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Monday, January 25, 2010

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle is a castle, which is a famous tourist attraction about 50 kilometers or 30 miles south of Stuttgart, Germany, considered home to the Hohenzollern family that came to power during the Middle Ages and ruled Prussia and Brandenburg until the end of World War I. The castle is located on top of Mount Hohenzollern at an elevation of 855 meters or 2,805 ft, above Hechingen and nearby Bisingen, both located at the foothills of the Swaziland Alb. It was originally constructed in the first part of the 11th century. It was completely destroyed after a 10-month siege in 1423 by the imperial cities of Swabia.

Hohenzollern Castle
A second, larger and sturdier castle was build from 1454 to 1461 and served as a shelter for the Swabian Hohenzollern family during wartime, including during the Thirty Years War. By the end of the 18th century, however, the castle was thought to have lost its strategic importance and gradually fell into disrepair, leading to the demolition of several dilapidated buildings. Today, only the chapel remains from the medieval castle.

The third version of the castle, was constructed by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV between 1846 and 1867, under the direction of Oberhofbaurat Stuhler, who based his design on English Neo-Gothic style as well as the castles in Loire. Because the castle was built to be just a family memorial, no member of the Hohenzollern family took house in this third castle until 1945, when it became house to the last Prussian Crown Prince Wilhelm. Prince Wilhelm and his wife Crown Princess Cecilie are buried there.

Among the historical artifacts of Prussian history contained in the castle today are the Crown of Wilhelm II and some of the personal effects of Frederick the Great and a letter from US President George Washington thanking Baron von Steuben, a scion of the House of Hohenzollern, for his service in the American Revolutionary War. The current castle is the work of the famous Berlin Architect Friedrich August Stuler, who in 1842 while still the student and heir of Karl Friedrich Schinkel were selected the Architect of King. The castle is built in Gothic Revival style. The impressive entryway is the work of Engineer Moritz Karl Ernst von Prittwitz who was the chief protection engineer in Prussia. The sculptures inside the castle are the work of Gustav Willgohs. The Hohenzollern Castle is a monument to the ideals of the German Romanticism movement and incorporated the idealized vision of what a medieval knight's castle should be

Construction began in 1850, and was funded entirely by the Brandenburg-Prussian and the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen lines of the Hohenzollern family. Seventeen years later construction was completed on October 3, 1867 under William IV's brother King William I. The castle was damaged in an earthquake on September 3, 1978 and was under repair until the mid-1990s. After the castle was rebuilt, it was not regularly occupied, rather it was used mostly as a show castle. Only the last Prussian Crown Prince William lived in the castle for several months, following his flight from Potsdam during the closing months of World War II. William and his wife Crown Princess Cecilie are both buried at the castle, as the family's estates in Brandenburg had been occupied by the Soviet Union.

Hohenzollern CastleHohenzollern CastleSince 1952 the castle has been filled with art and historical artifacts, from the collection of the Hohenzollern family and from the former Hollenzollern Museum in Schloss Monbijou. Two of the major pieces in the collection are the Prussian King's Crown and a uniform that belonged to Frederick the Great. From 1952 until 1991 the caskets of Frederick I and Frederick the Great were in the museum. Following the German reunification in 1991, the caskets were moved back to Potsdam.

Hohenzollern castle is still privately owned. Two thirds of the castle belongs to the Brandenburg-Prussian line of the Hohenzollern, while one third is owned by the Swabian line of the family. Since 1954 the castle has also been used by the Princess Kira of Prussia Foundation to provide a summer camp for needy children from Berlin. Hohenzollern castle has over 300,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most visited castles in Germany.

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