern state of Baden Württemberg. Originally, it consisted of two independent structures, which were eventually incorporated by a wall. The famous German knight Götz von Berlichingen lived here for 45 years. According to documents, the castle also includes a second oldest maintained vineyard in the world.
It is unclear when and in which capacity Castle Hornberg was first built but it seems to have been erected no later than the 11th century. The earliest documents show the counts of Lauffen as the owners in 1184, being tasked to control and tax shipping on the Neckar river. In 1216 the male side of the family of Lauffen died out and the counts of Dürn took over the holdings after marrying the last female heir, Mechtihild, although they sold the castle in 1259 to the bishop of Speyer. This led to a quick succession of inhabitants, all paying tithe to the bishop. In 1330, bishop Walram of Speyer handed the management of the holdings to the archbishop of Trier but, having paid the outstanding dept, Walram’s successor Gerhard of Ehrenberg was able to return Castle Hornberg to the holding of Speyer in 1338.
In 1464 the castle was sold to Lutz Schott of Schottenstein, who also purchased the surrounding holdings in 1470. Having entered into a feud Friedrich the Victorious, count palatine, Castle Hornburg was conquered in 1474, although Lutz Schott’s son, Conz Schott of Schottenstein was able to reclaim it in 1504 with the help of 60 knights and their entourages. Legal proceedings sided with Conz Schott and the count palatine was ordered to pay the family 1800 Gulden damages. This money was used to further extend the castle, most importantly incorporating both parts with a large outer wall, which had so far been separated.
In 1517, Götz von Berlichingen, the castles most famous inhabitant, bought Castle Hornberg for 6500 Gulden. He moved in with his family and lived there until his death in 1562. He added the honorary ‘of Hornberg’ to his name and started the Honberg-Rossacher line. Details of Götz von Berlichingen’s extremely interesting life can be found here. After his death, his children and grand-children continued improving the castle, but financial difficulties forced them to sell to Hans Heinrich of Heußenstamm in 1594, who also bought the other holdings in 1602. Finally, Castle Hornberg was sold again in 1612 to count Reinhard of Gemmingen, whose family still holds the deeds to the castle today, now in the 12th generation, although they moved quickly into the valley.
The castle was conquered and looted several times during the 30 Years’ War and the Nine Year’s War, but was fully renovated, despite not being used as housing, by 1700. From 1738 onwards, however, it was left to fall into ruin before being partially restored in 1825 as part of the romantic movement. The 20th century saw additional restorations and in 1930 the family of Gemmingen moved back in. Alongside their own living area, in 1968 a museum was installed, showing the artefacts the family had collected over centuries, which was later moved in 1998 into another part of the castle. The original armour of Götz von Berlichingen is part of the exhibition.
Today, it is possible to visit Castle Hornberg and several tours a day are offered. It has also been the backdrop for a number of TV and film productions, as well as events and exhibitions.
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