|Near Würzburg, Germany|
Fortress Marienberg and the Old Bridge
Marienberg Fortress (German: Festung Marienberg) is a prominent landmark on the Main river in Würzburg, Germany. The mighty Fortress Marienberg is the symbol of Würzburg and served as a home of the prince-bishops for nearly five centuries. It has been a fort since ancient times. After Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden conquered the area in 1631, the castle was reconstructed in the Baroque style. Today, it is a park and museum.
A refuge castle was on the site from at least the late Bronze Age (Urnfield culture). The oldest extant structure is Saint Mary's Church (Marienkirche), built in AD 704. The fortifications date to the 13th century. The castle became the residence of the prince-bishops of Würzburg in 1253.
In 1482, the main castle was encircled by a medieval ring wall containing the Scherenberg gate. Some of the parts of the fortress are accessible to the public such as the Scherenberg-Tor (Gate) the Burgfried (keep), a chapel, a well house and Fürstenbaumuseum (Bibra Stairs / Lorenz von Bibra apartments, and the Julius Echter apartments).
In May 1525, during the German Peasants' War (Bauernkrieg), a peasant army of 15,000 men surrounded the fortification, which was the seat of the bishop of Würzburg, but could not penetrate the concentric walls . When their leader, Florian Geyer, went to Rothenburg ob der Tauber in early June to procure the heavy guns needed to attempt to breach the walls, the leaderless peasant army camped out around the castle allowed themselves to be outflanked by the professional army of the Swabian League. In the ensuing battle, more than 8,000 peasants were slaughtered by the princes; and Bishop Konrad II von Thungen was able to return to his fortress, from which he had earlier fled. The Nazis would lionize Geyer 410 years later, as part of their desire to connect with the common man and turn them away from the Catholic Church.
In about 1600, Julius Echter rebuilt the fortress into a Renaissance palace. After the conquest by Gustav II Adolf of Sweden in 1631, during the Thirty Years' War, the fortress was reconstructed as an even more formidable baroque fortification, and a princely park was laid out.
The fortress was captured during both the Napoleonic Wars and the Second World War. In the latter case the undefended fortress was captured when the US Army quickly occupied the Marienberg side of the Main river, across from the city centre of Würzburg.
The Baroque Armory, built 1702-1712, houses the Mainfränkisches Museum, an collection of Franconian works of art, including world-famous sculptures by Tilman Riemenschneider. The Fürstenbau Museum in the princes’ wing of the fortress offers a stroll through 1200 years of Würzburg’s history.
- Gunther Franz, Der deutsche Bauernkrieg, (Darmstadt, 1979), passim.
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