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|50 kilometers (31 mi) south of Stuttgart
Hohenzollern Castle (German: Burg Hohenzollern (help·info)) is the ancestral seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern.[n 1] The third of three castles on the site, it is located atop Berg Hohenzollern, a 234 m (768 ft) bluff rising above the towns of Hechingen and Bisingen in the foothills of the Swabian Alps of central Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
A popular tourist destination, Hohenzollern castle has over 300,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most visited castles in Germany.
The first fortress on the mountain was constructed in the early 11th century. Over the years the House of Hohenzollern split several times, but the castle remained in the Swabian branch, the dynastic seniors of the Franconian-Brandenburgian cadet branch that later acquired its own imperial throne. This castle was completely destroyed in 1423 after a ten-month siege by the free imperial cities of Swabia. A larger and sturdier structure was constructed from 1454 to 1461, which served as a refuge for the Catholic Swabian Hohenzollerns, including during the Thirty Years' War. By the end of the 18th century it was thought to have lost its strategic importance and gradually fell into disrepair, leading to the demolition of several dilapidated buildings. Today, only the medieval chapel remains.
The final castle was built between 1846 and 1867 as a family memorial by Hohenzollern scion King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Architect Friedrich August Stüler based his design on English Gothic Revival architecture and the Châteaux of the Loire Valley. No member of the Hohenzollern family was in permanent or regular residence when it was completed, and none the three Deutsche Kaiser of the late 19th and early 20th century German Empire ever occupied the castle; in 1945 it briefly became the home of the former Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, son of the last Hohenzollern monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Among the historical artifacts of Prussian history contained in the castle are the Crown of Wilhelm II, some of the personal effects of King Frederick the Great, and a letter from US President George Washington thanking Hohenzollern descendant Baron von Steuben for his service in the American Revolutionary War.
The castle sits atop the 855 meters (2,805 ft) Berg Hohenzollern, an isolated 855 m (2,805 ft) promontory on the western side of the Swabian Alps. Located between Hechingen and Bisingen approximately 50 kilometers (31 mi) south of Stuttgart, the mountain lends its name to the local geographic region, der Zollernalbkreis, and is known among locals as Zollerberg (Zoller Mountain) or simply Zoller.
Only written records exist of the original medieval castle of the House of Hohenzollern. While first mentioned in 1267, it appears to have dated back to the 11th century. Attacked in 1423, it was besieged for over a year by troops from the Swabian Free Imperial Cities before being taken and totally destroyed on 15 May 1423.
Construction on a second, stronger castle began in 1454. It was captured by Württemberg troops in 1634 midway in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), then fell under Habsburg control for about a century. During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748) it was occupied in the winter of 1744/45 by French soldiers. Returned to Habsburg control after the war, it was rarely occupied and began to fall to ruin after the last Austrian owner left the castle in 1798. By the beginning of the 19th century only the Chapel of St. Michael remained usable.
The current castle was built by Hohenzollern scion Crown-Prince (and later King) Frederick William IV of Prussia. Traveling through southern Germany en route to Italy in 1819 he wished to learn about his family's roots, so climbed to the top of Mount Hohenzollern.
He engaged Friedrich August Stüler, who had been appointed Architect of the King in 1842 while still a student and heir of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, to design a new castle. Stüler began work on an ornate design influenced by English Gothic Revival architecture and the Châteaux of the Loire Valley in 1846. The impressive entryway is the work of the Engineer-Officer Moritz Karl Ernst von Prittwitz, considered the leading fortifications engineer in Prussia. The sculptures around and inside the castle are the work of Gustav Willgohs. Like Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Hohenzollern Castle is a monument to German Romanticism which incorporated an idealized vision of a medieval knight's castle. Lacking some of the fantastic elements and excesses of Neuschwanstein, the castle's construction served to enhance the reputation of the Prussian Royal Family.
Construction began in 1850, and was funded entirely by the Brandenburg-Prussian and the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen lines of the Hohenzollern family. Construction was completed on 3 October 1867, under Frederick William IV's brother King William I.
After the castle was rebuilt, it was not regularly occupied, but rather used primarily as a showpiece. None of the Hohenzollern Kaisers of the German Empire lived there; only the last Prussian Crown Prince William stayed for several months following his flight from Potsdam ahead of Soviet army forces during the closing months of World War II. He and his wife Crown Princess Cecilie are buried there, as the family's estates in Brandenburg had been occupied by the Soviet Union at the time of their passings.
Since 1952, the castle has been filled with art and historical artifacts from the collections of the Hohenzollern family and the former Hohenzollern Museum in Schloss Monbijou. Two of the major pieces are the Crown of Wilhelm II and a uniform that belonged to King Frederick the Great. From 1952 until 1991 the caskets of Frederick Wilhelm I and Frederick the Great were in the chapel, but were moved back to Potsdam following German reunification in 1991.
The castle was damaged in an earthquake on 3 September 1978, and was under repair until the mid-1990s.
With over 300,000 visitors per year Hohenzollern castle is one of the most visited castles in Germany. It is still privately owned, with two-thirds belonging to the Brandenburg-Prussian family line (presently Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia), and the balance by the Swabian (Karl Friedrich, Prince of Hohenzollern). Since 1954, the Princess Kira of Prussia Foundation has used it to provide a summer camp for needy children from Berlin.
- William, German Crown Prince
- Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
- Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia, in the castle cemetery
- Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, in the castle cemetery
- Princess Kira of Prussia, in the castle cemetery
- Prince Hubertus of Prussia
- Des Prinzen neue Töne. In: Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 10. Mai 2003(German)
- Herbert Gers. Hohenzollern Castle. 5th ed. Hechingen: Administration of Hohenzollern Castle, 1984.
- Kennzeichen BL Heimatkunde für den Zollernalbkreis; Herausgeber:Waldemar Lutz, Jürgen Nebel und Hansjörg Noe; Lörrach, Stuttgart, 1987 ISBN 3-12-258310-0; S.121/2
- "Damage Heavy As Big Quake Rocks Germany". The Milwaukee Sentinel (Google news). UPI. 4 September 1978. p. 2. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
- Rolf Bothe: Burg Hohenzollern. Von der mittelalterlichen Burg zum nationaldynastischen Denkmal im 19. Jahrhundert. Berlin 1979, ISBN 3-7861-1148-0
- Ulrich Feldhahn (Hg.): Beschreibung und Geschichte der Burg Hohenzollern. Berlin Story Verlag, Berlin, 1.Auflage 2006, ISBN 3-929829-55-X
- Patrick Glückler: Burg Hohenzollern. Kronjuwel der Schwäbischen Alb. Hechingen 2002; 127 Seiten; ISBN 3-925012-34-6
- Rudolf Graf von Stillfried-Alcantara: Beschreibung und Geschichte der Burg Hohenzollern. Nachdruck der Ausgabe von 1870. Berlin Story Verlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-929829-55-X
- Friedrich Hossfeld und Hans Vogel: Die Kunstdenkmäler Hohenzollerns, erster Band: Kreis Hechingen. Holzinger, Hechingen 1939, S. 211 ff.
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