Hohenzollern Castle, in German Burg Hohenzollern, is the ancestral abode of the imperial House of Hohenzollern. Swabian counts and princes, the kings of Prussia and even the German emperors have their roots here at Hohenzollern Castle in the heart of Baden-Württemberg between Lake Constance, the Black Forest and Stuttgart. The proud fortress on conical mount Zoller offers majestic panoramic views over more than 100 kilometres which already prompted Emperor William II to say: “The views from Hohenzollern Castle are truly worth the journey”.
The first fortress on the mountain was built in the early 11th century. Over the years the House of Hohenzollern was divided several times, but the castle remained in the Swabian branch, the dynastic seniors of the Franconian-Brandenburgian cadet branch that later acquired its own imperial throne. This castle was completely destroyed in 1423 after a ten-month siege by the free imperial cities of Swabia. A larger and sturdier structure was constructed from 1454 to 1461, which served as a refuge for the Catholic Swabian Hohenzollerns, including for the Thirty Years War. By the end of the 18th century it was thought to have lost its strategic importance and gradually fell into disrepair, and several dilapidated buildings was demolited.
The current castle was built by Hohenzollern scion Crown-Prince Frederick William IV of Prussia. Traveling through southern Germany en route to Italy in 1819 he wished to learn about his family’s roots, so climbed to the top of Mount Hohenzollern. He would write in 1844 as King:
The memory of the year 1819, to me is exceedingly lovely, and like a beautiful dream, especially the sunset we saw from one of the castle bastions. […] Now is a desire, a dream of my youth, to see Hohenzollern Castle again made habitable.
He engaged Friedrich August Stüler, who had been nominated Architect of the King for the rebuilding of another castle in 1842 and the heir of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, to design a new castle. Stüler began work on a design influenced by English Gothic Revival architecture and the french castles of the Loire Valley in 1846. Hohenzollern Castle is a monument to German Romanticism which incorporated an idealized vision of a medieval castle, and its construction served to enhance the reputation of the Prussian Royal Family. Construction began in 1850, and was funded entirely by the Brandenburg-Prussian and the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen lines of the Hohenzollern family. Construction was completed on 3 October 1867, under Frederick William IV’s brother King William I. After the castle was rebuilt, it was not regularly occupied. None of the Hohenzollern Kaisers of the German Empire lived there; only the last Prussian Crown Prince William stayed for several months after his flight from Potsdam ahead of Soviet army forces during the closing months of World War II. He and his wife Crown Princess Cecilie are buried there, because the family’s estates in Brandenburg had been occupied by the Soviet Union at the time of their passings.
From 1952, Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia began adding valuable artwork and Prussian memorabilia from the collections of the Hohenzollern family and the former Hohenzollern Museum in Schloss Monbijou. Two of the best pieces are the Crown of Wilhelm II and a uniform that belonged to King Frederick the Great.
Today Hohenzollern castle is the travel destionation of over 350,000 yearly visitors and is one of the most visited castles in Germany.