A very eventful history, in the course of which the
countryside along the middle Rhine and the Moselle played a central political, cultural,
and economic role, but was also the theater for the wars between the European powers, has
produced a great wealth of historical buildings in Rhineland-Palatinate. In 1948 the
Administrations of the Castles of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate was established to
look after state-owned historical monuments.
Some 77 historical structures are now under its care,
ranging from a fully equipped castle to long since derelict castle ruins, and the list
does not just include castles ruins, but also the most important Roman buildings to the
north of the Alps. In Trier, the Amphitheater, the Barbara Baths, the Imperials Baths
and the Porta Nigra
are in the care of the State Castles Administration. Even today, these massive ruins are a
clear reminder of the fact that Trier was the fourth largest city in the roman Empire.
Nevertheless, the largest proportion of the historical
buildings are castles. In the high Middle Ages, the Rhine valley between Mainz and Basle
was the heart of the Hohenstaufen empire. Some 500 castles remind us of this today, with
roughly every ninth one in the care of the State Castles Administration. They include such
vast defensive structures as the imperial castle of Nannstein, or Lichtenberg Castle, the
latter being the most extensive site in the province with a length of some 425 m.
Altwoldstein Castle above Wolfstein, on the other hand, a castle hidden in the midst of
the forest, consisting in fact just of a tall tower and a pit-like narrow courtyard behind
a high curtain wall, gives an idea of the frugal life of a knightly vassal family.
Many castles in the southern Palatinate, perched on top of
cliffs, still present a very primeval appearance, such as Blumenstein Castle or Wegelnburg
Castle, where nature and structure merge with one another, and where caves were dug into
the cliffs, just like in pre-historic times.
Castle ruins are a particularly difficult problem for
preservation, because repairs are constantly required in order to maintain the walls which
have been damaged by frost, rain, pollution and wars. Great care has to be taken here to
ensure that the ruins do not lose too much of their value as a historic document as a
result of too far-reaching additions or reconstruction works.
A few structures were carefully extended and adapted for
catering purposes. This was the case in the New Castle in Idar-Oberstein, in Sterrenberg
Castle above Kamp-Bornhofen, in Nassau Castle and in Burghschwalbach Castle in the Taunus
Mountains. In the latter instance, the Great Hall had a new steep slate roof constructed,
producing an impressive, unified whole. Ecclesiastical structures are also under the care
of the Castle Administration. The chapel to St. Matthew in the upper castle in Kobern is
considered to be the finest Romanesque chapel in the middle Rhine and Moselle region. The
chapel at Iben, near Fürfeld, constructed a few years later, is a major example of early
Gothic architecture and the only part of an erstwhile Templar castle to have been