The burg Eltz is a majestic castle located on the top of a rock within a small wooded valley in western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Probably for luck or strategy, we don’t know the reasons, the castle has been mostly spared from the ravages of war, in fact it is also famous for being one of the few German castles on the left side of the Rhine river to have been left unscathed over the centuries. Probably one of the reason is that the Elzbach River, a tributary on the north side of the Moselle, surrounds the castle on three sides, and has protected it from the attacks of any would-be invaders. In fact, apart from being besieged during the 14th century, Eltz Castle has not seen much military action throughout its long history.
Is interesting that it has been owned by the same family, the family Eltz, for more than 800 years. The history of Eltz Castle dates back to the 12th century. In 1157, a deed of donation was issued by Frederick I Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor. One of the witnesses who signed and sealed the document was Rudolf von Eltz. The present castle was not yet in existence during this time, but a simple manor with an earthen palisade, occupying the same place. Parts of Rudolf’s castle, such as the Romanesque manor Platt-Eltz, and four floors of the former Romanesque living quarter, called “pallas”, have been preserved, integrated into the Kempenich Houses, and the visitors can still visit today. During the 13th century, grew up a conflict between three brothers of the Eltz family, Elias, Wilhelm, and Theoderich. As a result of this dispute, the family was divided into three branches: the Eltz-Kempenich (Eltz of the golden lion), Eltz-Rübenach (Eltz of the silver lion) and Eltz-Rodendorf (Eltz of the buffalo horns). The castle and all the estate were also divided into three parts, which made it a “ganerbenburg”, a german historic word used to denote a building that is occupied by several branches of a family at the same time. Despite this, the expansion of Eltz Castle was continued by all the three families over the following centuries, and the castle attained its current form during the latter part of the 17th century. In the subsequent centuries, Eltz Castle was spared from the ravages of war, also in 1618, when the Thirty Years’ War broke out in Central Europe. During this conflict, many castles along the Rhine river were destroyed by the invading French army. But Eltz Castle was saved, thanks to a combination of its location and the diplomatic capacity of its lords. In 1786, the Eltz-Rodendorf branch of the family finished, and their share of the castle passed into the hands of the Eltz-Kempenich branch. In 1815, the property of the Eltz-Rübenach branch was bought by Count Hugo Philipp of the Eltz-Kempenich branch. As a result, Eltz Castle became once more the property of one owner, and has been so ever since. The current owner of the castle is the Dr.Karl Graf von und zu Eltz-Kempenich, Faust von Stromberg of the 33rd generation of family Eltz.
From 1965 to 1992, an engraving of Eltz Castle was used on the German 500 Deutsche Mark note.