Nanstein Castle, Rhineland-Palatinate

After half of a day sitting on a plane, being picked up by Deelow and venturing to the new world of Germany (for me) with its wonderful greenery and picturesque villages Deelow finally suggested we visit a castle. At first I thought it was the castle I saw from the skies but I was wrong. It was situated on top of the hill on the town of Landstuhl and unlike other towns this town is busy with people because of the nearby U.S. Army Hospital.

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Made it safely with the bastion behind her.

Anyway we followed the GPS who led us to the entrance of Bur Nanstein. It was a ruined castle with orange bricks or hhsddfshdf. We arrived with some people and we let them go in first. We explored the castle grounds and saw a trail that we will be probably be venturing later on. We tried to read some of descriptions of the castle by the entrance but unfortunately it was German. We climbed the stairs and to the ticket booth. Deelow bought the tickets €3 for each adult, and we started exploring. We first went down the only found some ruins and then up the stairs to get a view of the restaurant and then down again. We used the restrooms and that was where I define the male () and female (). Deelow called our parents and here is some history of the place.

Certainly Nanstein is assumed to be older than the first authentic mention of it in 1189, but the presumed actual origin date of 1162 is not firmly proven. In 1190 Albert von Nanstein, a fief holder is the first ruler that is known to have named himself after the castle. Further Ministers are found in the middle of the 13th century that used the name addition “Nannsteine”, “Nannenstuhl” and “Nannestal”.

At this time the castle was in the possession of the Wild Counts von Dhaun at Oberstein, and after their extinction in 1322, it passed in settlement as an empire fief to the Counts von Zweibrücken-Bitsch. This right act, which King Friedrich the Pretty had undertaken, was counteracted a year later by King Ludwig von Bayer, who repossessed Nanstein and then lent it to Count Konrad IV.

In the 14th and 15th century, a castle partnership as was commonly seen in these times divided the possession of Nanstein between: the Counts von Sponheim, Veldenz, Leiningen and Zweibrucken as well as the Wild Counts and Knight Heinrich Eckbrecht of Dürkheim.

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Damp and cold basement

Over all, the most significant possession changes took place at the beginning and at the end of the 15th century. In the year 1409, the Counts von Sponheim pawned their share in Nanstein to the Alsacian Puller von Hohenburg. In 1482 , these castle shares passed by obligation into the hand of the von Sickingens when cure Palatinate Master Schweikhard von Sickingen married the last Hohenburg daughter.

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The food venue with restrooms

Most of the corridors or stairs led to nowhere or dead end the very bottom was cold and dark so we went up back to the sunlight. We passed by the ticketing booth to the inner yard (innerer Burghof) and explored at the strange stone of the walls. It was orange and resembled like the Grand Canyon mold. Then we climbed the stair tower which led us to the exhibit of its most popular resident “Franz von Sickingen,”

Franz von Sickingen

The famous Franz von Sickingen, whose fate was tied to the castle’s, came from this marriage. Franz was born in Ebernburg on March 2, 1481, the only son of knight Schweickard von Sickingen. In 1499 Franz marries Hedwig von Floersheim, a very efficient and intelligent woman of pedigree who helped Franz tremendously in his acquisitions (she also bore him six children before dying in the birth of the seventh).

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Franz von Sickingen

After the death of his father (who had fallen in the Bavarian Succession war), Empire Knight Franz becomes heir, by which he becomes ruler of an extensive non-territorial distributed possession which covered castles between and around the lower Alsace and the northern Black Forest. Franz dedicates himself, with the support of his efficient wife, to the consolidation and extension of the possessions gained by his father and by 1515 had gained a substantial economic basis. After the death of his wife in 1515 began unruly years of many feuds for von Sickingen, which he lead despite their prohibition by the land peace of 1495. These feudal behaviors would ultimately lead to his death.

Franz finally gains the entire castle by gradual acquisition in 1518. Immediately after this, he began an extensive refitting and new construction that served predominantly for the purpose of arming Nanstein with modern guns. Of special importance was the erection of the “large Roundel”, which was noted as the strongest shooting tower of it’s time. Like his contemporaries, Franz had also outfitted his castle against military actions.

