Schloss Sigmaringen: The abode of Swabian
The Schloss Sigmaringen or Sigmaringen Castle was the abode of the Swabian and the Brandenburg-Prussian branches of the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty. The castle is built in the Naturpark Obere Donau or modern Upper Danube Nature Park, right below the Danube river valley. It rises above the Danube on a towering chalk projection. This princely Hohenzollern castle is acknowledged as the largest of all the Danube valley castles. The cliffs and steep sides of the tower resulted in the formation of a natural site for a well-protected medieval castle.
The Sigmaringen Castle is located towards the south of Germany, and 40 km upriver from Lake Constance. It sits in the Danube river valley, situated on the southern edge of the Swabian Alb, which is a plateau region in the south of Baden-Württemberg, surrounded by forested hills. The hill is known simply as the Schlossberg or Castle Rock. The Schlossberg, the hill of the castle is about 200 meters and is 35 meters above the river.
The climate of the area within which the castle is located is mostly moderate, with snowfall in winters often producing the perfect setting for skiing. The Swabian Jura region is generally windier and a slightly colder in comparison with the rest of Germany. A small weather station situated near Stetten am kalten Markt, a town nearby was built in accordance with the unique climate of the region and is termed as the coldest spot in Germany.
The Schloss Sigmaringen has developed over different time periods. Three major periods are responsible for its current appearance along with various additions to the main structure
- Counts of Sigmaringen-Spitzenberg and Spitzenberg-Helfenstein, who undertook the responsibility for the castle from the 11th to the 13th centuries,
- The Counts of Werdenberg who expanded and renovated the castle,
- The Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, under whom the castle was renovated into a Princely Residence.
The House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen stands as the senior Swabian branch of the Hohenzollern. They ruled the Swabian County of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen in 1623, which became a principality. In 1850, the capital city of Sigmaringen, as well as the sovereign state, was annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia, following the abdication in the revolutions of 1848, and after that became part of the then created Province of Hohenzollern.
The Sigmaringen Castle stood as the home of the Swabian family since 1535. The Hohenzollern acted as counselors for emperors, generals and regiment officers for approximately a millennium.
It was only in 1806 that the House of Hohenzollern (Catholic line) was granted full sovereignty over the principality. But after four decades, the power was handed over to the Prussian branch of the House of Hohenzollern by Prince Karl Anton, in a hope to contribute to the unification of Germany and Europe.
After that, Prince Karl Anton was appointed Prime Minister of Prussia by King William I, acting as a predecessor of Otto von Bismarck. The Sigmaringen Castle was at the center of European history due to its close relations with the reigning families in Europe.
1861 onward, the daughters of Prince Karl Anton were married in the Belgian and the Portuguese Royal families, while Romania was reigned over by the Princes of the House of Hohenzollern respectively. The great-great- grandmother of the now King of Belgium, Philip, is said to be one of the daughters of Prince Karl Anton.
It was after the unsuccessful siege of the Burg Sigmaringen in 1077 under the Rudolf of Rheinfelden against, Henry IV, the King of Germany, that the castle was first identified. The year 1083 marked the identification of a pair of brothers Ludwig von Sigmaringen and Manegold von Sigmaringen, both witnesses on the document for the Königseggwald Abbey, situated in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
Out of the two brothers, Ludwig married the daughter of Berthold I von Zähringen, Richinza von Spitzenberg. He later built the castle on the Spitzenberg, Germany, at the end of the 11th century. All the surrounding land, villages, and the castle itself belonged to Richinza as part of inheritance. Ludwig had four children from his marriage with Richinza- Mathilde von Spitzenberg (who later married Aribo von Wertingen), Ulrich von Sigmaringen who was a clergyman, Manegold von Sigmaringen-Spitzenberg, and Ludwig II von Sigmaringen-Spitzenberg. Out of the four, the brothers are said to be the founders of the St. George’s Abbey situated in the Black Forest (11th century).
