Behind The Myths At The German Castle Museum
Located on the Thuringian border with Bavaria, the German Castle Museum aims to get behind the myths and legends that surround many of Germany’s majestic castles and haunted ruins, to reveal the everyday life of the people who lived in them.
Bad Colberg, Germany (dpa) – Siege ladders and medieval armour, Gothic paintings and everyday cooking utensils from a bygone era: These and more are on display in the German Castle Museum, an innovative new museum that tells the story of medieval castles.
The museum in Bad Colberg, Germany, is different to many other European castle exhibits as it is dedicated to busting the myths perpetuated in the movies of constant jousts, dark dungeons and sieges.
The fact is, according to historians, the average European castle only suffered a siege in about every third generation. while contrary to popular belief torture chambers were not a standard feature at every castle. Daily life in a castle was more often centered around the quiet administration of medieval society and the collection of taxes. Sound familiar?
The newly opened German Castle Museum naturally has to be housed in a castle itself. The Veste Heldburg Castle was restored especially for the occasion with 15 rooms filled with over 250 exhibits including state beds, music instruments and toys. Most are hundreds of years old.
There are still around 25,000 castles and ruins in the German-speaking countries of Europe alone. Around as many have disappeared over the centuries. Despite this, nearly 25 million visitors go to castles and palaces just in Germany every year. The new German Castle Museum is expected to attract over 50,000 visitors alone.
The idea for a castle museum to shed light on why castles exist was first raised in 1997, but it took almost 20 years to fulfill this ambitious project. The Veste Heldburg, with its towers, castle walls, battlements and 114-metre-deep well, is the perfect location.
With its buildings from various epochs, it stands as an example of a castle growing by accumulation from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, says Benjamin-Immanuel Hoff, an official who oversaw the work.
It first served as a medieval defence structure, before becoming a palace and a heritage site during the Romantic era. The latter happened in the 19th century when the local duke, Georg II, modified the castle according to his Romantic imagination. He envisioned a structure out of some fairy tale and decked out the rooms and halls in French style. A devotee of music and theatre, Georg used to have famous musicians such as Johannes Brahms or the painters Ernst Haeckel and Franz von Lehnbach dropping in.
Until 1945, the castle was occupied by his descendants. After the Second World War, it was turned into an orphanage but fell into desuetude and decay after suffering fire damage in 1982.
Following its restoration however, the castle quickly became a centre for cultural events in the area. One special highlight these days is the “Fortress Fest” featuring a medieval market on Whit Sunday and Monday. Knights, street performers, musicians, craftspeople and traders take visitors on an entertaining journey back in time – an historic treat enjoyed by young and old alike. On the last Sunday of every month, the castle also hosts classic chamber concerts, at which visitors can enjoy music and performances from all over Germany in a truly historic setting.