Frankenstein Castle, Hesse

It was another day for some fun and adventure as I always say. Deelow was eager to explore too since it was her off. I did a little bit of research and learned that Castle Frankenstein was in Germany! It’s an hour away from where we were staying. So we left around 9 in the morning and Deelow drove while I navigated. We got to the town and I navigated a wrong building so we made a U-turn and took another to Josephweg Road and up the mountain and we missed it again and we made a turn and finally reached the parking and park. There were still a few vehicles in the parking lot.

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Memorial by the parking lot

We saw the walls of the castle from within the bushes but there was no trail there so we walked to the road. On the way, we saw a big cross attached to a tower with some bouquets of flowers. Then we walked to the road leading up to the castle. It was kind of tough since we didn’t expect the road to be steep. The first stop we made was across the entrance where there was a big, cube open space with a sign of the history of the castle overlooking the town of Muhltal. Unfortunately, we don’t read Deutsch so we don’t have any idea of the history of the castle.

There were cars parked on the side of the castle and as we went in we saw there were some people setting up a stage. We were happy to find out the area was free and as we look at the chapel here is a little information where the name of the castle came from.

 

“Frankenstein is a German name consisting of two words: The Franks are a Germanic tribe and “stein” is the German word for “stone”. Accordingly, the meaning of Frankenstein is “Stone of the Franks”. The word “stein” is common in names of landscapes, places and castles in Germany. Consequently, the term “Frankenstein” is a rather ordinary name for a castle in this region.

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The Castle’s souvenir store

After learning where the historically accurate name of the castle came from, we enjoy hearing about the mythical name from. It was popularized by Mary Shelley’s famous novel “Frankenstein.” The man who created a monster or is he? Anyway there was still plenty of time to talk about the theories about this castle, but let us explore it through a historical perspective.  We first visited the chapel by the entrance. The only intact structure in this ancient castle, there was a carving of a knight in armor in the entrance and on the side was another carving of a knight and his lady praying in front of each other while the coat of arms hung above them. The chapel was simple with a few pews, an altar and a crucifix. I might have an idea who that couple was and so here is start of the castle’s history.

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Konrad II Reiz von Breuberg and the interior of the chapel

“The exact time of origin of Frankenstein Castle is uncertain. The castle was first mentioned in 1252 in a charter by Konrad II. Reiz von Breuberg and his wife Elisabeth von Weiterstadt. From their marriage, the noble family of the lords of and Frankenstein. From the phrase “super castro in frangenstein” (“at the castle on the Frankenstein”) it is clear that the castle was already built and used at that time. Most historians assume that the year was 1240. Thereafter named himself von und zu Frankenstein.

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The exterior of the chapel

He was the founder of the free imperial Barony of Frankenstein, which was subject only to the jurisdiction of the emperor, with possessions in Nieder-Beerbach, Darmstadt, Ockstadt, Wetterau and Hesse. Additionally the Frankensteins held other possession and sovereignty rights as burgraves in Zwingenberg (Auerbach (Bensheim)), in Darmstadt, Groß-Gerau, Frankfurt am Main and Bensheim. The hill on which the castle stands was probably occupied by another castle from the 11th century, which fell into ruins after Frankenstein Castle was built a short distance away to the northwest. Claims of an even older predecessor upon the hill are widespread but historically unlikely.”

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Main tower

We entered through the tower gate and the facade was still intact but after crossing to the other side we were surprised to see it bare with only the side walls and front. The stairs were clearly visible and we were tempted to climb but there was no stairs on the ground. It’s interesting to see the inside of this tower. Then we turned to the East Kennel which basically was garden area. We walked around to the back where the Powder Tower was located.

The tower was separated from the main castle and visible from the parking lot but it also in ruins. It was locked so we went around the castle through the West kennel or gardens and back to the tower gate. We went to the castle’s main building and saw a vault. Can this Dr. Frankenstein’s underground lab? From the information the place was called as “Spilled Construction” so it probably meant it was added later on. Here is the history as it goes on.

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Up the walls

In 1292 the Frankensteins opened the castle to the counts of Katzenelnbogen (County of Katzenelnbogen) Katzenelnbogen and formed an alliance with them.

In 1363, the castle was split into two parts and owned by two different families of the lords and knights of Frankenstein. At the beginning of the 15th century, the castle was enlarged and modernized. The Frankenstein knights became independent of the counts of Katzenelnbogen again.

Around the year 1400 the influence of the Frankensteiner rose. The castle was extended and modernized by a bailey. In 1402 she became, together with Nieder-Beerbach, imperial fief and thus independent of the powerful counts of Katzenelnbogen.”

