Frankenstein Castle (Burg Frankenstein) is a hilltop castle in Eberstadt about 5 km south of Darmstadt in Germany. Modern claims of the castle having an influence on the work of Mary Shelley remain controversial.
Before 1250, Lord Konrad II. Reiz von Breuberg erected Frankenstein Castle and since named himself von und zu Frankenstein. The first document proving the existence of the castle in 1252 is bearing his name. He was the founder of the free imperial lordship Frankenstein, which was subject only to the jurisdiction of the emperor, with possessions in Nieder-Beerbach, Darmstadt, Ockstadt, Wetterau and Hesse. Additionally the Frankensteins held other possession and Sovereignty-rights as Burgraves in Zwingenberg (Auerbach (Bensheim)), in Darmstadt, Groß-Gerau, Frankfurt am Main and Bensheim. The hill whereupon the castle stands was probably occupied by another castle since the 11th century, which fell into ruins after Castle Frankenstein was built a couple of yards to the northwest. Claims of an even older predecessor upon the hill are widespread, but historically unlikely.
In 1363, the castle was split into two parts and owned by two different families of the lords and knights of Frankenstein. At the beginning of the 15th century, the castle was enlarged and modernized. The Frankenstein knights became independent from the Counts of Katzenelnbogen again.
Being both strong opponents of the reformation and following territorial conflicts, connected disputes with the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt, as well as the adherence to the catholic faith and the associated "right of patronage", the family head Lord Johannes I. decided to sell the lordship to the Landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1662, after various lawsuits at the Imperial Chamber Court.
The castle was used as refuge and a hospital afterward, falling into ruins in the 18th century. Two towers, which are so distinctive today, are a historically inaccurate restoration of the mid-19th century.
Sometime prior to 1968, a restaurant was built within the castle. In 1978, American Airman from the 435th Transportation squadron stationed at Rhein Mein Air Base founded an annual Halloween festival at the castle, which has grown to become one of the biggest Halloween festivals in Europe. In 1977, the 440th Signal Battalion organized a 13 kilometer running race routed along steep forest trails from Cambrai-Fritsch Kaserne to the castle. The Frankenstein Castle Run was held until 2008, when American forces left Darmstadt and the base was turned over to the German government. The City of Darmstadt organized a final race in October 2008.
Johann Conrad Dippel
There have been claims of Dippel influencing Mary Shelley to write her Frankenstein novel, though there is no mention of the castle in Mary's journals from the time. It is known that in 1814, prior to writing the famous novel, Mary took a journey on the river Rhine. She spent a few hours in the town of Gernsheim, which is located about ten miles away from the castle. Though much of what has been said about Dippel to support this theory has turned out to be false, several nonfiction books on the life of Mary Shelley claim Dippel as a possible influence.
Notes and references
- http://www.eberstadt-frankenstein.de/content/066_Any_monster_at_home_English_version.pdf Frankenstein - the monster's home?
- http://www.graf-von-katzenelnbogen.de/ The History of the County of Katzenelnbogen and the First Riesling of the World
- http://www.renegadenation.de/darmstadt/frankensteinengl.html Frankenstein Castle, Shelley and the Construction of a Myth
- Hobbler, Dorthy and Thomas. The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein. Back Bay Books; August 20, 2007
- Garrett, Martin. Mary Shelley. Oxford University Press, 2002
- Seymour, Miranda. Mary Shelley. Atlanta, GA: Grove Press, 2002. pg 110-111
- Art. "Frankenstein", in: Hessen, hg. v. Georg W. Sante, Stuttgart 1960 (= Handbuch der historischen Stätten Deutschlands, 4. Bd.), S. 117
- Nieder-Beerbach, in: Georg Dehio, Handbuch der Deutschen Kunstdenkmäler: Hessen, bearb. v. Magnus Backes, 1966, S. 622
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