Nuremberg Castle (Germany)

Bavaria     See list of castles in Germania

The Imperial Castle is the symbol of Nuremberg. From the Middle Ages its shape represented the power and importance of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation and the exceptional role of the imperial city of Nuremberg.

The beginnings

Nuremberg, which was mentioned for the first time in a document as a royal property in 1050, played an important role in the imperial and internal politics of the kings and emperors Salian and Hohenstaufen. The castle and the city were the favorite place for rulers during their travels through the kingdom, and the court assemblies and imperial diets were held here.

In order to provide an appropriate setting for these events, the Hohenstaufens built an extensive castle complex on the rocky hill above the remains of older buildings, which is still largely what we see today. To administer the imperial property and to maintain order, they installed a burgrave, which resided in the front area of ​​the complex (the so-called Burgrave's Castle). In 1191 the burgrave office passed to the Counts of Zollern.

Properties of the castle

With its close ties to the royal family and its position at the junction of major highways, Nuremberg soon developed into an important center for transit trade and export and a financial market. The Letter of Freedom, granted by the Emperor Frederick II in 1219, strengthened the civic autonomy of the city, removing it almost entirely from the sphere of the Burgraves. At the end of the Hohenstaufen period in 1254, it had become an independent imperial city.

Eventually he emerged victorious from the bitter disputes with the Zarrern burgraves, who had acquired vast territories in Franconia and established first government headquarters in the castle of Cadolzburg and later Ansbach: in 1422 the emperor Sigismondo transferred the castle's responsibility to the city, to the benefit of the king and the emperor.

The people of Nuremberg were probably involved even when Ludwig VII of Bavaria-Ingolstadt attacked Burgrave castle in 1420 and burned it. In 1427 the city acquired the remains of the Burgrave castle from the Burgrave Friedrich VI, which assumed the new function of prince elector of Brandenburg. From that moment on, the entire castle complex was in the hands of the city.

Imperial city and castle in the late Middle Ages

In the late Middle Ages Nuremberg was classified as the "most distinct and best positioned city of the kingdom". The city was the scene of numerous imperial diets and in 1356 the "Golden Bull" of Emperor Charles IV called Nuremberg as the place where every newly elected governor had to hold his first imperial diet. Nuremberg thus became one of the centers of the empire, in addition to Frankfurt, where the kings were elected and to Aquisgrana where they were crowned.

Most of the emperors made numerous visits: Ludwig IV "the Bavarian" remained there 74 times, and Charles IV 52 times. At the same time, however, the castle became less important.

The town hall completed in 1340 was used instead as a meeting place and by Ludwig the Bavarian onwards, the emperors preferred the most comfortable accommodation of the patrician houses. In 1423, Sigismondo gave the imperial insignia in the custody of the city, a sign of particular trust. The Hapsburgs Friedrich III and his son Maximilian I were the last emperors to reside for longer periods in the castle and in the city.

Their successor Charles V also broke with the tradition of the emperors who held their first imperial diet in Nuremberg. Because of the epidemics that raged at Nuremberg, he transferred his first imperial diet to Worms and did not visit Nuremberg until 1541, during the journey to the Regensburg diet.

Nuremberg's acceptance of the Reformation in 1524 alienated the Protestant city from Catholic emperors. In 1663, after the Thirty Years' War, the Imperial Diet was definitively transferred to Regensburg.
Nuremberg's acceptance of the Reformation in 1524 alienated the Protestant city from Catholic emperors. In 1663, after the Thirty Years' War, the Imperial Diet was definitively transferred to Regensburg.

The castle in the Kingdom of Bavaria

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and the incorporation of Nuremberg into the Kingdom of Bavaria, there was a renewed interest in the castle as an important historical German building. King Ludwig I had it restored by architect Carl Alexander von Heideloff in 1833 so that he could live there as sovereign.

However, the romantic neo-Gothic interior started by the architect was not to his liking and in 1835 stopped the construction work. It was only after the reign of his son Maximilian II that a royal apartment was created by August von Voit between 1851 and 1858.

In 1866 the Hoernzollerns made an offer for the imperial castle: after his defeat in the war of 1866, Ludwig II had to grant King William I of Prussia the right to share the use of the "castle of his fathers". The emperor William II lived in the castle on several occasions and never failed to draw himself "Burggrave of Nuremberg" when he did.

Destruction and reconstruction: the continuation of "creative conservation"

After the end of the monarchy in 1918, the historical redistery of Palas and Bower lost its charm. In 1934, under Rudolf Esterer, the work of replacing the neo-gothic with the supposed original interior was begun, also - in view of future NSDAP party conferences - with the idea of ​​creating an "apartment" for important guests of the Reich. The castle should not simply be "preserved as a monument, but it had to resume its ancient place in the life of the nation" (Heinrich Kreisel). Esterer believed he could combine the past and the present by replacing the neo-Gothic interior with "timeless German craftsmanship".

In 1945 virtually the entire imperial castle was in ruins, but important Romanesque and late Gothic sections survived virtually intact. Immediately after the war, Rudolf Esterer rebuilt the complex almost exactly as before the war on the principle of "creative conservation".

The permanent exhibition in the castle was redesigned by the Bavarian Building Department together with the museums of Nuremberg in 2013. The new concept shows not only clear explanations of the elements and function of the castle in their historical context, but also presents information on the Holy Roman Empire Empire of the German Nation and the role of Nuremberg in the late Middle Ages in a vivid and exciting form that will appeal to visitors of all ages.

Images of the castle


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Useful infos

Latitude: 49.457883
Longitude: 11.0758463
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Map of Nuremberg Castle