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Hanstein Castle: A remarkable castle complex in Central Germany

Marija Georgievska

Hanstein Castle is a ruined castle which is one of the most famous castle complexes in Central Germany. It is located in the Eichsfeld in Thuringia.

The name of the nobles von Hanstein derives from the castle, and the best known notable of the family was Fritz Huschke von Hanstein who was a German racing driver who served as Porsche’s public relations manager and chief of the racing department. He was directly involved in the shaping of the Porsche that we all know today.

The castle’s history goes centuries back, and for the first time, it appeared in historical documents where the chronicler Lambert of Hersfeld wrote that it belonged to the Saxon Count Otto von Northeim and was destroyed by King Henry IV in 1070. Otto didn’t lose the property, and after he had made peace with Henry, he rebuilt the damaged parts.

The House of Welf inherited the castle in 1203, and it was in possession of Count Palatine Henry V. Later, the castle was in possession of Otto IV, the brother of Henry V who granted it to the Archbishopric of Mainz in 1209. According to another chronicle, in 1236 a vassal of the archbishop of Mainz, Hethenricus of Hanstein moved there from Apolda and became a bailiff of lands in the Eichfeld. He held the fief of the castle and took his name from the place.

The Hanstein Castle. Author: Dirk Schmidt. CC BY 3.0

The Hanstein Castle. Author: Dirk Schmidt. CC BY 3.0

 

It is located in the Eichsfeld in Thuringia. Author: Nina. CC BY 3.0

It is located in the Eichsfeld in Thuringia. Author: Nina. CC BY 3.0

The re-building of the whole castle began in 1308 by Heinrich and Lippold von Hanstein who had gotten the permission of Bishop Peter of Aspelt. The parts that were destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War, such as the walls and gates, were rebuilt between 1655 and 1658.

The part that was reconstructed entirely has three storeys, the first floor has beautiful small windows and a vaulted ceiling, the second floor is more like a hall, and the third floor is similar to the second, and it has larger windows.

The castle was inherited by the House of Welf in 1203. Author: FHgitarre. CC BY 2.0

The castle was inherited by the House of Welf in 1203. Author: FHgitarre. CC BY 2.0

In the substructure of the base, there was a cellar which held storage rooms and in the former prison cells. Today, this part is a tourist attraction, and it has a small torture room with few torture instruments for the visitors to see. In the past, the only entrance to the castle was over a drawbridge. There is a structure to the left side of the castle with one large window for which is believed to be the former chapel. Behind this structure, there is a chimney running along outside the façade of another structure. Many different lords had lands on this corner so close to each other.

Since 1990, the castle belonged to the municipal council of Bernhagen. Author: Michael Sander. CC BY 3.0

Since 1990, the castle belonged to the municipal council of Bernhagen. Author: Michael Sander. CC BY 3.0

Even today, the area is the corner between the countries of Thuringia, Hessen, and Lower Saxony. In 1839, a hall for family conferences was built in the castle. Until the 20th-century massive renovations of the castle were made and in 1946 it became a property of the German Democratic Republic.

One of the towers was used as a watch tower by the border guard because the frontier was only several hundred meters away.

In 1946, it became a property of the German Democratic Republic. Author: FHgitarre. CC BY 2.0

In 1946, it became a property of the German Democratic Republic. Author: FHgitarre. CC BY 2.0

Other renovations of the castle started in 1985, but because of the border, tourists were not allowed to come close to it. Since 1990, it belonged to the municipal council of Bernhagen. Hanstein Castle celebrated 700 years in 2008, and today it is known for the Hanstein festivals and other events like concerts, and exhibitions of cribs.

The most beautiful view of the surroundings can be seen from the north tower. Author: Hauser1968. CC BY 3.0

The most beautiful view of the surroundings can be seen from the north tower. Author: Hauser1968. CC BY 3.0

Inside the castle, on the white renovated walls a lot of lifeless medieval paintings of barons and ladies of the Hanstein family can be seen, and there are portraits of Fritz Huschke von Hanstein with his racing cars sticking out from the rest of the family tree.

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The northern tower offers beautiful views over the surroundings. One of the most fantastic views is the Brocken mountain in the Harz mountains which can be seen on a clear day. The castle is also a destination for hiking tours and a film location. Several scenes from the miniseries Der Medicus were filmed on the site.