33 Generations and counting - a trip to Castle Eltz

Munstermaifeld Travel Blog

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It has been raining since Monday, and so I was hesitant to go anywhere today, but am glad that I ventured out nonetheless.  After nearly two hours of driving and getting lost, I arrived in the town of Muenster-Maifeld near the city of Koblenz.  My destination was castle Eltz, a beautifully intact medieval castle tucked away in a valley near the Moselle River.

 

 I was happy to hike from the parking lot in the forest down into the valley where the castle was situated.

  The rain had stopped at this time, but it was still very overcast and cool.  There is nothing quite as uplifting as breathing in oxygen rich air from a thickly wooded forest; there is also nothing more frustrating for me than overcast skies when I want to photograph such beautiful sights.  Photoshop just doesn’t do a gorgeous sunny day any justice.

 

Due to its secluded location and the diplomacy of its owners, the castle avoided destruction during the 30 years war and the Palatinate War of Succession, which apparently destroyed the majority of the castles along the Rhine River

 

First mention of this castle was in the 12th century, and has since passed down through the Eltz family.

  Today, 850 years later and 33 generations, the family still resides here.  Building on the castle continued through the centuries, and one can see building styles ranging from Romanesque to early Baroque.  When you step into the courtyard you can see the individual houses and towers, erected over the centuries.  Clustered around this central courtyard, these buildings once housed up to 100 members of the Eltz family. 

 

The tour was wonderful, as any castle tour is always an insider look into the past, and a great history lesson.  It began in the reception hall, which now resembles an armory.  The collection had everything from 15th century firearms to Turkish scimitars. 

Next room on the tour was a 15th century living room, including awe-inspiring  religious paintings from Cranach the elder and Pacher, and Flemish tapestries from the 16th century.

Tapestries had two purposes during the medieval period: to keep a room warm, and recording nobleman’s deeds or impressions.  Paintings or Pictures, also known as Bilder, were designed to instruct those that were unable to read.  Hence, the German name for education is Bildung. 

We continued up some narrow winding stairs into a bed chamber, which completely had me in awe.  From wall to ceiling this open and spacious room was adorned with foliage of all sorts and colors.  These adornments date back to the 15th century, but were later restored in the romantic period of the 19th century.  The dreamy bed was elevated on a platform, at which one had to climb stairs to get in.  This was a common building practice due to heat rising and making it more comfortable in the colder months. 

The knight’s hall, like all medieval castles, was the center of life and the highlight of the tour.

  There was a lot of symbolism in this room, starting with the Jester’s masks on the walls  (symbolizing freedom of speech), and the Rose of Silence above the exit symbolizing secrecy and discretion.  The coats of arms of the Eltz family and all related aristocratic families adorn the walls, as well as religious paintings, 16th century armor, and a tapestry featuring the Greek God Helius, consequently fashioned in the palace of King Louis IV, the “Sun King.”

After the knight’s hall came another living room with 16th century Franconian furniture, 18th century children’s portraits, and household ceramics.  Two further rooms attested to the sumptuous lifestyle of the nobility -with elegant vaulting, stained glass, and tiled stove from Malaga. 

The tour ended in the kitchen, something right out of the Middle Ages, where cooks and servants slaved over large boiling cauldrons, hung on a hook, above an open fire.

  The window niche had a sink that emptied to the outside, even a recess in the wall with door for cold storage.  Hooks and baskets suspended from the ceiling kept the rats and mice at bay.  Storage closets contained vessels and utensils from the past centuries.

The treasure chamber in the floors below is impressive, considering that nearly everything here either belonged or was used by members of the Eltz family.  A stunning collection of gilded drinking vessels, armor, hunting weapons, jewelry, medieval coinage, religious objects, and curiosities. 

sdbleve says:
Even with your concern about the lighting...these pictures are wonderful.
Posted on: Jun 12, 2007
X_Drive says:
That's a tour I would love to take. Hopefully someday. :)
Posted on: Jun 07, 2007
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Munstermaifeld
photo by: Ils1976