Ancestral seat of the counts of Henneberg up to the 13th century, castle ruin with keep, round tower, apse of the chapel as well as remains of the foundation and enclosing walls
“...but no one can walk past you without showing respect.” This line is taken from a cheerful song dedicated to the once proud castle of Henneberg. The song carried across the hills of the Thuringian Forest and Franconia expresses more than attachment to one’s homeland. For what awaits visitors today at the peak of the Hainberg, fortified since the early Iron Age, is only seemingly a castle ruin like many others in Thuringia.
The spirit of history gives this ruin its particular character. It belongs to the Palace, Castle and Gardens Trust of Thuringia since 1995 and stands symbolically for the foundation of a state (Henneberger Land) and for an independent cultural area. The castle complex on the peak of a rock situated above the village of Henneberg (700 inhabitants) measures 160 by 20 metres. The ancestral castle of the counts of Henneberg the earliest structures of which go back to the 11th century has always been considered one of the most spacious fortifications in Thuringia. Its purpose was to protect important roads from west to east and south to north, for instance the so-called “wine route”.
The castle was the centre of the Henneberger Land which used to comprise large parts of today’s Lower Franconia, Southern Thuringia and Hessen. Dismissing hereditary and political divisions this region always considered itself to be the Henneberger Land.
The castle sacked in the Peasant War, deserted since the 16th century and increasingly degraded to a public “quarry” was only saved from complete destruction by the intervention of Duke Georg I of Sachsen-Meiningen. During the time of the GDR it was only two kilometres away from the border between the two German states and thus in the prohibited zone inaccessible to the public.
Consequently, what committed local people and professional conservationists found in 1990 was not a pleasant sight. However, the time of inactivity is over. The partly preserved enclosing wall of up to 15 metres height is once again visible and has been secured. Remains of buildings and foundations in the bailey could be identified as residential apartment with fireplace, lady’s apartment, chapel as well as service and residential rooms. At the site where a watch tower used to mark the divided country the renovated keep with a diameter of 14 metres now allows visitors to look down on the castle complex and enjoy the view of the Henneberger Land.