The Former Castle

Deidesheim Castle: A few historical facts

Deidesheim Castle

Deidesheim, as it is known today, was founded at the end of the first millennium A.D. as a ‘daughter’ town of Niederkirchen which was called Didinnechaim at that time. Niederkirchen had already been founded in 699. After the village had gone into the possession of the diocese of Speyer, the prince bishops erected a moated castle in the northeastern parts to protect their property soon afterwards. The first documentary evidence states that the castle dates from 1292, when Bishop Frederick was accommodating the German King Adolf of Nassau there. The village of Deidesheim was granted the right “to fortify itself with walls, towers and gates” by Prince Bishop Gerard and in 1395, King Wenzel granted Deidesheim its town charter.

After the town charter was received, the sovereigns ordered the extension of the castle, which with a large eastern bulwark being added in 1478. However, the castle’s defenses were never actually used in military conflicts. The building’s major importance was due to its being the seat of the prince bishops’ administration, in other words, it was the residence of the Episcopal bailiff. When the bishop was in town, he resided there to receive the tributes of his subjects and supervise the storage of the tithe of wine, grain and fruit in his cellars. This “tithe-cellar” has been preserved and can still be visited.

In 1689, during the War of Palatinate Succession, large parts of Deidesheim were set alight, including the castle. By 1698, its southern wing had already been restored by craftsmen from Deidesheim meaning that the building could again serve as a residence for the bailiff. However, Prince Bishop Damian Hugo from Speyer was not satisfied with the building’s condition and, in 1729, ordered his building officer to undertake an extensive renovation to make the castle habitable again. The renovation works were not started until ten years later, under the supervision of Johann Georg Stahl, a student of Balthasar Neumann. The new, moated building, which was finished in 1746, was a spacious four-winged complex integrating the old donjon and four medieval towers.

Unlike many other stately Baroque buildings of German princes, the castle of Deidesheim looks rather plain. Palatinate Prince Elector Carl Theodor’s stay in 1770 was probably the greatest event in the short history of the Baroque castle, which was destroyed at the end of the 18th century by the attacking French Revolutionary Army. It was looted by the troops in 1794 and used as a source of stones by the locals throughout the following years.

In the course of the secularization, the area and the remains of the buildings were bought by several inhabitants from Deidesheim at an auction in Mainz. The new owner, Heinrich Goerg, erected the present building between 1804 and 1817 and established a winery for each of his two sons. The wall in the courtyard still gives testimony to the separation of the two winegrowers’ estates.    

The old moat, which had been filled with water and used for fish farming, was, at first, leased as a garden area. The parts which hadn’t been built on by 1976, were converted by active residents from Deidesheim into parks (Castle Grounds).

 

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