Renaissance castle of the House of Reuss with an older castle of the lords of Kranichfeld from the 12th century, castle complex situated on a projecting spur and consisting of outer bailey and core with Romanesque residential building, partly preserved great hall with castle chapel as well as keep and enclosing wall
The basket-making town of Kranichfeld, rich in tradition and first documented in 1143, lies in the triangle between the towns of Erfurt, Weimar and Rudolstadt and is surrounded by mountains and large forests. Here, behind a huge linden tree, is the house – now museum – where the writer Rudolf Baumbach (1842-1905), who wrote such popular folk songs as “Hoch auf dem gelben Wagen”, was born. Through the narrow basin-shaped valley of the river Ilm roads and trade routes ran which needed protection during the time when the Slavs advanced towards Thuringia.
This applied also to the entire town, which until 1912 was under a double rule. To this day castles and fortifications bear witness to those times – including the upper castle protected by two moats and belonging to the Palace, Castle and Gardens Trust of Thuringia since 1994.
Easily visible from afar the castle complex erected in the Renaissance style rises above a mountain ridge as a landmark in the townscape. Only on closer inspection the castle reveals two secrets. First of all, behind the facades the imposing building is partly ruined from a fire in April 1934. Furthermore, when the erection of the Renaissance castle began in 1453 elements of an earlier core were integrated. There is proof that the latter existed at least since the 12th century – as ancestral seat of the lords of Kranichfeld it was possibly built even earlier.
Apart from the enclosing wall, the outer bailey, the so-called “fat tower”, most likely used as a keep and nowadays accessible, the residential apartments used for concerts, and the chapel now used for weddings, visitors can also discover many details of the earlier castle. For example, on the south-west oriel there is a sculpture in the style of late medieval grotesques with the inscription “Leck mich im Mars”, which today seems rather obscene.
After the fire of 1934 the private owner gave the ruin to the SS. They wanted to create here a place that in its appearance was the right setting for their soul-changing, mystical ideas. For these works which were never completed prisoners from the Buchenwald concentration camp were used. In the early 1980s a circle of friends of the castle was founded whose ongoing activities have drawn public attention once more to this totally overgrown and inaccessible castle complex. In the meantime the upper castle is partly being used as a museum and has established itself in the cultural life of the town and the region. Since 2011, an observation deck on the Dicker Turm (Thick Tower) invites one to enjoy the view over the Ilmtal.