In the footsteps of the emperors to the imperial castle on the Dreifachfels

The year is 1251. Brother Ortlieb is on his way along the Mönchsweg from Eusserthal Abbey to  Trifels Castle. He walks the 12 kilometres there and back through the Palatinate Forest nearly every day. Barefoot. He reflects on the death of his lord Frederick II and the excommunication of the last Hohenstaufen Emperor by the mighty pope. They are turbulent times. So it is all the more important that Ortlieb celebrates mass in the castle and blesses the imperial jewels.

Brother Ortlieb’s real name is Thomas Hofmann. He is dressed in an authentic habit as he greets those taking part in the castle walk in the old town of Annweiler“Praise Jesus Christ!” He normally has to prompt them for the correct response: “For ever. Amen.” He stays in role as a deeply religious monk, bringing the lifestyle and thinking of the Middle Ages to life.

Trifels Castle in the evening sun, Palatinate

Visitors to Trifels Castle in the evening sun, Palatinate

By the time the group arrives at the castle two and a half hours later, they know a lot more about the turbulent history of the building, for example, that it is home to amazing faithful copies of the Imperial Regalia, the crown, sceptre, orb and cross. And why the original Imperial Regalia, the most important symbols for the legitimate power of the then rulers, were once kept here.

Trifels Castle itself is also a symbol of power. The red sandstone castle towers majestically on rugged cliffs on the tallest of three rocky outcrops. “I get butterflies as I approach. Because I know the castle belongs to me!” These are not the words of the famous Barbarossa as he set eyes upon his favourite castle. Or even another emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. They are spoken by actor Markus Meier, who puts on some captivating theatre at Trifels: The release of Richard the Lionheart.

To do this, Maier becomes the singer Blondel in the legend surrounding the allegedly good king of England who was held prisoner in the castle until his country paid a ransom of 23 tons of silver! The Middle Ages were not all about romance! “People don’t expect the famous crusader from the adventure films to be such a brutal, unpleasant person, it’s all about murder and manslaughter. At first, they are surprised, then they get swept along. By the end, they are completely captivated,” explains the castle actor with a grin.

View from Trifels Castle, Palatinate

View from Trifels Castle of the Palatinate Forest, Palatinate

The permanent ‘Power and Myth’ exhibition explains the chequered history of Trifels Castle, of emperors and the church and of wars and battles, starting from its beginnings in the 11th century and going all the way through to the last touches in the 1960s. Just how significant it is is evident even without words.

The view from the main tower extends across the fertile Rhine plain to the Black Forest. A treasure trove of a landscape rich in venison, timber and wine that was taxed to produce reliable funds for the imperial coffers. The trade routes led straight to Gaul, past lots of smaller castles from where the empire was run. The landscape is now criss-crossed with footpaths, each one more lovely than the last. And it’s something Markus Maier still rhapsodises about: “Hollywood could not have done it better. It’s simply a dream!”

View of Trifels Castle, Palatinate

View of Trifels Castle near Annweiler, Palatinate

Imperial Regalia at Trifels Castle, General Directorate for Cultural Heritage Rhineland-Palatinate

Imperial Regalia at Trifels Castle, General Directorate for Cultural Heritage Rhineland-Palatinate

More recommended excursions for culture vultures in Rhineland-Palatinate:

More information about the cultural highlights in Rhineland-Palatinate

Find out more about the events, exhibitions, sights and destinations of the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage Rhineland Palatinate.

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