Residence of the counts of Henneberg since the 13th century, castle in the shape of a four-wing complex with corner towers in the courtyard and variously shaped facades facing the town, interior painted in the style of the Renaissance
On the occasion of a visit in 1840 the writer Ludwig Bechstein praised the Henneberg-Thuringian town of Schleusingen. Not only that it distinguished itself by its “picturesque position on the southern slope of the Thuringian Forest”, also “with regard to its history it would only be justified if it had precedence over the others”.Indeed, the Henneberg rulers, who used Bertholdsburg Castle as their residence after they had moved there from the ancestral castle of Henneberg, enjoyed a high reputation in the Holy Roman Empire. The last count of Henneberg, Georg Ernst, started the Reformation in his country. Apart from the Landesschule he also founded the Gymnasialbibliothek (grammar school library), thus helping Schleusingen to develop into an important school town.
The outside architectural appearance of the complex is considerably determined by its towers – most of all by the 30-metre high octagonal castle or watch tower. From there one has a wonderful panorama of the town and its surroundings. Above the Renaissance portal of the main tower the Henneberg coat of arms made of sandstone and dating from the 16th century stands out. To this day the black hen on a green hill and in a yellow field can be found in the town of Schleusingen’s coat of arms.
The initials of the banner above the door “V.G.G.W.G.U.H.Z.H. - Von Gottes Gnaden Wilhelm Graf und Herr zu Henneberg“ (By the Grace of God, Wilhelm Count and Lord of Henneberg) refer to the building activity of Wilhelm IV (1495-1559). In the castle grounds at the foot of the Bertholdsburg a memorial stone set up in 1996 commemorates the 900th anniversary of the Henneberger Land.
In 1934 the use of Bertholdsburg Castle for museum purposes began; this function was considerably substantiated when a natural history museum was founded here in 1984. In 1994 the Palace, Castle and Gardens Trust of Thuringia took over Bertholdsburg Castle and since then has repaired wing after wing – also the east wing. On the latter’s first and second floor, for instance, the wooden beam ceilings from the 16th century and the half-timbered walls had to be extensively repaired.
The museum also profited when this work was finished, because now another 800 square metres of exhibition space are available for its collections of natural history, mineralogy and palaeontology as well as for the history of the castle and the region. Among the historic rooms of Bertholdsburg Castle two halls in the north wing are particularly remarkable. While one of them has a floral stuccoed ceiling, the wall paintings from the 16th century in the second hall describe “the twelve labours of Hercules”.