After that we entered the main hall of the castle where people were assembling  bar counter for the upcoming event tonight. The walls were all in ruins and we went to the kitchen room and climb to the stairs and cross in the wall corridor to the tower. Only the tower was remain intact of the castle

Economically, the Frankensteiners were doing very well. In the 16th century, much was built and expanded. The castle Frankenstein reached in this time the still existing extents.

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Map of the Castle

Being both strong opponents of the reformation and following territorial conflicts, connected disputes with the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt, as well as the adherence to the Roman Catholic faith and the associated “right of patronage”, the family head Lord John I decided to sell the lordship to the Landgraves of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1662, after various lawsuits at the Imperial Chamber Court.

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Ruins of the inner courtyard

In 1670, the barons of Frankenstein retreated to Franconia (Ullstadt) and bought there a new rule, after Landgrave Ludwig VI. from Herren-Darmstadt the castle Frankenstein had bought for 109,000 guilders including the rule. 

The landgrave, however, set his priorities in the territorial possession of the Frankensteiner instead of taking care of the castle. As a result, the castle fell slowly and served until the 18th century as an invalid house and refuge during the conquest wars of Louis XIV of France.

The castle was used as a refuge and a hospital afterward, falling into ruins in the 18th century. Even the rumors about hidden treasures and the destructive zest of the treasure hunters did not do the castle well. Walls were torn down and cellars destroyed – unfortunately, there was not much left of the outer bailey.”

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Outer walls

We reached the top of the tower and had a view of the mountain and village, and it was beautiful and creepy at the same time. The creaking floors and the bare walls gave the gothic horror it deserved. We went down the small spiral stairs and back to where we came from. At the entrance of the main building, we looked at the remains of what used to be a cistern. The castle grounds were getting busier as people set up a stage for an upcoming event. To end the history of the castle here is the last details during the 19th century onwards.

The then wife of the castle managers then worried with their avarice for the destruction of the core castle. The complete inventory, the lead of the roofs, the bricks and wooden stairs were turned into money. The farmers of the neighboring villages also used the castle as a cheap quarry until there was hardly any stone left on the other.

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Exit to trails

Grand Duke Ludwig III. tried to give the castle Frankenstein new life in the middle of the 19th century – more or less successful. It has been faultily and inaccurately restored, floors have been added, which never existed. The two towers that are so distinctive today are a historically inaccurate restoration carried out in the mid-19th century.

We exit the castle grounds and headed to the Burg Frankenstein Restaurant, but as we approached we saw a stairs leading to an arch to the forest. Deelow first went down and I shortly followed and seeing that the forest trail was longer she suggested we explore it…so we did.

The Myths and Legends about Burg Frankenstein

There were different trails along the castle grounds and since we had a little information about the legends about the castle we decided to take a walk and followed the trails wherever it may lead us. One of the most popular ones was the name of the castle itself.

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Mary Shelley

For a short info, Mary Shelley’s story was about a man named  Viktor Frankenstein who created a monster from corpses of other humans. His abandonment for his creation and his creation’s longing for answers about his life led to terrible consequences. Now you know about that here are some of the stories behind this enigmatic castle and grounds.

Alchemist Dippel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

“In 1673, Johann Conrad Dippel was born in the castle, where he was later engaged as a professional alchemist. It is suggested that Dippel influenced Mary Shelley’s fantasy when she wrote her Frankenstein novel, though there is no mention of the castle in Shelley’s journals from the time. However, it is known that in 1814, prior to writing the famous novel, Shelley took a journey on the river Rhine. She spent a few hours in the town of Gernsheim, which is located about ten miles away from the castle. Several nonfiction books on the life of Mary Shelley claim Dippel as a possible influence.

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Johann Conrad Dippel

Dippel created an animal oil known as Dippel’s Oil which was supposed to be equivalent to the “elixir of life”. Dippel attempted to purchase Castle Frankenstein in exchange for his elixir formula, which he claimed he had recently discovered; the offer was turned down. There are also rumors that during his stay at Frankenstein Castle, Dippel practiced not only alchemy but also anatomy and may have performed experiments on dead bodies that he exhumed. He dug up bodies and performed medical experiments on them at the castle and that a local cleric would have warned his parish that Dippel had created a monster that was brought to life by a bolt of lightning.

