The „Eckartsburg“ is situated in the very south of Saxony Anhalt. Visitors will find Romanesque castle grounds inviting to stay. It is a popular tourist destination located on the southern route of the “Romanesque Route of Saxony-Anhalt”. Former housing space at the southern end of the castle grounds serves as a restaurant which is especially known for its sociable medieval meals. The donjon is accessible and nowadays used as viewing tower from which visitors enjoy a long view over the country.
Above the city of Eckartsberga on the foothills of the “Finnhöhenzug” the impressive grounds of the Eckartsburg expand. It has been founded by the Thuringian landgrave of the Ludowinger family. Although in 1998 its millennium has been celebrated, one has to assume that there have been two sites in the beginning – the castle as it is known today is the younger one of the two and was mentioned in a document for the first time in 1134.
Unfortunately, archaeological excavations could not proof evidence of an older castle in the area of today’s site. Maybe the rampart east of the castle belongs either to an older fort or to the castle of Ekkehard I which has been searched for without success until now.
Building contractors of the „Eckartsburg“ are the landgraves Ludwig III (1172 – 1190) and particularly Hermann I (1190 – 1217) of the Ludowinger family. They built the castle to protect their territory. Consequently, the older castle close to Mallendorf became less important.
In the Middle Age the landgraves had big political and economic influence. Important castle grounds such as the “Wartburg”, the “Kreuzburg”, the “Runneburg”, the “Eckartsburg” and the “Neuenburg” evidence this fact impressively. But family connections played an important role, too. There were close bonds between dynasties in Poland, Hungary and France. These important connections resulted from the marriage of Hermann II with princess Elisabeth of Hungary. Nowadays the legendary “Holy Elisabeth” is known by many people.
As the consequence of a war of succession the “Eckartsburg” became to be hold by the Margrave of Meissen from the house of Wettin. “Albert the Degenerate”, son of “Henry the Illustrious”, chose it as his favourite residence. After the destructions in 1247, of which it is reported in “Annales Erphordenses Fratrum Praedicatorum”, the castle has been reconstructed in its original size and some extensions have been conducted. Between 1457 and 1462 the castle had been place of exile for “Anna of Austria”, spouce to duke William III of Saxony. Later is had been collateral several times and lost its protection as well as residence function. South of the castle the former battleground, Jena Auerstedt, of the famous double battle in 1806 can be found. In the donjon the famous battle can be reconstructed by means of dioramas with more than 6,000 pewter figures.
After 1815 the Kingdom of Prussia came into property of the castle.
Architecture and Furniture
The two section site is entered through the Romanesque gate on the southern side of the outer bailey. The alcove in the western wall of the gate had served as a prison as well as a staffroom between 1718 and 1756. In the area of the outer bailey the 22 meters high donjon can be found. Its basement had temporarily been used as dungeon. It is one of the older components of the castle and was constructed in the middle of the 13th century. Its original entrance is situated in a height of approximately nine meters on the western side.
On the area of the main castle, which is entered through the late Romanesque gate, the tower and the great hall are located. They belong to the first Romanesque construction phase and were built with a circular wall. The walls of the square residential tower are more than 2.5 meters thick and the building is approximately 36 meters high. It is the main building of the whole ground and probably developed first. But it was after a destruction of the castle in 1257 that it obtained its actual height. One of its floors was fitted with a fireplace and served as living area. South of the tower there is the great hall which had at least two floors and a fireplace as well in the south west corner. The circular arc door led from east into the deeper situated ground floor, while the first floor was only accessible via a staircase inside the building. Maybe this was also where the oratory was located, which must have been built in the first construction phase already. In 1186 anyway a chaplain is mentioned in documents. As proved by invoices of the local government, the consecration of the church was celebrated in 1516. However, excavations in 1901 and 1992 could not give any hints concerning the position of the castle chapel.
The agricultural buildings were situated along the northern side towards the city. Outer baileys were connected to the main building to the east and west. Ruins of the walls of the western outer bailey were discovered during excavations in 1901. The only remaining Romanesque part of the eastern outer bailey is its gate. A drawbridge allows the access to the main building. East of the outer bailey a deep rift cuts through the hillside which probably emerged while expanding the Romanesque castle. Another outer bailey was connected further east covering a ridge of hills of approximately 250 meters length. To date no evidence can be adduced concerning a cultivation of this outer bailey. Solely the remains of a massive round tower with a diameter of 9 meter and 2.5 meters thick walls have been uncovered. This is probably a far advanced donjon which can be compared to the ones at the “Neuenburg” and the “Rudelsburg”.
Even Johann Wolfgang von Goethe could not evade the charm of Romanesque and Gothic construction forms which are especially recognizable at the residential tower and in parts of the great hall. This is where he wrote his “Ballade vom getreuen Eckart”.
Regular guided visits
Guided tours including ascent of the tower only with pre-booking
Price: adults: 2,- €; children: 1,- €