The Heidelberg Castle – what a place full of history – situated on a terrace of the Königstuhl above the Neckar. Its beginnings go back into the 13th century. Certificates mention a castle which probably already existed under the bishops of Worms. Around 1303 there are already two castles, an upper castle on the Gaisberg and a second castle, whose location is already assigned to that of today’s castle.
The development of the castle complex into a medieval ancestral seat certainly began with the award of the electoral dignity to Rudolf II. (1306 – 1353) in 1329, the first Palatine elector. Already Ruprecht I. (1309 – 1390), who also founded the University of Heidelberg, ordered various enlargements of the residential buildings and a considerable strengthening of the fortifications.
The following electoral princes visibly expanded the castle as a fortress with representative character. Towers, walls and ramparts were supposed to protect against attacks. The Ruprecht Building, the Library Building, the Ludwig Building and the Glass Hall were used primarily for representation and for the demonstration of power.
Elector Ottheinrich (1502 – 1559) had the Ottheinrichsbau built – an early Renaissance building with a magnificent magnificent facade. The castle thus became a palace. In the following years, buildings such as the Friedrichsbau, the English Building and the garden Hortus Palatinus are built. This park, laid out in three terraces, with its exotic plants, aberrations, grottos and pleasure houses, was considered the “Eighth wonder of the world”, but was never fully completed.
The political entanglements and the Bohemian debacle of Elector Frederick V. (1596 – 1632) and the resulting Thirty Years’ War did not mean anything good for Heidelberg, the castle and its rulers. Destruction and plundering of the town and surrounding villages, a considerably damaged castle and the loss of the electoral dignity were the result of his failed policy. In 1649 the son of Frederick V., Charles I. Ludwig, moved into Heidelberg as the new ruler. In the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, the Electoral Palatinate was granted a new electoral dignity again, but with considerably fewer privileges. The Elector began to repair his residence, but at that time there was not enough money for major new buildings.
Again political entanglements led to great disaster. In 1671, Elector Karl I Ludwig married his daughter Liselotte of the Palatinate to Philip of Orléans, a brother of the Sun King, Louis XIV, who registered a claim to the inheritance in 1685, when Elector Karl II, who had been in power in Heidelberg for some time, died childless. The War of Palatinate Succession began and French troops twice occupied Heidelberg and the castle. While some houses and parts of the castle were still spared during the destruction on 6 March 1689, French soldiers did a good job on 13 June 1693. 27000 pounds of powder brought down towers, and fortification walls during the action “Heidelberg Delta”.
The Heidelberg Castle never fully recovered from the destruction in the War of Succession. In the meantime Mannheim had been appointed the electoral residence city and the elector Carl Theodor led his official business from there. In 1764 all plans for a reconstruction were completely destroyed. A lightning strike started a fire and caused further considerable damage. What remained of the former castle was a ruin left to itself, possibly still used as a supplier of high-quality building materials.
The castle ruins became world-famous due to the Romanticism that emerged at the beginning of the 19th century. After the university was re-founded in 1803, Heidelberg experienced a second heyday and attracted students and young artists from all over Germany. They described the destroyed castle as a symbol of German history and immortalized the building in their paintings, romantic stories or verses. The most famous names from this period are Carl Philipp Fohr, Karl Rottmann and Ernst Fries, Achim von Arnim, Clemens Brentano, Friedrich Hölderlin and Joseph von Eichendorff. Even Johann Wolfgang von Goethe raved about the ruins, the city and the landscape in his diaries, notes and sketches.
Of all people, a Frenchman, the emigrated Count Charles de Gaimberg (1774 – 1864), became the saviour of the castle ruins. He was the first to make an effort to preserve the ruins. Gaimberg documented the castle in numerous detailed drawings and his art collection later formed the basis of the Kurpfälzisches Museum.