From a medieval fortification to a pompously furnished summer residence. From to an arms arsenal to a tourist magnet: Castle Runkelstein had a turbulent past! But let’s start at the beginning:
The history of Castle Runkelstein (Ital. Roncolo) in Bolzano, South Tyrol (Italy), is well documented: The brothers Friedrich and Beral of Wangen built castle Runkelstein after they got permission from Alderich, the Bishop of Trient and the Tyrolean count Albert on 10th February 1237. Those days the Sarn valley was one of the main trading routes that connected Venice with Southern Germany, and, as you probably can imagine, those wealthy merchants had to be protected and of course taxed.
The Vintler Family
The brothers Nikolaus and Franz Vintler bought castle Runkelstein 1385 to use it as their summer residence. The Vintlers were one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Bolzano around 1400. They had the castle rebuilt, added the frescoes and pompously furnished it. The way castle Runkelstein looks today is mainly their accomplishment.
Archduke Sigismund bought castle Runkelstein 1476/1478 from the Vintler heirs and used it as hunting castle and arms arsenal for castle Sigmundskron (Ital. Firmiano). Another great ruined castle in the area of Bolzano – have a look at the photos at the end of this post.
Frescoes at Castle Runkelstein
In 1508 Emperor Maximilian ordered the restoration of the frescoes, which are particularly worth mentioning: See, Most frescoes from around 1400 depicted religious scenes from the bible. Those at Runkelstein depict knight’s tales and ancient legends, and are unparalleled in the German speaking area. So yes, they are very much worth a visit, especially if you’re interested in art, or history, or if you have ever wondered how art looked like at medieval times.
The decay of Castle Runkelstein
A gunpowder explosion damaged the castle’s gate and donjon in 1520. The gate was repaired between 1530 and 1531, but the donjon was left damaged.
A lightning struck the castle in 1672. The resulting fire damaged Runkelstein’s east side, accelerating its decay.
A tourist magnet since 1830
Although it was already heavily decayed, and more a ruined castle than a castle, Runkelstein and its frescoes became a tourist magnet around 1830.
Drawings of the frescoes by Ignaz Seelos got published 1857. The Summerhouse partially collapsed in 1868. Kaiser Franz Joseph had Runkelstein completely renovated between 1883 to 1888. Thanks to the previously published drawings, the frescoes at the summerhouse could be restored. The remains of the first donjon, (the one damaged by the gunpowder explosion in 1520) were removed and a new donjon was built – the one you can visit today.
At the end, Emperor Franz Joseph gave castle Runkelstein as a gift to the the city of Bolzano 1893.
Castles around Bolzano
Beside castle Runkelstein there are seven other castles around Bolzano: The “Gescheibte Turm” is just a few hundred Meters below Ronkollo. Its all that remains from castle Treuenstein. The remains of the ruined castle Rafenstein are visible on the top of the hill behind castle Runkelstein. Haselburg castle houses a nice restaurant. Next there’s Castle Ried, just a few hundred meters upward the valley. Karneid castle can be found about four km to the east of Bolzano. Then there’s castle Maretsch close to the historic old town in Bolzano and finally there’s the aforementioned castle Sigmundskron. Quite a lot of options for castle spotters.
For more information about Runkelstein visit castle Runkelstein’s official website.
Next month, we’re taking a closer look at Dinkelsbühl, one of the highlights at the romantic road in Germany.
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Haselburg Castle (Ital. Castel Flavon) was built shortly before 1237. Unfortunately it got heavily damaged by rock fall. It houses a nice restaurant with a priceless panorama of Bolzano and the environment. Here are two pictures of Haselburg Castle:
Sigmundskron Castle (Ital. Castel Firmiano) dates back to the year 945. It houses the Messner Mountain Museum Firmian.
Karneid Castle (Ital. Cornedo all’Isarco) is located about four km (2.5 mi) to the east of Bolzano. This one’s a private property, so a photo from the outside is all you’ll get. Still, quite impressive how it stands on the rock: