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Eltz Castle History

The castle was erected in the 12th century on a high rock – practically it is surrounded on each side by the Eltzbach River, a tributary of the Moselle River. Between the 9th and 11th centuries here were already some small settlements surrounded by earthen embankments and wooden palisades. However, over time the need emerged for building much more stronger fortifications to protect an important trade route along the Moselle River. The stone Eltz Castle, mentioned in records for the first time in 1157, when the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa gave it, as a gift, to the founder of the great family Rudolf von Eltz. Some of the ruins, in the Romanesque style, residential building and the main castle tower have been preserved to the present day.

In 1268 the castle was divided among the three brothers of the Eltz family: Eliey, Wilhelm and Theodoric, who since that time, together with their families, lived in particular parts of the castle. They initiated new branches of the Eltz family, each of which used their own coat of arms with a distinctive color and a name resembling the respective part of the castle: Eltz "of the Golden Lion" Eltz "of the Silver Lion" and Eltz "of the Buffalo Horns". Special documents defined the right of each branch of the family and the part of the castle belonging to them. In certain periods of the castle history the number of members of the dynasty Eltz amounted to a hundred people who had approximately the same number of servants.

Contrary to other medieval castles in Germany, the Eltz Castle managed to avoid destruction and looting, which were very frequent in those days. The only serious military conflict, in which the owners of the castle took part in 1330, was the siege of the rebel knights of the Archbishop of Trier, Balduin. The so-called “Eltz Feud" lasted for the period of 1331 – 1336. During that time, the archbishop built a stronghold called Burg Trutzelz, from where he besieged Eltz Castle with catapults and heavy stone balls for many years. The knights of Eltz family eventually were forced to capitulate and had become vassals of Baldwin of Luxembourg.

At the end of the seventeenth century, during the Palatinate Wars of Succession, the Eltz castle narrowly escaped from destruction owing to the owner of the castle, Hans Anton zu Eltz-Üttingen. As an officer occupying high position in the French army, he was able to delete the castle bearing his name from the list of buildings to be destroyed. In the early nineteenth century, a member of the Eltz family tree, the branch of "Golden Lion", Count Hugo Philipp zu Eltz bought the property belonging to the relatives of the other branches of the family, and thus in 1815 the castle became the property of the same family.

In the mid-nineteenth century, when it became fashionable to shift towards gothic architecture, Karl Graf von Eltz Kempenich began restoring his family heritage and spent a great, for those times, amount of money {200 thousand Mark}. The extensive reconstruction work lasted from 1845 to 1888, and was performed with great care and consideration in order to preserve the old architectural character of the castle.