Castle of the archbishops of Mainz, seat of the counts of Gleichen, castle ruin from the 11th century, northern-most castle of a group of three castles called ”Drei Gleichen”. Gatehouse, keep, enclosing wall as well as remains of the Romanesque residential apartments and some outbuildings have been preserved
A fascinating experience in the Thuringian castle landscape is the castle ensemble “Three Gleichen” situated in the triangle between Arnstadt, Erfurt and Gotha. A journey through this part of the Thuringian heartland inspired the writer and collector of legends, Ludwig Bechstein (1801-60), to write that “one of the most wonderful pages in the book called Thuringia lies open to us here”. The ensemble rising on both sides of motorway 4 is made up of Wachsenburg Castle, the ruins of the Mühlburg, described by Gustav Freytag as a “nest of wrens”, and the ruins of Gleichen Castle, looked after by the Palace, Castle and Gardens Trust of Thuringia since 1998. Gleichen Castle, first documented in 1089, was made virtually immortal by the legend of the “count and his two wives”. Legend has it that this count was captured during his participation in a crusade and was freed by the beautiful daughter of the sultan with whom he fled to Thuringia. From then on the count, countess and his rescuer are supposed to have lived together gratefully and happily with the Pope’s blessing. The legend draws its credibility from a tombstone kept in Erfurt cathedral, on which this count of Gleichen is shown with two wives.
With a width of 60 metres and an enclosing wall of 105 metres length Gleichen Castle ranks as one of the middle-sized castles built on a height. Its exposed position on a sandstone rock, which used to be pointed but was later levelled down to today’s plateau, allows a wide view of the land and its connecting roads. Research has proved that from the late 12th century there were four Romanesque building phases.
Apparently, in the 14th century the complex could fully function as a fortified residential and administrative seat as well as a law court; in manuscripts it is mentioned as “feste” (castle) and “hus zu Gleichen” (house in Gleichen). The decline began in 1599 when the count of Gleichen moved to Ohrdruf Castle. This culminated in the castle being used as a “quarry” for the rebuilding of the town of Wandersleben after its destruction by fire in 1655.
During a tour of the ruins walls preserved and often only recently stabilised with a lot of work involved, furthermore connecting elements, gates, doors, window jambs and cellar vaults reinforce the idea of a complex originally characterised by gated bailey, gate tower, Romanesque residential apartments and manor house in the Renaissance style. In the 19th century the square-shaped keep, now partly used as a museum, was equipped with a viewing platform. The Trust took over the castle ruin in 1998.