History of the castle
In 1245 the castle was built by Count Diether V von Katzenelnbogen to protect the St. Goar tax collectors and soon developed into one of the mightiest fortresses in the Middle Rhine region. Only ten years passed before it successfully withstood the onslaught of a strong army sent by the League of Rhenish Cities and resisted the ensuing siege for more than a year.
During the next centuries, the original customs castle was turned into an increasingly important admistration centre of the counts von Katzenelnbogen. Through skilful financial politics and marriage the lineage became one of the leading families along the Middle Rhine.
After the construction of Neukatzenelnbogen Castle (today simply known as “Katz”) on the other side of the Rhine in the 14th century, Rheinfels Castle became even more important, as the counts were now able to block the river valley.
In 1479, when the lineage of the counts of Katzenelnbogen died out at the height of their territorial power, the ownership of the castle passed to the House of Hesse.
The landgraves of Hesse turned the “Rheinfels” into a splendid renaissance castle, which, with its surrounding fortification, became one of the strongest fortresses in Germany.
In 1692 “Rheinfels” Castle was the only fortress on the left bank of the Rhine that was able to defend itself against the attacks by the French troops sent by Louis XIV. The turbulent history of the castle came to an end in 1794, when it was handed over – without a struggle- to the French revolutionary army. In 1796/97 the exterior walls and the castle were blown up.
Today’s vistors of “Rheinfels” Castle are surprised by the sheer size of the ruins as well as by the labyrinth of trenches and tunnels, many of which can still be visited. Yet one does not get a picture of the castle’s military and cultural significance without entering the museum, located in the former chapel. Here, ancient plans and historical illustrations can be seen, which bring back to life the history and legends of this once-proud fortress.