Castle Drachenfels part II
1463 saw the establishment of the "holy spirit company" - a combination of the Wasgau aristocracy. The noblemen belonging to this federation wore a silver collar engraved with a dove, representing the symbol of the holy spirit. They were also concerned with their decreasing power standing in the empire.
Drachenfels, whose whole assembly joined this federation, became not only the meeting place of the Wasgau aristocracy, but of the entire Rhine area knight's order. Costs of the castle were shared with the membership who also purchased inheritable rights to the castle. This was a financial relief for the Eckbrechts. Soon afterwards, there were disputes between members and with the Abbotts of Weissemburg, with whom a border dispute took place in 1480.
This was brought to an end in 1490 when Drachenfels fief holder descendants Hertwig and Heinrich Eckbrecht II von Durkheim sold the village of Erlenbach to the famed Cure Palatinate Marshal Knight Hans von Drodt, whose seat was Castle Berwartstein, directly adjacent to Erlenbach. This was probably done in result of a variety of pressures and manipulations from the powerful and cleverly vicious von Drodt, or perhaps preventatively by the von Durkheims simply to keep from getting on his bad side. Either way, he provided them with a barrier between Weissemburg and Drachenfels plus needed capitol for the upkeep of the castle. You can read more about Knight Hans von Drodt here in the Berwartstein section.
The most outstanding leaders of the aristocratic nobles could be found regularly at Drachenfels. Even Emperor Maximilian was endeavored to gain the approval of the Wasgau aristocracy and met with the order in 1505, showing agreement with the federation's cause and joining the membership. He then signed a contract with the order putting Drachenfels knights under the "Holy Roman realm protection and shield". Because of the Great Castle Peace letter of 1510 which forbade knights from feud, Emperor Maximilian was removed as a member. Regardless of the emperor's expressed sympathy and the contract, no change was seen in the knighthood's situation except that they weren't allowed to exercise what they saw as their prime right, the old German Fehdrecht, or Right of feud. Therefore they felt horribly betrayed. Famous Knight Franz von Sickingen, who had inherited the nearby Castle Hohenburg from his father, was then chosen as leader of the knight order. The circumstances resulting from Sickingen's leadership of the Drachenfels knights can be regarded as the primary cause for the fall of the proud castle.
Franz von Sickingen dared to feud for the cure state of Trier. In return he was met by several powerful princes, the Cure prince and Archbishop of Trier, Richard von Greiffenklau, Cure prince of the Pfalz Ludwig V, as well as land Count Philipp von Hessen, who all came up against Sickingen on the battlefield. Sickingen's home castle Nanstein was besieged and destroyed by cannon fire, whereby Sickingen was deathly wounded and his headquarters handed over. After this victory the allied princes went against his other castles, Ebernburg and the nearby Hohenburg. Of course the princes wanted to bring the annoying Drachenfels common rule of knights to an end likewise, even though it was not a Sickingen castle.
When they attacked Drachenfels on Sunday, 10 May 1523, the members of the knight's assembly hadn't expected further retributive actions after the demise of Sickingen and were not even present. Only the constable and eight farmhands protected the castle. All the members were at Eckbrecht von Duerkheim's beautiful castle Schoneck in the nearby Alsace for a consultation meeting. The constable as well as the farmhands were allowed to leave freely, then Drachenfels was stripped and ignited. With the destruction of Drachenfels the Wasgau aristocracy suffered an irreplaceable loss. By decree of the three princes the castle could not be rebuilt again.
The ones that met with the most difficulty however were the lien holders, the Eckbrecht's von Durkheim. Their stately castle lay in rubble and its Drachenfels rule was missing a necessary base due to the reconstruction ban. Regardless of the destruction, the Eckbrecht's remained the lien holder whenever it was required. After 1523 it lay hidden under debris and ash, and for many years was used as a materials quarry for the Catholic Pfarrkirche. Since the French revolution the castle has been in the possession of the village of Busenberg.
In 1778 owning family descendant Baron Franz Christoph Eckbrecht von Duerkheim built himself a country mansion from the stones of Drachenfels. which still stands today in the middle of Busenberg. A meeting of noble families took place in this building in 1784, in which it was proposed that Drachenfels should be confirmed a fief again. The Palatine elector Karl Theodor, whose ancestors had become it's exclusive fief lords after the line of the Counts von Zweibrücken-Bitsch ended in the year 1570, had the dominion of Dragon Rock. He agreed with this proposition and demanded that reconstruction on the castle be started within two years. Traces of this last reconstruction can be found on site, but it was never finished.
Castle Drachenfels remains ruins.
The once majestic home of the last large federation of free German knights is a two-piece ruin spread on two large rocks. On the eastern prominence few remains are present. High above stands a rock which was once built up into a tall tower, and is said to conspicuously resemble a dragon's head. Etched into the rock faces between the two can be seen what are known as the "dragon scratches". The castle ruins now serve as a preserved remembrance of Drachenfels' interesting and colorful past. Dragon Rock lies in a lovely landscape. Despite being in ruins, none of the attraction of it's former glory is lost.
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