Historically he is known as the only commander of a large combined armed force on German ground who would readily make his services and that of his soldiers available when it concerned the promise of profit. A “knight mercenary” as it were, presuming most knights were contrary to romantic belief either robbers or mercenaries. Franz claimed as a legal basis for his acts the centuries old German “Fehdrecht”, or right of feud, which was the legally unaccountable prime right of nobles to rule their lands how they saw fit, and to be able to fight and plunder by conquest whoever whenever they felt the need to.

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Th castle in 1523

He rejected the rule of law and courts imposed since the end of the 15th century by the increasingly dominating Holy Roman Empire. This right had been weakened by the empire, which had disadvantaged the lower aristocracy and land owning farmers.

Sickingen’s feuds were frequently tolerated by the Palatinate rulers (the Cure princes), and often his enterprises seemed to move in favor of Habsburger realm politics, although several times he breaks the imperially declared realm peace.

 The imperial throne fell vacant after the death of Emperor Maximilians in 1519. Sickingen, who in the scheme of things at this time was in actuality only a small aristocrat, stands at the high point of his life when for a short moment he possesses the power and personality to personally influence German history. As the leader of the Fugger financing and trading firm, and as commander of the military forces protecting Frankfurt, he is able to influence and affect the choice of the Habsburger Karl as the imperial successor.

After looking at the replica and watching the video of the castle we moved on. We exit the room and continue climbing the stairs to the second story where we met up with the courtyard where we were earlier. We followed the walkway and cross to the other side where we climbed another stairs up to the next level of the castle.

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view of the town

Sickingen’s decision favoring Karl followed the basic national desire for a German ruler over Germany, and was actually contrary to the original majority vote of the Cure princes. He also resisted lucrative bribes from the other throne applicant, Franz of France. At this juncture in his life, and because of his support for the Habsburger emperor, Franz feels free of consequences for his feudal behaviors, which is evidenced by his later actions.

In addition to being cited for breaking the lands peace, he loses his command of the imperial forces after a disappointingly risky failed military campaign in northern France, which he lead in the service of the Habsburg emperor as an “undefeatable” army leader. When Sickingen falls into disgrace with the Habsburgers, he ironically takes up service with the king of France.

The last three years of Sickingens life are defined by three closely linked and intertwined situations: Franz’s relationship to the reformation, his leadership position within the South German knight’s order, and at the end, the “Trier feud”.

Franz von Sickingen
Franz

In 1519, Franz has an decisive encounter with Ulrich von Hutten, whose utopian spirit and idealism contributed substantially to induce the situation that lead to his downfall. Hutten convinces his friend Franz into the world philosophy of human governance shaped by nationalism, which is of course a decided opponent of the Holy Roman hierarchy. Among the circle of intellectualism around Hutten, the heavily sword wielding, swashbuckling Sickingen learns the principals and reasoning behind the Reformation, which for some time had been desired by many Germans of the church, both heads and members.

It is therefore natural that by 1521/22 we find a set of the “church office of dismissed clergymen” (Martin Butzer, Kaspar Aquila, Johannes Oekolampad, Johannes Schwebel) admitted and supported within the protection of Sickingen’s lands. His castles Ebernburg and Nanstein had for some time been centers for reformatonal promotion in the southwest of the realm. In all openness about his relationship with the newly developing protestant church being questionable, it probably did not permit the flamboyant personality of Sickingen to find an internal relationship of influence in the ecumenical problems of church renewal. By 1521 the successful Sickingen is an idol of the lower aristocracy. They were looking for a leader who could help restore the slipping power of the lower aristocracy after what they felt was a betrayal by emperor Maximilians. 

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Town of Landstuhl

Much has been written over the motives for Sickingen pursuing a feud with the Cure principality of Trier. Nevertheless in the late summer of 1522 Sickingen goes to war against Trier with little outside support. One knight wanting to settle matters for himself using the outdated redresses of medieval feudalism in an aspirational struggle for the possession of a Cure principality against those that were growing increasingly powerful at the expense of the knights. That the majority of these very knights did not assist him was a factor both in his inability to defeat Trier, and in the further decline of the knight order’s power.

We reached the top of the castle with a couple of people, couple taking pictures, and a family having a picnic. Deelow called our parents and we had a video chat with them showing the view of the city of Landstuhl and looking down the other parts of the castle. We also took a couple of pictures and started our descend back. Here is the continued fight of Sickengen which led to his downfall.

