At the time of the Holy Roman Empire the territories of the three Electorates of Cologne, Trier and Mainz border on each other at the mouth of the Lahn. In 1226 the Archbishop-Elector of Mainz, Siegfried von Eppstein, begins the construction of Lahneck Castle here at the most northerly point of his territory in order to secure his rights to the silver mine which has been ceded to him by the king.
The square inner ward is enclosed by three residential wings and a defence wall which contains the castle gate. The main tower or keep is 29m high and its pentagonal construction presents a sharp angle towards the castle’s vulnerable side as protection against projectiles. Towering above the steep slope down to the Lahn is the ‘palas’, the living quarters. The castle chapel forms the east wing.
The castle is associated with a legend about the last of the Knights Templar. After they are outlawed in the 12th century, some of the Templars go into exile, others renounce their order. The last twelve Templar Knights on Mainz territory take refuge in Lahneck Castle where they ultimately perish in a fierce battle.
As a result of the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War the castle falls into decay and is finally destroyed in 1689 during the Palatine War of Succession. On his visit to the Lahn in 1774, Goethe is deeply moved by the sight of the ruin and writes his poem Geistesgruss: “High up on the ancient tower stands the hero’s noble ghost.”
Tradition has it that in 1851 the ruined castle was the scene of a tragic event involving Idilia Dubb, a young lady from Scotland who was visiting the Rhine Valley with her family: the 17 year old girl sets off one morning, intent on making some sketches of the castle – she never returns. Whilst carrying out renovation work on the castle in 1862, workers find the skeleton of a girl and a diary on the tower’s platform. In her diary Idilia Dubb records how she had climbed the tower’s ramshackle wooden staircase. Having reached the top, she saw the rotten stairs collapse behind her and was thus left stranded on the tower.
From 1852 onwards Lahneck Castle is rebuilt in the popular Gothic Revival style of the era.More restoration work and alterations take place in the first half of the 20th century in an attempt to return the castle to something approximating its original medieval state.
Today Lahneck Castle is privately owned and is open to the public. Lahnstein’s impressive landmark bears witness to an eventful history spanning more than 800 years.