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Kastellaun in the Hunsrück

From whatever direction you approach Kastellaun, you will always be impressed by the ruins of the castle, which can be seen towering over the town from afar. Topographically, the position of this 13th century castle is optimally situated on a rocky peak with slopes of up to 30 m steep to the east and west. The singular defence provided by this location in the Middle Ages, becomes quite obvious when you stand at the foot of the steep slopes and look up at the position of the fortress, or when you stand on the rocky plateau and let your gaze wander over the town. Massive walls, combined with the keep, blocked off the north side —altogether a typical medieval fortress with palace (a residential building with a large hall and a heated apartment on the upper floor), outbuildings and a courtyard. The Earls of Sponheim (the "Back County"), who, in order to secure their ownership of the Nahe and the Mosel Rivers, had realigned the boundaries of a relatively enclosed area in the middle of Hunsrück with the towns of Kirchberg, Gemünden, Koppenstein and Kastellaun. In the year 1305 Earl Simon II of Sponheim granted the city charter to the present location in the valley basin, and thus promoted the economic development of the medieval town, which is centrally located on the Hunsrück plain and was intersected by important routes. This had such a positive effect that, a short time later, Emperor Heinrich I also authorized a weekly market. Starting in the year 1309, the weekly market rapidly consolidated the economic importance of Kastellaun and the surrounding region. This is especially clearly recounted in a history of Kastellaun by Daniel Meisner from the year 1645, which, together with an engraving by Merian, served as the basis for the restoration of the castle in the 1990s.

In the first century of its existence, the fortress was primarily important for its military significance. It was important for the Earls of Sponheim not only to assert their ownership against the expansive politics of the Trier Electorate and archiepiscopal seat under Archbishop Balduin of Luxemburg (1307-1354), but also to counterbalance the ambition of the Earl Palatines from the Electoral Palatinate, who were trying to create a position of power in neighbouring Simmern. Later the fortress was converted to the administrative seat for Kastellaun, a comfortable residence for the Prince's family, and a popular meeting place for shooting parties. In the year 1689, the castle was destroyed by French troops and never again rebuilt, though some parts were still useable. Today, the architectural integration of the town with the lower and upper parts of the castle is still impressive. So it was not surprising when the Rhineland-Palatinate provincial government re-granted the city charter in 1969. And in the great tradition of Sponheim markets, there is the annual "Beller Market" here in July.

Not far from Kastellaun lie the ruins of Castle Balduinseck, quite concealed in a deeply cut, narrow valley. This mighty edifice was erected in the year 1325 by Archbishop Balduin of Trier as a border defence against the County of Sponheim. Rauschenburg Castle, from the year 1332 a few kilometres further north near Mermuth above the Ehrbachklamm Gorge, had a similar function. Contrary to most other castles of the region Balduinseck was never destroyed by enemy troops, but was left to deteriorate having been abandoned after losing its function.

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