Bachritterburg Kanzach: A 13th century timber castle
Bachritterburg in Kanzach (Germany) is a historically accurate reconstruction of a 13th century timber castle. It is one of those very rare places where you can see how early medieval castles looked like, so don’t miss this unique opportunity!
But let’s start with a short history on castles in Europe:
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Let’s have a look at timber castles: They were the most common type of castles during the 11th and 12th century in Europe. Although the first stone castles were constructed at the second half the the 11th century, the majority of castles were still build of timber and soil. Their design was simple: A tower house (keep) on a mound (motte) with an adjacent courtyard (bailey) containing a few farm and workshop buildings that were surrounded by a fence (palisade).
These early motte and bailey castles offered decent protection against marauders.
As war advanced, so did the castle designs: The palisades were surrounded by ditches or moats, and the wooden structures got replaced by stone buildings. A necessity if you consider that a spare torch was all a share-happy attacker needed to get rid of a timber castle – which is what happened to the original Bachritterburg in Kanzach, but we’ll get to that a little later…
The problem with stone castles was that they were pretty expensive, both to build and to maintain, so only wealthy nobles could afford them.
As the centuries passed by many castles were abandoned and fell into ruins. Castles that stood inhabited were rebuild; Some into military fortifications (see Ehrenberg Castle and Fort Claudia), some into palaces (like Castle Sigmaringen), and a few of them ended up being both, a fortification and a palace (Windsor Castle for example). The one thing that all nowadays remaining castles lost is how they looked at their early days – like 800 years ago. And that’s exactly what what makes Bachritterburg in Kanzach so special: It gives you a clear understanding how timber castles looked like, and how live was, at the beginning of the late medieval times.
The original Bachritterburg was built between 1230 and 1248 by either Ortolf von Pflummern or his son Berthold von Kanzach. It was burnt down in 1392 by peasants from the neighboring town Buchau. Today’s castle is located about a hundred meters to the east. If you leave the site from its main gate and cross the road, you can see the original mound and if you take a close look, you can even spot the ditch that surrounded it.
Unfortunately no historical data remains from the original construction, hence the reconstruction is based on medieval pictures and findings from an archeological excavation of a moated timber castle at Eschelbronn.
The keep is 15.8 meters (51.8 ft) tall and built of oak timber. A staircase leads up to the entrance at the first floor above ground level. The kitchen, living room and the two bedrooms are furnished based on historical models.
Both, the barn and farm houses are replicas of agricultural buildings from the first half of the 15th century. If you take a closer look at them you’ll notice that both are covered with a thick thatched roof. Reed was available in abundance at the local swamps and moors, and was used to build roofs until the early 20th century.
Reconstruction started 2000 and finished 2004, on a site just a hundred meters to the east of the original castle’s location. The location was changed to prevent the replica from interfering with future archeological excavations at the original site.
The keep was finished a year after construction started. It’s quite remarkable if you think about it: Even with modern technology, it takes a year to build a timber castle.
How much is a timber castle?
The reconstruction costs of Bachritterburg Kanzach were about 2.000.000 Euro. 70% of which where covered by the European Union and 15% each by the state Baden-Württemberg and the town Kanzach.
Quite a big investment for a small village with a population of ~500. But much worth it, as you can see at the pictures and considering the uniqueness of the site, those two million Euro were very well spent!
Visit Bachritterburg in Kanzach
If you’re in the southern part of Germany, Bachritterburg in Kanzach is a must see! It’s one of the very few opportunities to see a timber castle as they have been during the medieval ages. You’ll need somewhere between 1.5 to 3 hours. The timber castle is usually open on Saturday and Sunday between April 1st til October 31st. However, do check the official website of Bachritterburg Kanzach (German) first. Things tend to change quickly in uncertain times like these…