The medieval Dukes of Swabia make regular appearances on the History of the Germans Podcast. It is time then to introduce you to their home, Hohentwiel castle.
Hohentwiel sits atop an extinct volcano and dominates the plain around it. It has been used as a refuge since at least the first Millenium BC. A castle there is first mentioned in the 8th century making it one of the oldest castles in Germany. In 915 king Konrad I besieges the Hohentwiel without success – part of his general failure to exert effective control. (see episode 1)
The castle was expanded significantly when it became the seat of the duchess Hadwig (~940-994), wife of duke Burchart III and sister of Henry the Quarrelsome, duke of Bavaria. Hadwig maintained a sophisticated court on the Hohentwiel even after her husband had died.
After her husbands death, her brother claimed the duchy of Swabia for himself or at a minimum for whoever Hadwig would choose to marry. Emperor Otto II refused for fear of his rival Henry the Quarrelsome gaining control of all of Southern Germany, cutting him off from the riches of Italy. Otto II appointed another of their relatives to be duke.
Hadwig did not recognise the new duke and remained on the Hohentwiel effectively controlling a major part of Swabia. She joined her brother in his rebellion of 974/976 and again in his attempt to gain the crown in 983. (check out episode 9 ” A Matter of Habit” and Episode 11 “Woe the Land..”)
Since the castle was impregnable the emperor(s) chose to ignore her even after Henry the Quarrelsome’s rebellions had been squashed. Hadwig had a close relationship the the monastery of St. Gallen and particularly to one monk, Eckehard. She called him to the Hohentwiel to teach her Latin and theology. She later sponsored him to join the imperial court and embark on a great career in the church.
Victor von Scheffel took the story and made it into a love affair where the monk turns from a religious bigot into a liberated poet under the guidance of a well educated and still enticing older woman. The book, published in 1855 became a massive bestseller.
In the later Middle Ages the castles moves through multiple hands before the Dukes of Württemberg make it their main fortress. 18th century defence systems are installed, returning it to its historic impregnability.
The Hohentwiel served as one of the state prisons for the notoriously oppressive principality. The most famous inmate was the father of German constitutional theory Johann Jakob Moser.
In 1801 Napoleon orders the fortress to be destroyed.
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