This episode from the 1990s TLC series titled Great Castles of Europe spotlights some of the famous castles along the Rhine, and recounts the greatest legends associated with the river.
Long ago Elisabeth, a maiden of the castle, became secretly engaged to a knight called Siegbert. When Siegbert went to war on behalf of his king, Elisabeth waited for him, but in vain. Word came that in gruesome battle her beloved had been killed. In her grief Elisabeth was comforted by a starwort monk called Markus. Soon the mysterious knight Lukas appeared asking for Elisabeth’s hand. Reluctantly she agreed to be wed and the kingdom celebrated the nuptials, all except for the monk Markus. He was suspicious of the mysterious Lukas and prayed for guidance. On the night before the wedding Markus had a strange and disturbing vision.
In a flash of blinding light Saint Mark the apostle appeared. Giving Markus a cross he told the loyal monk that Lukas was the devil himself. He was to be banished from the castle.
In the morning Lukas and Elisabeth were to come to the chapel. Markus waited for just the right moment.
The demon screamed. Beneath him the earth opened wide. The apostle Mark appeared once again to protect the martyrs with the holy sword. Since that day "Schloss Braubach" has won the name of the saint: Marksburg.
Centuries later, in 1937, Saint Mark made another appearance at the castle. An American tourist paused to take a snapshot near a chapel window. When the film was developed this ghostly portrait emerged. Perhaps it was the vigilant Saint Mark still defending the Marksburg.
In the 14th centrury the already formidable influence of the "von Katzenelnbogen" family grew unchecked. Their toll castles choked the Rhine from Mainz to the Dutch border. The Marksburg was just one of dozens.
Chief of the "von Katzenelnbogen" clan was Philip the Elderly, an adventurous if aged bon vivant. Even in his twilight years he craved parties, the hunt and adventure. Yet at home Philip was locked in a stormy marriage toh Anna von Wuckenberg. Perhaps this accounts for his far ranging travels to exotic cities and Africa and China. Eventually Philip sent Anna to one of his distant castles. Later he divorced her. At the time divorce was such a sensitive matter that the church reserved it for the rich and mighty.
One of Philip’s sons was murdered by a robber. The other succumbed to a mysterious disease. Philip at 72 faced his life’s greatest challenge: producing a new heir. He married once more to another Anna, this one from the von Braunschweig family. She was just 20 years old. But the union was fruitless and when he died in 1479 there was no male "von Katzenelnbogen" to carry on the family name. His beloved castle Marksburg fell into the hands of his son in law Heinrich von Hessen.
But with their own castle far away the von Hessens had only a feedy interest in the Marksburg. They visited it long enough to pay their respects to the former lord, then stripped the castle from its values, including Philip’s extensive library and treasures of silver and gold. Still seeking profit in the majestic relic they built an outer defensive wall and leased the castle as a troop garrison. No nobleman would ever live here again. The Marksburg’s years as a legal showplace had ended. An era had come to a close.
The decline of all the great Rhine castles began in earnest shortly after as the 16th century got on the way. With the region shattered by wars many castles were crippled or destroyed. Their once mighty ramparts and towers were no match for the explosive weapons of the frightening new age. Then perhaps, due to its fiercely appearance, in the knowledge that its new cannon batteries were turned constantly on the world below, the Marksburg was left in peace.
Only recently, after more than a thousand years unscathed, did the great castle endure its darkest moments. In 1945, while occupied by retreating German troops, it came under American grenade fire. Its wounds however were minor. Perhaps once more Saint Mark lent a hand in protecting the stronghold, leaving the greatest treasure of the Rhine intact to this day.
Today the Rhine region hosts adventurers of a different sort. Still proud castles are now home to hotels where travelers can boast of an era of knights, scoundrels and legends. But the best views are still from the water. Boats navigate a course unchanged by time. Only the panorama changes as the gently snaking valley reveals one treasure after another and history is turned back by the ceaseless current of the Rhine.
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|Source: Foto Loreleyfelsen Felix König||
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