A unique ensemble of palace and garden of the Saale valley. This goes back to a high medieval castle old castle was transformed 1560/73, composed by Nicol Gromann to the castle of the Dukes of Saxe-Weimar. In the middle of the rococo summer palace Ernst August, 1736 / 41 which was designed by G.H. Krohne built. Renaissance castle began 1539th 1739 in possession of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and popular residence of Goethe.
Only a few kilometres from Jena the three Dornburg Castles, always mentioned in one breath and often praised as “Thuringia’s balcony”, are situated above the charming Saale valley on a rock of shelly limestone where wine is grown. Framed by the Old Castle on the one side and the Renaissance Castle on the other, the Rococo Castle is the splendid centre of this unique ensemble which welcomes its guests with the inscription: “Enter joyfully and happily depart again!” Already at the time of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who – living only 25 kilometres away in Weimar – often came here and occasionally stayed for a long time, the Old Castle which goes back to a medieval fortification was the most neglected of the three.
The former palas imperial of Dornburg (on the ground floor walls and a column dating from the 12th century can still be seen) had to serve several functions. Otto the Great stayed here in the years 925, 955, 958 and as emperor in 965. About ten visits of the following emperors from the Saxon dynasty are documented. Apart from the later commercial use the castle also served as a gentlewomen’s home run by nuns, a school, a university research centre, and as a residential building. In 1995, about 170 years after Goethe’s final visit to Dornburg, the Old Castle became the property of the Palace, Castle and Gardens Trust of Thuringia.
By then the complete repair of the extremely desolate building fabric had already begun, but now the castle was extensively stabilised, repaired, rehabilitated and – in accordance with the future use as a study centre and meeting place – carefully modernised. The damaged south and west facades of the building were technically reconstructed and – based on original finds – a grey lime plaster with brick-red framing for the splays was applied. Structural faults caused by adding another storey in the mid-16th century were also eliminated and the tower, which, as could be seen from afar, had been leaning to one side, was straightened again. Apart from the necessary new access to the castle from a gallery-like glass extension in the courtyard the heart of the reconstruction and interior work was the Emperor’s Hall measuring 150 square metres and with a profiled wooden beam ceiling.
Works on the interior and exterior of the castle were finished in 2004. Since 2005 a garden once again completes the experience of the Old Castle. Similar to former times ornamental rhubarb, lavender, marjoram, rue, horseradish, etc. once again grow in beds. The trellis on the west wing of the castle was rebuilt and vines were planted; fruit growing on trellises and climbing roses decorate the northwest wall of the small garden courtyard. The nearby “Obst- und Grasegarten” was also reconstructed. At the same time the connection to the Rococo Castle, mentioned in historical documents, was opened up again so that it is possible once more to walk round the entire ensemble of the Dornburg Castles.