He fails in the siege mainly due to the leadership of the Archbishop of Trier, Richard von Reiffenklau (a long standing comrade that could rely on the entirety of his subjects in the defense), and the knights and advocates of the churches reformation, which alarmingly he had protected and supported. With the failure of the Trier siege, Sickengen was now opposed by a powerful coalition of princes desiring retribution: the Cure prince of Trier, Land Count Philipp von Hessen, and Cure prince Ludwig of the Palatinate.

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Red rocks

In his last battle with these new nobles of the empire, it becomes apparent how restricted the resources of the once successful knight are against such powerful allied foes. Late April 1523 finds Sickingen defending his cannon castle Nanstein, which is under heavy artillery attack by the coalition of Cure princes. Under the concentrated fire of their modern siege guns, the head bastion (the roundel) of the fort collapses in a few hours. The situation is hopeless.

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Another view from the top

Franz von Sickingen is defeated and on May 7, 1523 dies from wounds he received during the battle. In result of this war, it was ordered by Cure prince Ludwig that Sickingen’s remaining castles (Ebernberg and Hohenberg) and those of the neighboring castle lords that supported him also be destroyed, which act was carried out promptly and can be read about in some of the other Legendary Castles of the Palatinate pages.

Although Sickingen failed, the variety of ways in which his influence has obviously shaped our history remains yet many generations later. From Sickingen to Ebernburg, he is honored with full respect in the remembrance of an ideal from the Middle Ages and designated with the title of the “last knight.”

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inner tower

On behalf the Palatinate Counts, Cure Palatine magistrates administered the conquered Nanstein as well as the Sickingen Great and Small Courts of Kaiserslautern. Though knight Franz was defeated for what is termed rebellion, he was nonetheless an honored and accomplished noble who had been of great service to the realm and church. His remaining possessions were not divided among the conquerors, rather, in 1542, the sons of Franz re-acquired Nanstein as a fief from the Palatinate Electors and begin it’s refurbishment. The grandson of Empire Knight Franz, Reinhardt von Sickingen, completed this reconstruction in 1595. On site there can be found engravings done during this period by the well known sculptor Matthäus Merian.”

We finished the tour of the castle just in time for its closing and as we head out there were still a few people trying to get in. Hungry from half a day of without a full meal Deelow decided to treat me to the restaurant nearby and here is the rest of the history of the castle.

30 Year War

“The castle also played a role in the Thirty-Year War. In the year 1635 the Imperial General Gallas pulled before the gates of the county seat, Kaiserslautern, and forced it’s defenders to deliver the city and strongholds. Imperial troops then occupied the Sickingen’s territory and remain in control until 1643. At this time it was delivered by the Lothringers, who then settled themselves there at Nanstein. This resulted in the castle’s doom. Elector Karl Ludwig utterly banished the Lothringers from Nanstein in 1668 with strong force of arms, causing extensive damage. Thus for the second time in it’s history, Nanstein is destroyed by cannon fire.

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Castle walls

Not until the middle of the 19th century was any type of reinforcing restoration or careful excavation done. Further rehabilitation have followed In the 30’s of the 20th century and in the recent past. Many Americans  have seen this castle first hand because of it’s location near the large military bases of Kaiserslautern, Ramstein, and Landstuhl.”

Burgschänke

We headed to the Burgschanke right beside the entrance to the castle, also on the top of the hill. The sun was high above us and as we choose the best view which was by the balcony. Unfortunately the sun was right there so we tried to move at the very edge. Being our first time we asked our serve what she could suggest and unfortunately again she was vegetarian. But she tried to help us out by suggesting the restaurant’s top choices.

We finally decided to order a chicken with fries, and steak with salad and fries. The order took a little bit long but I enjoyed it and Deelow had a little problem with hers she said it was kind of salty. So I finished it for her to my advantage. After enjoying the meal and dogs of our fellow visitors in the restaurant we left.

At first Deelow decided that we should take a trail that would lead us to a tower which used to be part of the castle but when we can’t decide which one to take we decided to drive down and look for it. When Deelow first told me that we were visiting a castle I thought it was the one I saw on air but it wasn’t. But still its a good history lesson to learn about the Palatinate counts who once ruled this area which is new to me.

Here is the link for more information:

http://www.thehiddenmission.com/Legendary_Castles_of_the_Palatinate/Nanstein/castle_nanstein.htm

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