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Nürburg is a town in the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 district of Ahrweiler
Ahrweiler is a district in the north of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is bounded by the districts Euskirchen, Rhein-Sieg and the city Bonn in the state North Rhine-Westphalia, and the districts of Neuwied, Mayen-Koblenz and Vulkaneifel.- History :The region was conquered by the Romans under...

, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate
Rhineland-Palatinate is one of the 16 states of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has an area of and about four million inhabitants. The capital is Mainz. English speakers also commonly refer to the state by its German name, Rheinland-Pfalz ....

. It is also the name of the local castle, Burg Nürburg (Nürburg Castle), which was built in the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

. The town is best known for its 24 kilometer race track, the Nürburgring
The Nürburgring is a motorsport complex around the village of Nürburg, Germany. It features a modern Grand Prix race track built in 1984, and a much longer old North loop track which was built in the 1920s around the village and medieval castle of Nürburg in the Eifel mountains. It is located about...

. Five kilometers of the track are used for a Formula One
Formula One
Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or F1 and referred to officially as the FIA Formula One World Championship, is the highest class of single seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile . The "formula" designation in the name refers to a set of rules with which...

 grand prix.


The Nürburg rises above the village of the same name (in the district of Ahrweiler) on the second-highest hill in the Eifel (678m). The castle and hill are regarded as a characteristic feature of the Eifel. Even though it is one of the most significant castles in the Eifel, it nevertheless still needs to be researched in full. There are almost no written sources relating to the history of the castle's construction in the Middle Ages. The hill is referred to in documentary evidence in AD 954 by the name mone nore, which means black hill. In descriptions of boundaries which served to clarify which property belonged to whom, it was used as a significant reference marker. The name Nürburg is thought to derive from mons nore, as the color of the volcanic basalt used to build the castle exhibits an unusually dark color.

The Nürburg is considered to be the "highest castle in Rhineland-Pfalz", and on a clear day, the spires of the Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church in Cologne, Germany. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and is a World Heritage Site...

 may be seen.

Prehistory and Middle Ages

The history of when the Nürburg was established has not been definitively clarified. There is no evidence to suggest that it was built instead of a Roman fort, the commonly held view in the local area. Discoveries of Roman coins do not constitute sufficient evidence. Owing to a similarity between names, one legend even traces the Nürburg back to a fort established by Emperor Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

. Among other things, archaeological barrows attest to the fact that the area surrounding the castle was populated in early historical times. However, there are no indications that the castle hill was once home to a refuge or prehistoric walled fortification, as is occasionally thought.

While local historians held the view that the castle had been erected by Count Theoderich I of Are (who died in 1132) as a refuge for the ruling court of Adenau
Adenau is a town in the High Eifel in Germany. It is known as the Johanniterstadt because the Order of Saint John was based there in the Middle Ages. The town's coat of arms combines the black cross of the Electorate of Cologne with the lion of the lords of Nürburg...

, nowadays his son Ulrich von Are, the self-proclaimed Count of Nürburg, is considered to be the person responsible for commissioning the building of the castle, even though there is no source material to back this theory. Castle Are is situated above Altenahr
Altenahr is a municipality in the district of Ahrweiler, in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is situated on the river Ahr, in the Eifel mountains, approx. 10 km west of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler....

, and was built by a group of counts, probably the Ahrgau counts. The group was associated with the Carolingian nobility and named itself after it.

The Nürburg is situated 20 km south of Castle Are, where the Counts of Are belonged to a family circle whose members can be traced back to the 9th century. In the 10th century, they are alleged to have held rights in what would subsequently become the village of Nürburg. The counts were able to build up an independent power base within the High Eifel and at the upper Ahr and this power base was centered between Adenau, Nürburg, and Altenahr. The counts were divided up between several ancestral lines: the Are-Hochstaden line held the property in the village of Nürburg.

Around 1220/30, a different ancestral line built Neuenahr Castle. With the death of Count Lothar in around 1246, the Counts of Are-Hochstaden died out. Their estate was inherited by the Archbishop of Cologne (Konrad von Are-Hochstaden
Konrad von Hochstaden
Konrad von Hochstaden was Archbishop of Cologne from 1238 to 1261.-Life:Konrad was a son of Count Lothar of Hochstadt, canon of St. Maria ad Gradus and of the old Cologne Cathedral, and Mathilde of Vianden. His date of birth is unknown, and nothing is known of his early youth...


