Castles aren’t just those monumental beauties in the Loire Valley or those feudal forts in the Midi Pyrenees. Alsace has some architectural wonders as well.
Medieval castles were the threshold of power. They were the military strongholds, but also the dwellings of local lords and their servants. Sometimes they were even the administrative centers. Most of the castles in Alsace are in the mountains, watching over the plains and valleys. Some have resisted time.
There exist different types of castles. The castles for kings and emperors boasted a large hall to receive guests, a chapel, chambers, and domestic quarters. Castles in the plains were surrounded by moats and ramparts and had a great wooden tower to protect the lords.
The most impressive castles are those on the hills with elaborate stairs and hallways carved into the mountain stone. The lord ruled his kingdom from the panoramic summit, dominating his subjects.
Here are a few of our choices:
The Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle is one of the most popular monuments in France with 600,000 visitors per year. It was built in the 12th century and occupies a strategic position on the wine and trade routes on the North and South, and East and West axes. It was reduced to ruins during the Thirty Years War. It’s been restored in the 1890s and rebuilt recently, in respect of Middle Age architecture.
The Chateau d’Andlau was built out of granite that was excavated nearby in the 1200s. Now it is only a ruin, but one can still admire the impressing masterwork of what’s left of the inner court. The castle is on two levels. It consists of a long residential building flanked at each end by circular towers about 10 meters. One side is protected by a mountain flank; the other is protected by a moat. The castle was classified as a historical monument in 1926.
Ribeauvillé is dominated by three castles that belonged to the powerful Lords of Ribeaupierre.
Even though it’s the smallest of the three,Saint-Ulrich castle is by far the most impressive, and oldest. Its construction started in the 11th century. The castle features three architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic and Early Renaissance.
The Girsberg castle was built in the 13th century by the Ribeaupierre, and then was given to house the knights of Girsberg in 1304.
The Haut-Ribeaupierre castle is the highest of the three at 642 meters. Only the circular keep stands today, on top of which there is a panoramic view over the Alsace Plain and the Black Forest of Germany in the distance.
There are more than 500 charted castles or ruins in Alsace to testify of its feudal past. This was and still is a region of power, influence, and of riches. The castles and picturesque medieval villages are said to have inspired Disney World. But once you’ve seen them for yourselves, nothing can rival with this mythical paradise.