Castles and Rhine tolls on the Middle Rhine

Our region is located at the northern end of the Middle Rhine Valley, speaking in medieval terms on the southern border of the power of the archbishopric of Cologne. Here, four of the seven prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire – the archbishops of Cologne, Mayence and Trier and the Count Palatine of the Rhine – held territories, and also many regional dukes – the map was a patchwork. The princes and dukes at Rhine had discovered Rhine tolls as a source of revenue, and had toll castles built to make sure that no ship could pass their territory without paying – just think of Pfalzgrafenstein castle at Kaub, built on an island in the Rhine.

Neither the Drachenfels nor the Löwenburg were toll castles. The nearest toll station was Bonn (strictly speaking, Bonn is no longer Middle Rhine), since the days of Archbishop Konrad of Hochstaden .. and it was illegal. Levying tolls was a regal and Emperor Frederick II. had not granted it, so it was illegal, but the Archbishop had long turned sides and supported the Pope in the so-called “final fight” between Pope and Emperor, which was a war of extermination.

Throughout the following decades, the toll station at Bonn was disputed. Any candidate for the throne who needed the prince-archbishop’s vote to be elected granted them the right to levy tolls at Bonn at least for a certain times. But when they changed their policies or even set out to crush the prince-archbishops power, like King Albrecht I did, the toll was prohibited. Eventually, the prince-archbishops had more pull, and in the early 14th century they were granted the right unconditionally and forever. Until Napoleon.

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