Nanstein is one of the best known castles of the Palatinate. This castle was the site of a spectacular siege during the year 1523, in which it's ruler of the time, Franz von Sickingen, owes his renown. The siege of Nanstein was a visible symbol and final point in the decline of castles and the feudal system in the Palatinate.
Certainly Nanstein is assumed to be older than the first authentic mention of it in 1189, but the presumed actual origin date of 1162 is not firmly proven. In 1190 Albert von Nanstein, a fief holder of the Reich ministry von Bolanden, is the first ruler that is known to have named himself after the castle. Further Ministers are found in the middle of the 13th century that used the name addition "Nannsteine", "Nannenstuhl" and "Nannestal". At this time the castle was in the possession of the Wild Counts von Dhaun at Oberstein, and after their extinction in 1322, it passed in settlement as an empire fief to the Counts von Zweibrücken-Bitsch. This right act, which King Friedrich the Pretty had undertaken, was counteracted a year later by King Ludwig von Bayer, who repossessed Nanstein and then lent it to Count Konrad IV.
In the 14th and 15th century, a castle partnership as was commonly seen in these times divided the possession of Nanstein between: the Counts von Sponheim, Veldenz, Leiningen and Zweibrucken as well as the Wild Counts and Knight Heinrich Eckbrecht of Dürkheim.
Over all, the most significant possession changes took place at the beginning and at the end of the 15th century. In the year 1409, the Counts von Sponheim pawned their share in Nanstein to the Alsacian Puller von Hohenburg. In 1482 , these castle shares passed by obligation into the hand of the von Sickingens when cure Palatinate Master Schweikhard von Sickingen married the last Hohenburg daughter.
The famous Franz von Sickingen, whose fate was tied to the castle's, came from this marriage. Franz was born in Ebernburg on March 2, 1481, the only son of knight Schweickard von Sickingen. In 1499 Franz marries Hedwig von Floersheim, a very efficient and intelligent woman of pedigree who helped Franz tremendously in his acquisitions (she also bore him six children before dying in the birth of the seventh).
After the death of his father (who had fallen in the Bavarian Succession war), Empire Knight Franz becomes heir, harvesting the 24 year old fruits of the successful house power politics achieved by his ancestors, by which he becomes ruler of an extensive non-territorial distributed possession which covered castles between and around the lower Alsace and the northern Black Forest. Franz dedicates himself, with the support of his efficient wife, to the consolidation and extension of the possessions gained by his father and by 1515 had gained a substantial economic basis. This later will give him support with his ambitious enterprising. After the death of his wife in 1515 began unruly years of many feuds for von Sickingen, which he lead despite their prohibition by the land peace of 1495. These feudal behaviors would ultimately lead to his death.
Franz finally gains the entire castle by gradual acquisition in 1518. Immediately after this, he began an extensive refitting and new construction that served predominantly for the purpose of arming Nanstein with modern guns. Of special importance was the erection of the "large Roundel", which was noted as the strongest shooting tower of it's time. Like his contemporaries, Franz had also outfitted his castle against military actions.
Historically he is known as the only commander of a large combined armed force on German ground who would readily make his services and that of his soldiers available when it concerned the promise of profit. A "knight mercenary" as it were, presuming most knights were contrary to romantic belief either robbers or mercenaries. Franz claimed as a legal basis for his acts the centuries old German "Fehdrecht", or right of feud, which was the legally unaccountable prime right of nobles to rule their lands how they saw fit, and to be able to fight and plunder by conquest whoever whenever they felt the need to. He rejected the rule of law and courts imposed since the end of the 15th century by the increasingly dominating Holy Roman Empire. This right had been weakened by the empire, which had disadvantaged the lower aristocracy and land owning farmers.
In military enterprises Knight Franz used a method resembling the "War Trains" which his famous ancestor Puller von Hohenburg had used to his renown in service to the empire in the previous Italian campaign. Using the advantage of surprise, he would quickly deploy an overwhelming force and attack his adversaries. This would leave them in a tactically futile situation with little other option than surrender or death. For his troops this was a victorious business usually without risk, which naturally inspired their fierce loyalty. Sickingen's feuds were frequently tolerated by the Palatinate rulers (the Cure princes), and often his enterprises seemed to move in favor of Habsburger realm politics, although several times he breaks the imperially declared realm peace.
The imperial throne fell vacant after the death of Emperor Maximilians in 1519. Sickingen, who in the scheme of things at this time was in actuality only a small aristocrat, stands at the high point of his life when for a short moment he possesses the power and personality to personally influence German history. As the leader of the Fugger financing and trading firm, and as commander of the military forces protecting Frankfurt, he is able to influence and affect the choice of the Habsburger Karl as the imperial successor.
Castle Nanstein part II