Besides the hiking trails and scenic viewpoints, the medieval castle ruins are exciting places to see in the Siebengebirge. You can visit three of them in one day – Drachenfels Castle, Löwenburg Castle and Rosenau Castle. Yes, the mountains and the medieval castles have the same name, that’s a bit confusing. Moreover, there is Reitersdorf Castle in Bad Honnef on the bank of river Rhine, at the foot of the Siebengebirge.
Today, the castle ruins are tourist attractions, and it is a bit difficult to imagine the Siebengebirge in the Middle Ages when these castles were built: dense forests all around, dirt tracks rather than broad trails for pedestrians, riders and carriages, fogs, no lights and no inns. It must have been intimidating, especially on foggy days.
The Middle Ages are the era of knights, minnesong, Romanesque and Gothic art and medieval castles. Most castles were given quite impressive names. Drachenfels = Dragon’s Rock, Löwenburg = Lions Castle – these names sound like places from a fairy tale. On the coat of arms of the burgraves of Drachenfels we see a silver dragon on a red background looking to the right. Where do they come from? A bit about dragons and lions as heraldic animals in region.
Nothing has been remained of the medieval castle on top of Mount Wolkenburg either. And yet, in the Middle Ages the castle with the Archbishop’s “Authority of Wolkenburg” must have been one of the most powerful on river Rhine. Today we have only a sketch of how it may have looked like.
At the time of the Salian dynasty, the archbishops of Cologne were powerful men in the Holy Roman Empire and in our region. Archbishop Friedrich I of Schwarzenburg (1100-1131) secured the south of the archbishopric by building several fortifications, among them Castle Wolkenburg in 1118 and Castle Rolandseck on the other side of the Rhine. On the eve of the second crusade in 1146, when once again the Jews were persecuted, he offered the Jews of Cologne shelter at Wolkenburg Castle. The archbishop himself liked to come here, and he also died at Wolkenburg Castle
In the Valley of the Rhine, many ruins and even well preserved medieval castles have remained. 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. The castles in the Siebengebirge were not toll castles. The nearest toll station was Bonn.