Castle of the House of Schwarzburg-Käfernburg from the mid-13th century, ruin with Gothic hall keep, remains of walls and a tower, rounded corners
Castles of any type and size have always been popular places where legends have developed and been passed on. The reason is unknown why so many legends have grown up around Liebenstein castle ruin, situated in the town of the same name in the Ilm district. The most gruesome of these folkloristic, superstition-based texts is about a walled-in child and lamenting owls which to this day are said to fly around the castle ruins above the Gera valley between Plaue and Gräfenroda. The legends of the “white woman” or of the men who searched for the sunken treasures of the castle seem more like chapters from an adventurous thriller than from a harmless fairytale.
Liebenstein castle ruin shows many similarities to the castle ruin of Ehrenstein 25 kilometres west of Liebenstein. From the 17-metre wide and 12-metre deep frontal ditch around the complex, from the rectangular ground plan of the core of the castle measuring 35 x 15 metres, the simultaneous erection of tower and multi-storeyed residential building with its fortified rounded corners and finally from the shape of the firing slits one may draw the comparative conclusion that Liebenstein Castle was constructed around 1300. Just like Ehrenstein it was commissioned by the Käfernburg-Schwarzburg dynasty. The castle was a fortified complex to protect the trade route in the valley which connects the Thuringian Forest with the Thuringian Basin to this day. Due to a change of social conditions and of owners – for instance the Lords of Witzleben were here for more than four centuries – the imposing castle was altered time and again. By the mid-16th century the fortification had been converted into a residential castle. In 1867, the year when the Wartburg near Eisenach celebrated its 800th anniversary in the reconstructed hall of the residential building with the first performance of Franz Liszt’s “Legend of St. Elizabeth”, the empty and useless castle of Liebenstein was sold to be demolished. What was left were considerable parts of the core which are presently visible and the remains of ditches and an enclosing wall.
The Palace, Castle and Gardens Trust of Thuringia has owned Liebenstein castle ruin since 1996.