Hohentwiel Fortress Ruins

Spread across nine hectares, the largest fortress ruins in Germany offer one of the country’s most impressive vistas: from Hohentwiel, you can see across Lake Constance, over the gentle rolling hills of the Thurgau region to the majestic peaks of the Alps.

Hohentwiel is a large rocky outcrop, one of the many bizarre volcanic formations of the Hegau region. The steep crags, which jut out starkly from the surrounding landscape, presented ideal vantage points for fortresses and other structures. The first castle was built on Hohentwiel in 914.

From a fortress to a romantic ruin

As the seat of the Swabian dukes, Hohentwiel Castle was of considerable significance; after 1000, however, it passed into the possession of the house of Zähringen and other noble families. In the 16th century, it became an enclave of Württemberg in what was then Austrian territory (which was known as Vorderösterreich).

Under Duke Ulrich of Württemberg, Hohentwiel was expanded into a major fortress. Subsequently, it was regarded as unconquerable. In the 18th century, the fortress acquired a more notorious reputation, after it was converted into the principality of Württemberg’s prison. In 1801, the French emperor Napoleon ordered that Hohentwiel be destroyed.

In 1845, the church tower, which was frequently used as a viewpoint, was rebuilt, and the first observation deck constructed.

The author Josef Victor von Scheffel used Hohentwiel as the setting for his historical novel Ekkehard, a love story between a monk from St. Gallen, Ekkehard, and a duke’s widow, Hadwig. The novel became highly popular after its publication in 1855. This drew a fresh wave of attention to the ruins.

Hohentwiel’s imposing ramparts and casemates, its fallen towers and defiant ruins, still evoke the military might of this once-invincible fortress. The surrounding volcanic crags are a now a nature reserve, offering a unique habitat to many rare species of flora and fauna. Today, more than 80,000 visitors a year come to admire this special place.

Hohentwiel Fortress Ruins

A vast structure: an aerial view shows the impressive scale of the remaining turrets and walls.

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