The history of Castle Rheinfels and the town of St. Goar


Loreley rock

As a guest at the Romantik Hotel Schloss Rheinfels you will also learn the fascinating appeal of Castle Rheinfels or 'Burg Rheinfels' as the locals call it. At one time it was the mightiest fortress on the Rhine and its size and construction are still very impressive today.

Archaeological finds show that the current suburb of St. Goar was already inhabited in Roman times. Ships needed assistance to get over the reefs at the Lorelei. It is believed there was a ferry boat connecting the Roman roads.

The small settlement takes its name from the holy Saint Goar, who founded a Christian hostel for the poor and travellers here in the year 550 AD.

His grave became a well visited pilgrimage site, which was looked after by a community of clerics.

In the 8th Century it became the possession of Prüm Abbey (Eifel). The first steward of the monastery was the Count of Arnstein and, from 1190, the Counts of Katzenelnbogen. This meant the city was under military protection and the Count’s jurisdiction.

Built in 1245 by Diether V. von Katzenelnbogen, over the centuries Castle Rheinfels became the most important fortress on the Rhine. Visitors to Rheinfels are surprised by how extensive the ruins are and by the maze of military and underground mine passages that are still accessible today.

Although Diether V. was a member of the 'Rhine Confederation', in 1255 he raised the St. Goar Rhine Toll. It was soon after that Castle Rheinfels had to pass its first major test: 26 towns, with an army of 8,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry, supported by 50 vessels, besieged the castle for a year and 14 weeks, only to then give in and leave without taking it. After that the castle was considered invulnerable.

In 1527 Philip I introduced the Reformation. In the 17th Century, and at great expense, his son Philip II rebuilt the castle as a Renaissance palace. Philip II was known for his brilliant and lavish court.

Under Count Ernst von Hessen-Rheinfels the flourishing town of St. Goar once again became the cultural centre of the region. Ernst tried to reach an understanding between religions and delighted in exchanging ideas with the intellectual giants of his time.

In 1794, during an attack by French revolutionary troops, the castle was surrendered without a fight and destroyed by the French.

St. Goar remained under French administration until 1813. In 1815 it was passed to Prussia, once again received the status of an administrative centre and became the Borough’s main town.

In June 2002 the cultural landscape of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, bounded to the north and south by the cities of Koblenz, Bingen and Rudesheim, was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Such sites are recognised as being of outstanding universal value and considered as part of the heritage of all humanity. That the Upper Middle Rhine Valley has been recognised as a World Heritage site reflects that this cultural landscape has evolved through the continuous intervention of man and nature for centuries.