Count Ulrich von Nürburg first appears in documents linking him to the Nürburg in 1169. He is considered to be the person responsible for commissioning the building of the castle. There is a document originating from 1166 in which Are and Nürburg Castles are mentioned within the context of rights which the Archbishop of Cologne granted to Count Ulrich and his family. At that time, the castle was an open house of the Archbishop of Cologne: the opening right affording him access to the castle and the option to use it if he needed to. In those days, the counts of Are-Nürburg were supporters of the Staufian imperial family.

In 1246, the Archbishop of Cologne was presented the counties of Hochstaden and Are (therefore also the Nürburg) as a gift. At this time, the construction of the Cologne Cathedral had started, so stone to be used for the Cathedral were also diverted in use of the construction of the main tower of the Nürburg. In 1270, Archbishop Konrad bequeathed his inheritance of the region to the archbishopric of Cologne
Archbishopric of Cologne
The Electorate of Cologne was an ecclesiastical principality of the Holy Roman Empire and existed from the 10th to the early 19th century. It consisted of the temporal possessions of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cologne . It was ruled by the Archbishop in his function as prince-elector of...

, who acquired permanent control when Count Rupert II disavowed his claims to the castle. From then on, the castle was an official seat of the territorial state of the electorate of Cologne, which existed until 1793. Owing to the castle's increasing decline, Adenau later became the seat of the office of Nürburg.

During the period of 1340–46, extensive building work was carried out at the castle. Evidence shows that the work on the outer wards of the castle including the towers were completed. After the outerwall and towers were completed around 1369, the castle was often pledged to local officials until is ultimate decline into disrepair in the 18th century.

Modern Age

Historians suspected that the officials who were pledged the use of the castle from the 14–16th century were more concerned with exploiting the castle than with preserving it. This was reflected in the large amount of damage that Augustin von Braunsberg noted when he financed its repair in 1534. According to his report, Augustin had the gate to the valley re-erected and had a stable built in the courtyard. A storm had also torn off the roof of the main tower and damaged the vaults within. In order to prevent its total collapse, the tower was reconstructed in 1535. Augustin also financed the construction of a brewery, cowshed, meat house, and bakery within the walls.

In 1587, the castle was plundered by Dutch soldiers. There are also reports from the early 17th century outlining the damage to, and decline of the castle. An occupation in 1605 by southern European soldiers caused significant damage. The soldiers removed the lead bracing in the main tower leaving it in a perilous state of near collapse. In 1607, funds were raised by the local achiepiscopal commission, and restoration work carried out in 1612, where 77 windows were installed to make the castle more livable. However, that same year, a severe storm tore the chimneys and roofs off some of the buildings leaving the castle in a nearly ruined state. In 1633, the castle was occupied by Swedish troops as a defensible position, and by 1656, the castle fell into a state of near unlivability. Despite the crumbling walls, the castle was still seen an important military site due to its high position and relative ease of defense.

In 1752, the main tower of Castle Nürburg was used as a prison until the dungeons fell into a state of total ruin. From this point, the castle was abandoned and left to decay, as farmers in the area continued to remove stones from the site for use as local building material. The Burgstube hotel at the base of the castle evidences some of this pirating of the stone in its foundation that dates to the 17th century. The Franciscan friars from Adenau issued a decree from Adenau to take as much stone as they needed in order to repair their convent.

Drawings from the late 18th century show the castle as a complete ruin. In 1792, the French occupied the left side of the Rhine, and in 1801, the French army destroyed the remaining portions of the outer wall, leaving only the inner wall, and the main tower standing to attest to what was the Nürburg.

Restoration work started in 1846–78 where the main tower was renewed. A stone staircase was built into the tower, with the uppermost vault being reconstructed in order to provide views over the entire High Eifel. In 1871, the inner wall and main gate were completely reconstructed into the form seen today, complete with non-original fairytale style conical tops on the wall towers.

In 1953–71, the castle was transferred to the administration of Rhineland-Pfalz. As money poured into Nürburg for repair and expansion projects to the Nürburgring, extensive work was again carried out on the castle. The walls of the wards were rebuilt, and the shoring up of the towers completed in order to make the castle safe for tourists.