Castle Drachenfels

 South of Busenburg stands a 1500 ft hill with a long, nearly 400 foot tall red rock  massif rising from it's top, marked by ancient chambers and courses cut into it. On both main rocks that make up this massif is the ruin of castle Drachenfels, or Dragonrock of the Palatinate, not to be confused with the other castle Drachenfels by the Rhine. Once this castle was the protection and stronghold of the Wasgau mountains region

 The origins of the castle are largely unknown. Speculations over the earlier use of the rock as a fortress reach to a time before the middle ages, moreover Roman, or possibly even quite prehistoric origins cannot be easily dismissed. The castle was more than likely built between 1198 and 1208, in the time of the German throne dispute between King Philipp von Schwabia and opposing King Petrol IV. That it was built in the late 12th century is surmised by the first mention of it in connection with Burkhard von Drachenfels from a document dated 1209.

 The first authentic record that can be dated unambiguously is from the year 1245, when a Walter von Drachenfels is to be found on a legal document in connection to the outlying country castle. This corresponds to an era before the middle of the 13th century which is lacking many archaeological proofs. Documents existing from the later 13th century give testimony on the disputes of cousins Rudolf and Anshelm von Drachenfels, which was arbitrated by the bishop of Worms. These documents were authentically sealed in the year 1288. From this family comes the oldest crest of the von Drachenfels. It shows a dragon in a tip sign and is therefore a "speaking crest" in which the surname "von Drachenfels" is paraphrased. In the early 14th century Drachenfels' crests showed a deer antler or a wild goose.

. These particular knights stood in a support for payment relationship with the age old Dagobertian foundation of the Klingenmünster Abbey at Blidenfeld. In 1221 this family of knights (which had taken the castle name von Drachenfels) received the castle in fief lien from the Abbey. As it was located between two Benedictine cloisters, Klingenmunster and Weissemburg, Drachenfels' duty was to protect Klingenmunster's outlying lands and the nearby territorial border it shared with Weissemburg Abbey. In 1309 total authority was communicated to Anshelm von Drachenfels to administer the entirety of territories which belonged to the Abbey.

 In 1314, the brothers Berthold, Anshelm, and Rudolf von Drachenfels suffered on the occasion of the five week siege of the nearby Castle Berwartstein by the cities Hagenau and Strassburg. This was more than likely the result of the Berwartstein robber knights' excursions into their territory and the robbery of their merchants. The von Drachenfels were basically of the same knight order as that of the von Berwartsteins, better known as the Raubritters (robber knights) but it is not known whether they had participated in the incursions or not. Nevertheless, they suffered heavy losses on their possessions in result of the siege. Not only Berwartstein, but as well the village of Erlenbach (which lies almost directly under castle Berwartstein but belonged to the von Drachenfels), was destroyed and looted by the opposing forces, causing grievous financial damage. Thus the von Drachenfels lost their partnership shares with the Berwartsteins, one of their main villages, and several other various losses such as occur during siege. These events were the cause of even further tensions of the era..

 The domination of the von Drachenfels family came to an end in the culmination of this dispute with the free empire cities Strassburg and Hagenau. The Drachenfels knights raided and looted the empire cities in return for the losses they received during the siege of Berwartstein. This is known as the "Street Robbery of 1335". In response imperial troops went up before Dragonrock in battle. The combined imperial troops of both cities besieged the castle in June, 1335, forcing the von Drachenfel's to surrender. They then relieved them of their valuables and burned the castle down.

 After this destruction, the brothers Anshelm and Eberhard von Drachenfels could hardly afford to rebuild it and had lost so much otherwise that they were forced to sell their family castle with all it's belonging and possessions for only 200 pounds to Count Walram von Zweibrucken in 1344. The von Drachenfels then vanish out of the castle's history. This sale transferred the fief rights of Castle Drachenfels to Walram's overlord, Cure prince Rupprecht I of the Pfalz, who then lent it right back out again for Walram's use.

For the next few years, it was controlled by various combinations of caretakers, who were more or less large scale landlords. Among these in the 14th century were the brothers Gerhard and Johannes Hanarsch von Weisskirchen. In 1360, Count Walram's son Eberhard von Zweibrucken-Bitsche vested his friend knight Gerhard von Weisskirchen with half of the castle for life to help with the costs of administration. After Gerhard's death in 1384, Eberhard pawned half of the castle rights to knights Heinrich and Kuno von Oberotterbach against a loan of 470 gold guilders.

 In the year 1389 Count Eberhard lent out his remaining shares to knight Heinrich Eckbrecht von Durkheim. Later in 1389 the Abbey of Klingenmünster repaid the von Oberotterbachs their 470 gold guilders, and    granted Heinrich Eckbrecht their share of Drachenfels on lien. So we see here that Eckbrecht was in complete control of the castle, with half of the castle on lien to him by Count Eberhard, half from the Klingenmunster Abbey. Thus forward the family of Eckbrecht von Durkheim are the main owners of the castle, remaining in possession up to and beyond the time of it's ultimate destruction. The most important territories accompanying the Drachenfels estate were the two villages Busenberg and Erlenbach, as well as the Bärenbrunner mill and Bärenbrunner yard of Thirty Year War renown.

 In the year 1409, the old knight Heinrich Eckbrecht von Dürkheim dies leaving behind only two daughters and a very sickly unmarried son. Since his only heir was so poorly constituted and was not expected to live, the fief owners took over the administration. The former part owner's (von Oberotterbachs) descendents then bought half of the castle. However, again another Eckbrecht von Dürkheim appears in 1422 as a Drachenfels half fief holder. When the von Oberotterbachs half became free in 1428, Alhelm Eckbrecht von Dürkheim received it as fief from their family. Thereafter it was only a short time before the Eckbrecht's were again in sole control of the Drachenfels fief. The house of Drachenfels and it's membership had already moved their assembly to another location and left the castle unlived in and used only on special occasions by 1400, mainly because the roomy castle was expensive to maintain, which expense the fief carriers were hardly able to foot alone. The castle remained in the role of a place for festivals, defense, and retreat.

Castle Drachenfels part II