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Rheinfels Castle was built in 1245 by Count Diether V von Katzenelnbogen as a customs castle for ships traveling up the Rhine. Within a short space of time, the count expanded the castle into one of the strongest fortifications in the Middle Rhine region. There is historical evidence of a one-year siege in 1256 by an army of the Rhenish League of Cities – but this was unsuccessful. After that, Rheinfels Castle gained the reputation of being impregnable.

One of the leading noble families on the Middle Rhine

In the 14th century, the Counts of Katzenelnbogen rose to become one of the leading noble families on the Middle Rhine thanks to advantageous marriages and a well thought-out financial policy, turning Rheinfels into an important administrative center. When Neukatzenelnbogen Castle was built on the other side of the Rhine in the 14th century and the counts were given the opportunity to enforce a barrier on the Rhine, the importance of Rheinfels Castle increased even further. In 1479, however, the dynasty of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen died out at the height of its territorial power, and Rheinfels Castle fell to the Landgraviate of Hesse.

Rheinfels Castle blown up at the end of the 18th century

In the 15th century, as the residence of Count Johann III and his son Philipp, Rheinfels Castle became increasingly important in court life and reached its zenith here. Around 1570, Landgrave Philip the Magnanimous of Hesse transformed the castle complex into a magnificent Renaissance palace. As one of the strongest fortresses on the Middle Rhine, Rheinfels was also successfully held against the attacking troops of Louis XIV.

The end of the castle as a fortress came in the 18th century, when the fortress was handed over to the French revolutionary army without resistance in 1794. The outer works and the castle itself were blown up in 1796 and 1797. Today's ruins are still very extensive and impress with a maze of defensive and underground mine passages, some of which can also be visited.

The owners of Rheinfels Castle at a glance

Built in 1245 by Count Diether V of Katzenelnbogen († 1276)
Count Wilhelm II of Katzenelnbogen (1315-1385)
Count Johann IV of Katzenelnbogen († 1444)
Count Philipp I of Katzenelnbogen (“The Elder”) (1402-1479)
Landgrave Henry III of Hesse (“The Rich”) (1440-1483)
Landgrave William II of Hesse (“The Middle One”) (1469-1509)
Landgrave Philip I of Hesse (“The Magnanimous”) (1504-1567)
Landgrave Philip II of Hesse-Rheinfels (“The Younger”) (1541-1583)
Landgrave George II of Hesse-Darmstadt (1605-1661)
Landgrave Ernst I of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg (1623-1693)
Landgrave Karl of Hesse-Kassel (1654-1730)
Landgrave William II of Hesse-Wanfried-Rheinfels (“The Younger”) (1671-1731)
Landgrave Christian of Hesse-Wanfried-Rheinfels (1689-1755)
After Rheinfels Castle was blown up (1796/97) by French revolutionary troops
Sold in 1812 as French state property to St. Goar merchant Peter Glass
1843: Purchase of Rheinfels Castle by Prince Wilhelm of Prussia,
the future Emperor Wilhelm I (1797-1888)
Rheinfels Castle has been owned by the town of St. Goar since 1925
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