Towering over the city, this majestic red sandstone structure is a vast residential complex that was built between the 12th and 17th centuries. Originally a supremely well-fortified Gothic castle, but now mostly in ruins, this was the seat of the House of Wittelsbach palatines. After remodeling in the 16th century, the castle became one of Germany’s most beautiful Renaissance residences. However, its splendor was extinguished during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) and the 1689 war with France, when most of the structure was destroyed.
Heidelberg is widely held to be Germany’s most romantic city and Heidelberg Castle was a favorite target of early 19th-century revisionism, with poets such as Achim von Arnim, Clemens Brentano, Ludwig Gorres, and Joseph von Eichendorff recasting it as the cradle of German Romanticism. The ruins came to symbolize the artistic, intellectual, and political return to Germany’s national roots that the poets so much wanted to see. It was during this period that Count Charles de Graimberg acted to prevent further looting of stone from the site in an attempt to preserve the ruins. Even today, the sprawling castle complex provides an extraordinarily majestic scene. Since being destroyed by the French in the 17th century, this once-important residence is regarded as Germany’s most palatial ruin.
One of the most important figures in the history of Heidelberg Castle was Elector Ruprecht III, a member of the Wittelsbach dynasty. Born in Amberg in 1352, Ruprecht became Elector of the Palatinate in 1398 and spearheaded a successful campaign to depose Wenceslas, the Holy Roman Emperor, in 1400. Ruprecht was elected emperor in his place, although his election was not universally recognized. He died in Oppenheim in 1410, having failed to restore the crown to its former glory.
Inside the Gothic-style Ruprecht’s Palace, there are two models of the castle showing the various additions through the ages. In 1524, Ludwig V added a residential building known as Ludwig’s Palace. The Glazed Palace (1549), which is named after its mirrored hall, symbolizes the architectural transition from Gothic to Renaissance style. Ottheinrich’s Palace is a splendid example of German early-Renaissance architecture, while Friedrich’s Palace has a typical late-Renaissance facade. This was followed by the English Palace. The jewel in the crown was undoubtedly the castle garden of Friedrich V (r. 1613-19), once described as the eighth wonder of the world.
Erected in the early 15th century, this tower was remodeled frequently in subsequent years.
Dating from 1601-07, this is one of the most recent parts of the castle. Inside are statues of members of the Wittelsbach dynasty, including Charles the Great.
Built during the reign of the Elector Ruprecht , this 14th -century tower once formed part of the castle defenses. It was damaged by lightning in 1764, after which the townspeople took its stone for building.
This Gothic loggia features early Romanesque columns taken from the palace of Charlemagne in Ingelheim.
The German Pharmacy Museum is housed within the shell of this Renaissance building. It features Baroque and Rococo workshops and a traveling pharmacy.
Built in around 1400 by a master-builder from Frankfurt, this is the oldest surviving part of the castle.
Heidelberg Castle has survived as a picturesque ruin, and its imposing structure occupies a commanding position. From its terrace there is a beautiful view of the medieval Old Town of Heidelberg.
Church of the Holy Ghost
Palatine electors’ tombs can be seen in this early 15th -century church in Heidelberg’s Old Town.
These imposing ruins in the castle complex are the remains of a 17th -century building that Friedrich V built for his wife, Elizabeth Stuart.
THE GIANT WINE CASK
To the left of Friedrich’s Palace, a staircase leads to the cellars where a giant wine cask is stored. This symbol of the electors’ love of good wine was built in 1750 and holds 48,620 gallons (221,000 liters). The wine was piped directly from the cask to the King’s Hall.
Mid-1100s: Construction of a castle begins under Count Palatine Conrad.
1400: Ruprecht III’s palace is built – the first use of the castle as a royal residence.
1556-9: Ottheinrich builds his Renaissance-style palace.
1614-19: A garden is commissioned by Prince-Elector Friedrich V for his wife.
1689-93: The castle is destroyed in the War of the Palatine Succession.
1742-64: Reconstruction takes place but fire destroys several buildings.
1810: Attempts are made to preserve castle ruins.