History

Perched spectacularly on top of a high rock, Katzenstein Castle towers over the valley through which the Katzenbach, a small tributary of the Egau, runs.

Extensive renovation work has been carried out on the castle since 1967. As a result, one of southern Germany’s most valuable castle complexes – dating back to Romanesque times – has been fittingly restored.

The surrounding countryside is of an austere nature. Stony fields and uncultivated hillocks studded with boulders lend it its character. The castle is firmly rooted in this landscape. A curtain wall, residential quarters and keep rise up powerfully from a rock. With its colossal rusticated blocks of stone, the keep, more than anything else, appears to have fused with the rock on which it stands.

What initially stood here was a construction purpose built for protecting a rough family quite used to fighting. The heart of the castle, the keep – the defence tower – is perched on a pin-nacle. The original entrance lies seven metres above the ground. This tower contains an open fire, which dates back to Romanesque times, and is made of stone. Scratched into the moulding is a heraldic drawing of a cat and a lily.

Katzenstein Castle exhibits above all and very distinctively a Roman style of structure. At the same time, it is a perfect example of a fortification – with several interior courtyards, parapet walks and bastions. This bastion dates back to the 12th century. Renovation work enabled it to be restored to new. On the lowest floor, spanned by two huge barrel vaults, the castle well, which is hewed into the rock and is 23 m deep, can be found.

In the Romanesque castle chapel, which is dedicated to Saint Lawrence, the restorers uncov-ered up to three layers of extensive paintings (murals) which were hidden underneath a thick layer of whitewash. Under a layer dating back to baroque times, late Gothic murals of an ex-traordinary quality were discovered. Nevertheless, several samples of these works of art were removed in favour of the beautifully preserved painting which was lying (further) underneath. Together with the remaining pieces of art, which virtually cover all walls of the chapel, it has been possible to recover a work of national standing.

These frescoes show a series of pictures dating from 1250 to 1280, the time of the transition from the late romantic to the early Gothic period. In the apse, we can see the scene of the Last Judgement with Christ sitting enthroned in the elliptical aureole. He is flanked by Maria and John the Baptist as well as angels with the Instruments of the Passion (Arma Christi).

In 1099 the lords are referred to as von Cazzenstein for the very first time. They were liege-men of the Earls of Dillingen. In 1262, the lords von Hürnheim became owners of the castle, followed in 1354 by the Earl von Oettingen. Thereafter, several families were enfeoffed with the castle. Among these were the lords von Westerstetten, who put the landgraves¹ of Hessen to flight in 1546 during the Schmalkaldic War. In 1648, during the last year of the Thirty Years’ War, combined French and Swedish troops besieged the castle and put it under heavy fire for two days. The roofs burned and the reeve (a law officer) felt himself obliged to sur-render. Up until 1834, the princely House of Oettingen had a forestry office in the castle. Thereafter, until 1939, the buildings remained empty. Today the castle is privately owned.

Since 1 April 2006, Katzenstein Castle has once more been open to the public.
According to legend, twelve chests full of gold and precious stones are buried in the castle. These, however, are so well guarded by the castle ghost, Baldrian², that the treasure will remain hidden forever.

Open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except Mondays.
Guided tours at 11 a.m. 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Groups are welcome, with prior reservation, at any time (night-time tour).

 

¹ landgrave: a title of nobility in Germany and Scandinavia, dating from the 12th century, when the kings of Germany attempted to strengthen their position in relation to that of the dukes (Herzoge). The kings set up “pro-vincial counts” (Landgrafen) over whom the dukes would have no control and who would have rank and author-ity equivalent to those of dukes. Later – and more commonly—the title was given to counts in order to make them directly dependent on the king (or emperor). Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica
² Baldrian: the same name as the herb valeria, which has healing properties. Name: Valerius

 

Knights and Lords of the Castle

 

1095 first documentary evidence of the von Cazzenstein nobility (medieval barons) at the castle

1257 lords of the castle are the "ministerialesof Dillingen" (unfree knights)

1262 a branch of the Lords von Hürnheim called themselves von Katzenstein

1354 the castle passes into the possession of the Oettingen family

1380 Berthold von Westerstetten is invested with the castle (as a fief)

1505 Emperor Maximilian I grants the von Westerstettens power to judge according to the Carolina law (a procedure for the judgement of capital crimes)

1520 Lorenz von Westerstetten received Katzenstein

1572 the last member of the Westerstetten line, Wolf Dietrich von Westerstetten, dies

1632 the fief reverts to the Oettingen family once again

1648 the castle is besieged and severely damaged by Swedish and French troops during the 30 Years' War

1669 Count Notger Wilhelm of Oettingen-Baldern has the castle renovated and converted into a residence for himself

1798 Castle Katzenstein falls to the Oettingen-Wallerstein line

1810 Katzenstein is integrated into the Württemberg district authority of Neresheim

1939 the banker Herbert Wolfgang Stuber acquires the ruin and starts renovating the castle (upon adoption in 1942, takes on the title von Caboga-Locatelli)

1945 the lord and his family are imprisoned by the SS.  They manage to escape

1949 the castle is sold to the painter Elly Edler

1965 the castle ruins are sold to the Holl family.   Substantial building and restoration work is carried out in the 1970s

1988 the castle is sold to Mr Alwin Peter.  Small flats are built 

1995 during Mehrl's leasehold, the knights' hall burned down

2006 the Walter family leases and renovates the castle.  After 20 years, Katzenstein opens its gates once more to the public.

2008 extensive renovation work is carried out on the keep.  On September 14th it is opened to visitors for the first time

2009 the castle becomes the property ofMichael-Nikolaus Nomidis-Walter

 

 

The suebian inheritance

The noble Lord of Katzenstein, enjoys a glass of genuine wine.
As soon as the first tumbler is gone, the servant brings another one.

The noble Lord of Katzenstein, drinks wine until late at night.
And in the early morning time, he starts again with some more wine.

The noble Lord of Katzenstein, he’s a clever and smart drinking guy.
He says: “Drinking wine is so much fun”, and empty the glasses one by one.

If rainy day or sunshine, handle it like the Lord of Katzenstein.
Take a bottle and a glass of wine, so you feel always good and fine.

When the Lord of Katzenstein passed away,
he transmitted his thirst to the people this day.
In Suebia nowadays that’s the reason why, we have so many Lords of Katzenstein.

English