(The use of lightning to bring Frankenstein’s monster to life comes from the 1931 film and isn’t in the novel.) There are local people who still claim today that this actually happened and that this tale was related to Shelley’s stepmother by the Brothers Grimm, the German ethnologists.  However, none of these claims have been proven to this date, and some local researchers doubt any connection between Mary Shelley and Frankenstein Castle.”

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Victor Frankenstein and his monster

We walked through the backside of the castle and down the path, following the trail and the map. We were not sure it we were lost or not but we trusted our instinct and saw some signs relating to the map as we walked here are more stories about the castle grounds.

Lord George and the Dragon

“One of the most famous legends is about Lord George and a dragon, by August Nodnagel (1803-1853). It is said that long ago a dangerous dragon lived in the garden near the well at the castle of Burg Frankenstein. The peasants of a neighboring village (Nieder-Beerbach) lived in fear of the mighty dragon. It is said the dragon would creep in at night and eat the villagers and their children in their sleep. One day a knight by the name of Lord George rode into town. The townsfolk were desperate, seeing a brave knight gave them hope, and they poured out their troubles and sorrows as he promised to help them.

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The forest trail

The next day, he put on his armor and rode up to the castle, into the garden and straight to the well where the dragon was taking a rest in the sun. Lord George got off his horse and attacked the dragon. The dragon fought for his life, puffed and spewed out fire and steam. Hours passed as the two continued to battle. Finally, just as the knight was about to drop from exhaustion, and just as the dragon was going to drop from exhaustion, the knight plunged his sword into the underbelly of the beast and was victorious. But as the dragon struggled in agony, it coiled its tail with the poisonous spine around the knight’s belly and stung. Lord George and the dragon both fell.

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St. George and the Dragon


The villagers were so happy and relieved that the dragon was finally slain they wanted to give the knight a proper, honorable burial. They brought him to the Church of Nieder Beerbach, in the valley on the east side of the castle, and gave him a marvelous tomb. To this day, you can still visit and pay your respects to Lord George, the Knight who slew the Dragon in the 1200s.”

After a long walk, we finally reached a huge rock which was the site of the Fountain of Youth. At first, we thought we were mistaken because it was just a couple of large rocks, and there was a fountain of youth. But with brief information, we learned the rocks itself where the water once flows from.

Fountain of youth

“Hidden behind the herb garden of the castle, there is a fountain of youth. Legend is that in the first full-moon night after Walpurgis Night, old women from the nearby villages had to undergo tests of courage. The one who succeeded became rejuvenated to the age she had been on the night of her wedding. It is not known if this tradition is still being practiced these days.”

After that, we moved on going down the hill and saw a couple more sights mostly catered to little kids. The usefulness of woods and a large stump of one of the trees in the area were evident. Also, we saw a Cole mile, which was a charcoal kiln (abbreviated to Meiler ) made of a covered pile of wood set on fire by a charcoal burner to produce charcoal. There was even a picture of a step by step of how to create the kiln. As mentioned before there were curious objects in various stops offering information and how logs or wood can be created as building materials or music instruments.

Then we followed down the path passing through a roof of logs, and to the other side of the castle grounds. We passed by several abandoned buildings and our imagination took over that we decided to hurry on. Finally, we passed by a white cross, all alone in the middle of the woods and oddly enough I remember this story.

Goldrush

“In the 18th century, a gold rush caused some turmoil near Frankenstein Castle. Legend and visions of fortunetellers caused local residents to believe that a treasure was hidden near the castle. In 1763, chaotic scenes took place which even intervention of a priest from the neighboring village of Nieder-Beerbach could not stop.

Even though no gold-filled vaults were ever found, fortune-hunters did not abandon the digging until one Johann Heinrich Drott was killed when his dig collapsed on him. He was given a suicide’s burial. In 1770, 1787 and 1788, further attempts were made, but nothing of any value was found. It was then that local authorities banned further gold-digging.”

So after stopping for a minute, we continued our trek up the steep trail back to the castle where we started. We were so hungry that once we reached the gate on the side where we started Deelow immediately went inside the restaurant. Because it was a very nice day we went outside and sit under the shade. A nice woman served us with the menu and drinks. We ordered our food and ate some chicken and salmon.

The air was blowing from the top of the hill and the feeling was refreshing. The story of the castle of Frankenstein, and the legends surrounding it was very interesting. The name of the castle became famous because of Mary Shelly’s story, but aside from that the castle and its grounds have its own legends to tell. To end it all the food in the attached restaurant was awesome!

Here are the links for more information:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/castle-frankenstein

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein_Castle

https://www.frankenstein-restaurant.de/

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Say Cheez!

 

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