Rötteln Castle is one of the most imposing castles in south west Germany and is today, after Hochberg and Hohenbaden, the third largest ruin in Baden. It's position on the southern edge of the Black Forest close to the Rhine, above the Wiese valley (near the modern town of Lörrach), and its extensive fortifications made it one of the most significant castles in south west Germany. Although first mentioned in 1259, the castle was probably first built long before then. It was the seat of the Lords of Rötteln (who first appear in the historical record in 1102), the most powerful and well-known noble family in the Lörrach region, a family which played an influential role in the affairs of nearby Basel in modern day Switzerland.
Into Baden Hands
In 1311 the castle passed into the ownership of the Margraves of Hachberg-Sausenberg (Rudolf I, first Margrave of Hachberg-Sausenberg, was married to the daughter of the last Lord of Rötteln, Lüthold II, and was made co-ruler in 1311. Rudolf was succeeded on his death in 1312 by his son, Henry, on whom in 1315 the titles and posessions of the Lordship of Rötteln was bestowed. The final incorporation of the Rötteln estates into the Margraviate of Hachberg-Sausenberg was completed on the death in 1316 of Lüthold II). Formerly based in Sausenberg Castle near Kandern, the seat of the House of Hachberg-Sausenberg was moved to Rötteln Castle, which the Hachberg-Sausenbergers extended significantly.
The Hachberger possessions were widely scattered across the upper Rhine and Black Forest areas of south west Germany, in modern day Switzerland; and in Burgundy and the south of France, and the Hachberger family were part of a wide web of relationships amongst the ruling elite (the House of Hachberg-Sausenberg was a branch of the House of Baden-Hachberg - based at Hochburg Castle near Freiburg - itself a branch of the House of Baden, based at Hohenbaden Castle near Baden-Baden). As a result, Rötteln Castle became a centre of politics and cultural exchange between the most important European powers of the day.
Decline and Fall
When the Hachberg-Sausenberg line died out in 1503, its possessions passed to the House of Baden, and Rötteln Castle became the administrative centre of the south Baden area. In 1678 (during the Franco-Dutch War) troops of the French 'Sun King' Louis XIV torched the castle (having already been damaged during the Thirty Years' War some 30 years earlier), and the castle was allowed to fall into ruin (a process aided by the destruction of the bastion by French forces during the Nine Years' War of 1688 - 1697).
In the 19th century (after being valued as little more than a quarry for local builders) people began to appreciate the ruins for their scenic beauty set in an attractive location, and the first restorations were made according to the Romantic style prevalent at the time. Since 1926 the castle has been in the care of the Röttelnbund Association, working together with the state memorial care and building authorities for the preservation and improvement of the castle area. Today Rötteln Castle is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the upper Rhine region.
The castle is open daily between 10 - 18:00 from April to October. In the winter months it is open only on Sundays and holidays between 11 - 16:00. During periods of ice and snow the upper castle is closed. Entrance to the upper castle costs €2 per adult and €1 for children aged 6 - 14 (children under 6 enter free). Group discounts are available. There is a small museum in the entrance building (Alamanicus was particularly impressed by the matchstick model of the castle in its heyday). Both towers can be climbed for great views of the ruins and the surrounding area. There is a pleasant wooded spot outside the castle walls below the north tower for picnics. In the lower castle area refreshments are available from a garden cafe area, and there is also the Burgschenke German Restaurant on site (open Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 - 14:00 and 18:30 - 24:00. Reservations recommended). So far Alamanicus has contrived to visit the castle once on an icy winter day (closed), and a second time on a day of battleship-grey skies and non-stop drizzle which not only ruined the picnic plan but resulted in some not so bright pictures that Alamanicus has tried to brighten up with some photoshop trickery.