Hochburg (literally: Citadel) is the second largest castle in the Baden region of south west Germany. Also known as Hachberg after its 11th century founder, Dietrich von Hachberg, the castle soon came into the possession of the Margraves of Baden who dominated the south west corner of Germany from the late 11th century.
The Rise and Fall of Baden-Hachberg
When Margrave Hermann IV died at Antioch in 1190 during the Third Crusade, the Margraviate was split amongst his two sons. Whilst Hermann V continued the main line of succession based at the family home of Hohenbaden Castle near modern day Baden-Baden, Heinrich based himself at Hochburg and took his name from the castle, eventually becoming in the early 13th century (1212 or 1218 - sources vary) Heinrich I von Baden-Hachberg, first Margrave of Hachberg. By 1415, however, an impoverished Otto II von Baden-Hachberg sold his title and estates to Bernhard I, Margrave of Baden, thus reuniting the two lines under the Margrave of Baden. The Baden-Hachberg line died out on the death of the childless Otto in 1418.
Already, in 1407, Bernhard's son Jakob (James) had been born at Hochburg, and during the Margrave's conflict with the upper Rhine cities, Jakob (who on the death of his father in 1431 became Jakob I, Margrave of Baden) used Hochburg as a base from which to launch successful attacks against nearby Waldkirch (1426) and its castle (1434). A century later Hochburg survived the Great Peasants' Revolt (Deutsch: Deutscher Bauernkrieg), a social rebellion between 1524 and 1526 that coincided with the early years of Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation.
In 1533 the Margraviate of Baden was split once again. Hochburg became part of the Margraviate of Baden-Durlach, and in 1556 the second Margrave of Baden-Durlach, Karl (Charles) II, established the Protestant faith in his territory. It was during Karl II's rule that Hochburg was greatly expanded, and his younger son, Margrave Georg Friedrich, continued this work. Three of the seven new bastions constructed during this period were named after sister castles within the Baden-Durlach stable of fortifications; Rötteln Castle near Lörrach, Sausenberg Castle near Kandern, and Badenweiler Castle. During the Thirty Years War Protestant Baden-Durlach was attacked by Catholic forces, and Hochburg was subjected to a two-year siege that ended in 1636 with its capture and destruction.
Rebuild to Destruction
Between 1660 and 1678 the castle was rebuilt and modernised, only to fall victim to the fallout from the Franco-Dutch war of 1672-1678. During this war Baden-Durlach was aligned with the Holy Roman Empire against Louis XIV, King of France, and in the Peace of Nijmegen a victorious France was permitted to occupy Freiburg (and also Kehl, the German city across the Rhine from Strasbourg). Not wanting to provoke the powerful and antagonistic neighbour, Hochburg's outer fortifications were dismantled in 1681. In 1684 negligence by servants started a fire that destroyed the central upper castle, and Hochburg's woes became terminal in 1688, at the start of the Nine Years War, when French forces occupied and then destroyed what was left of of the castle. Today the ruins are currently owned and cared for by the State of Baden-Württemberg, and actively maintained by the Association for the Preservation of Hochburg Ruins ().
The castle can be found at the end of a ridge that looks over the Brettenbachtal valley, just outside the town of Emmendingen (actually just to the east of the village of Windenreute), north of Freiburg. The best approach is via the village of Sexau, at the mouth of the Brettenbachtal valley, midway between Emmendingen and Waldkirch - as you follow the road north out of the village you will be treated to an impressive view of the ruins sitting on the skyline. Parking is below the castle, on its north western side (if you're coming from Sexau, take a left onto the K5101 Am Schloßburg road in the direction of Windenreute), at the hamlet of Hochburg. There is a c.5 minute walk up a gently sloping paved track, the entrance to which is guarded by a stone-carved knight.