Thursday, 23 June 2011

Haut Koenigsbourg - III

Last set of pics from the first leg of the castle trip weekend.

There is a small collection of arms and armour in one of the rooms, mostly from the sixteenth century. I have no knowledge if they have any connection with the castle or were purchased to decorate the rooms post the 1908 renovation. Most of them are racks of various styles of halbards and polearms, with a couple of incomplete half armour. There are some crossbows with windlasses on the wall and an interesting wooden saddle, which could be earlier sixteenth century, all of which are not open to close inspection due to where they currently are hung on the walls.

In the artillery tower is...erm..artillery. Some small iron cast barrels on wooden carriages that clearly are not their original ones and a large cannon from the late 18th century, I would estimate it as a 24 pounder (but I stand ready to be corrected as this is not my area of expertise).

Overall the castle lived upto expectations and I'd recommend a visit. Clearly the rebuild and restoration was done with the immense resources of the Kaiser and you cannot imagine such a feat being undertaken these days. It has been done sympathetically and for the time when it was done, used all the available information to make it as authentic as possible.

I should post the next castle visit here if anyone's interested, hopefully by tomorrow...

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Haut Koenigsbourg - II

Some images from inside the outer walls of the castle. It comprises of a series of buildings that were developed over time during the middle ages, built on from the original tower keep. The inner defences include several small drawbridges which seal off sections of the buildings and numerous loopholes and firing points for gunpowder weapons. Most of the walls have covered wooden parapets built on the inside.

The inner rooms that are open to walk around include a hall, bedrooms, chapel and kitchen. The romantic notions of the middle ages are reflected in the decor, including scenes of military actions and medieval figures bearing coats of arms of past noble families from the region in both carved form and in the stained glass. A prominent coat of arms is that of the Von Thierstein family, shown here over a doorway, whose ancestor Oswald fought for the Lorrainers at the battle of Nancy in 1477 against Charles the Bold. The carving of the knight is one of the few original decorative pieces that remain from the castle and was replaced in situ at the foot of the inner staircase.

A few more pics to come...

Monday, 20 June 2011

Haut Koenigsbourg

I took a couple of days off work to create a long weekend and accompanied by my youngest daughter, visited two castles that were on my 'to see' list. First was Haut Koenigsbourg in Alsace, France.

This is an impressive castle by any measure. You get a brief view of it on the ascent and it perches on the peak of the Vosges mountains overlooking the flat plain across to the Rhine and the German border. It was founded in the twelfth century, but fell into disrepair and was abandoned after the Thirty Years War. In 1899 it was given to Kaiser Wilhelm II who invested heavily and rebuilt it, as a prestigous symbol of German power and nationalism, recreating a semi-mythical past of Haspburg dominance. All the work was completed in only 8 years from 1900, including impressive feats of engineering which included the construction of two bespoke electric-powered cranes on site, one inside the main tower. The current castle is therefore both substantial and complete, but at the same time a composite of other elements of castle design, both real and imaginary.

Germanic emblems and symbolism abound in the carvings, woodwork and paintings. Strangely you get a feeling for both actual medieval castle life and a period of romanticised nationalism on the eve of the Great War at the same time as you walk round and discover the castle. Here's a flavour of the castle's external walls. I'll post more pics of the internal views soon.