Later it was Ludwig II’s son, Rudolf von Sigmaringen-Spitzenberg- Helfenstein who reigned over Sigmaringen from 1133 until 1170. Following Rudolf von Sigmaringen-Spitzenberg-Helfenstein, it is his son Graf Ludwig von Sigmaringen-Spitzenberg-Helfenstein, who is mentioned in the castle in 1183. Graf Ludwig, along with his father Rudolf and his brother Ulrich II Sigmaringen-Spitzenberg are mentioned as lords of Spitzenberg-Sigmaringen in the document by Prince-Bishop of Augsburg, Walter von Dillingen.
The French Vichy Regime was moved from France into Schloss Sigmaringen, after the historic Allied invasion of France. The princely family was forced out of the castle and moved to Schloss Wilflingen by The Gestapo. “D’un château l’autre” (1957), the work of a French author Céline, elucidates the ending of the war and the subsequent fall of Sigmaringen. The novel was soon adapted into a German movie “Die Finsternis” (The Darkness) in 2006, by ZDF and Arte, the famous German media companies.
Today, the Hohenzollern family dedicates itself to promoting the culture, tourism, and the economy while being active members in many social matters.
Within the palace:
The rooms in the castle are decorated with ornate furniture, valuable porcelain objects, and paintings. The rooms provide a window on the kind of taste and lifestyle that the nobility of the previous centuries followed.
Works of Swabian artists, carvers, and metalworkers along with artifacts of both, the pre as well as the ancient historical era have been displayed through the castle. All these make it an interesting place to visit.
- Collection of Weapons
The largest private weapon collections in Europe, covering everything extending from the Middle-Ages to the Modern times are displayed in the form of The Hall of Weapons in Schloss Sigmaringen.
The Hall contains 3000 different types of weapons and armor. The collection is a result of Prince Karl Anton’s passion for weapons. Through the collection, the evolution of weapons from the 14th century to the 20th century can be observed. The collection showcases protective items such as shields, armor, and handguns. Some of the most commendable rare objects include a German multi-barrel gun, and a royal bodyguard’s body shield along with a heavily imprinted helmet. All these objects have dated back to the 15th century. The collection also includes exotic weapons such as Persian weapons and the full equipment of a Japanese Samurai.
The Galeriebau (Gallery Building) contains a collection of medieval torture instruments. An earlier sense of justice is illustrated through the instruments in the torture chamber. The Gallery was built from 1862 to 1867 under Prince Karl Anton.
- Collection of Pre and Ancient History
The Galeriebau also houses the Pre and Ancient History Museum. The collections expand from the Stone Age till the end of the Merovingian dynasty, that is, 10.000 B.C. to 700 A.D. Artifacts from the Roman settlements around Sigmaringen are also included in this collection. Apart from a love for weapons and hunting, Karl Anton also shared a fascination for history and archeology. During the construction of a canal in the Sigmaringen Market Square in 1881, various Roman pottery shards and iron work were found. Unable to contain his excitement, Karl Anton ordered F. A. von Lehner, a member of the court to conduct an extensive archeological search to explore the Villa Rustica. Findings from this Roman estate as well as other nearby estates are included in the collection.
The castle contains a museum as well. The museum used to be the royal stables earlier and is located towards the southwest direction of the castle. The Marstall Museum stores the princely fleet of carriages. The carriages, coaches, sleds and sedan chairs are displayed in an open building. Also, the equipment for the horses including saddles, horseshoes, and spurs, are on display in the museum. One of the historical contents of the museum is the manual fire-fighting pump which was used to put out the fire in the castle which took place in 1893. The fire raged for three days in the castle as the modern fire-fighting equipment did not match the castle’s connections, as a result of which the water was brought in buckets from the Danube to the castle using a human chain.
When to Visit:
The castle can only be visited in the form of a tour. Even though the tours are only in Germany, the translated guides for the same are available. The following are the timings of the castle throughout the year:
- Open in March and April from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm
- Open from May until October from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Open from November to February from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm
Some of the places around the town of Sigmaringen include:
- Stetten am kalten Markt
With lots to explore and see around, Schloss Sigmaringen is a perfect place for anyone to spend their vacation time. And if you’re visiting Germany anytime soon, you cannot afford to miss out on visiting this amazing place. So, go ahead and visit Schloss Sigmaringen with family and friends and make the most of your holiday vacation. You won’t regret it, we promise!