Free Rothenburg Walking Tour:
Walking Tour Location: Old Town Rothenburg
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Museum and funicular/lift costs below)
Style: Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour (Self Guided)
Start: Market Square (Marktplatz)
End: Market Square (Marktplatz)
Walking Distance: 1.7 miles (2.3 Miles with Infirmary Quarter)
Time: 90 Minutes for Walk (+5 Hours with museums, +45 minutes for Toppler’s Water Palace and 90 minutes For the Southern River Hike)
Fun Scale: 10 out of 10
Overview of Old Town Rothenburg:
Spending a day in Old Town Rothenburg (Row-tin-burg, with a rolled R) is like stepping 400 years into the past. This time capsule of a village is packed with colorful half-timber homes, old-world sights, cobblestone lanes, and surrounded by a Medieval City Wall. The pure beauty of Old Town is Rothenburg’s main attraction. When you mix in the Night Watchman tour, the Christmas market, and great year-round shopping you have the makings for an unbelievable visit.
We highly suggest spending at least one night in Rothenburg as it feels truly magical in the evening after the tour buses have left. Our self-guided walking tour covers all the must-see attractions with plenty of opportunities to get away from the mid-day crowds. If you have extra time you can also the along the City Wall (Turmweg) or bike down to the river which gives the city it’s full name Rothenburg ob der Tauber (meaning Red Castle over the Tauber River). Rothenburg is definitely a place to take your time, relax, and enjoy. Hope you enjoy our Old Town Rothenburg walking tour!
Rothenburg Walking Tour:
14. Castle Hohenstaufen Ruins (Burggarten):
About King Conrad’s Castle: The appendix-like park on the West side of Old Town Rothenburg was where Conrad III, King of Germany (House Hohenstaufen) built his royal castle in 1142. This castle led to the development of the surrounding town by 1170 and gave it the name Rothenburg ob der Tauber, meaning Red Castle over the River Tauber. As you walk through the Fürbringer Barn Gate (Burgtor), you enter what was formerly the walled farmyard (wirtschaftshof) which then connected to the fort-like castle by a bridge (see image). Conrad chose the location because the fertile land was cheaper than administrative centers like Bamberg or Würzburg, and also because he had close ties to the area.
In 1115, Conard III (House Hohenstaufen) married Gertrude, the daughter of Count Heinrich II von Comburg-Rothenburg who founded Berchtesgaden in 1102. The Counts of Comburg (died out in 1116) oversaw parts of Franconia at the time from their court in Schwäbisch Hall and built the small fort known as the Vinegar Jug Castle (now gone) on the hill of Rothenburg’s Infirmary Quarter in 1080. Conrad also came from a powerhouse family as his dad was the Duke of Swabia (followed by his brother), his mom’s dad was Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, his mom’s second husband was Margrave of Austria Leopold the Good (House Babenberg) who developed Kerms & Vienna, and his maternal uncle was Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Through his bloodlines, Conrad was directly related to all previous 18 Holy Roman Emperors going back to Charlemagne the Great and was destined for the throne himself.
Just one year after the wedding Conrad III was named Duke of Franconia by uncle Emperor Henry IV. Conrad was also named Prince-Regent for Germany along with his older brother Frederick I (Duke of Swabia). HERE is a map of the territories at the time to understand how much land the brothers were put in charge of. When Conrad’s uncle Henry IV died in 1125, his brother lost the appointment for King of Germany in surprise fashion to a distant cousin Lothair III (Duke of Saxony, House Welf) who leveraged Papal support. This was the start of the feud between the Guelphs (House Welf) versus Ghibellines (House Hohenstaufen) which would later spread in Tuscany and last over 100 years. After huge military defeats and the election of Lothair as Holy Roman Emperor in 1133, the brothers eventually had to acknowledge as their ruler.
Gertrude of Comburg had died in 1131 after giving Conrad three daughters so he re-married to Gertrude of Sulzbach in 1136, whose dad Count Berengar II founded Berchtesgaden in 1102. His as his brother-in-laws through the Berengar sisters gave him powerful allies including Prince Vladislav II of Bohemia (later King), Prince of Polish Ladislaus the Exile, and Byzantine Emperor Manuel I. With his bloodlines and new alliances, Conrad III was quickly elected King of Germany in Coblenz (March 1138) after Lothair died (December 1137), snubbing Lothair’s son-in-law and heir, Henry The Proud (Duke of Bavaria & Saxony, House Welf). Because Henry the Proud didn’t support him, Conrad striped Henry of the Bavarian duchy and gave it to his half-brother Leopold Leopold the Generous (House Babenberg) who also control the Margrave of Austria.
The newly crowned King Conrad III grew to be one of the most powerful men in Europe over the next 14 years and seemed destined for the Holy Roman Empire Crown which had sat vacant since Lothair’s death. Before leaving in 1147 with 20,000 troops to lead/fight with Louis VII of France in the 2nd Crusade, Conrad III arranged for his son his sons Henry Berengar (then 10 years old) Fredrick (then 2) had the princes in Regensburg named Co-Kings of Germany (Prince Regent) with him to take over in case he died in battle. He participated in the ill-fated Siege of Damascus (1148) and returned to Germany.
Henry Berengar, who was once betrothed to the Princess of Hungary, was the winning general at the Battle of Flochberg (1150), but died later that year. Soon after, Conrad III died on the 15th of February 1152 at Bamberg (buried at Bamberg Cathedral) of malaria. The title King of Germany then went to Conrad’s nephew Frederick Barbarossa (Emperor 1155-1190) who had fought with him in the 1st Crusade instead of his own six-year-old son Frederick IV (1145–1167). It was a bit controversial as only Frederick Barbarossa and the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg were at his deathbed to hear the order.
Frederick IV was given his dad’s castle in Rothenburg (which he occasionally visited) and was named the Duke of Swabia, but the Duke of Franconia title went to the Bishop of Würzburg. Frederick IV took part in his cousin Barbarossa’s campaigns in Italy where he died from disease after occupying Rome in 1167 at the age of 21 and with no heirs. Emperor Barbarossa’s heirs produced three more Holy Roman Emperors and several Kings of Germany before the Hohenstaufen line died out in 1254. Because it sat on the crossroads of two major trade routes, Rothenburg then gained Free Imperial City statue in 1274 by Rudolf I King of Germany (Habsburg Dynasty). After Frederick IV’s death in 1167, his dad’s Rothenburg castle mainly sat vacant as Imperial property until it was ruined by an earthquake in 1356.
Counts Of Comburg
Did you know that there were actually two castles built in early-day Rothenburg? There had been a small settlement along this stretch of the Tauber River valley (Detwang) in as early as 950-970 before the Counts of Comburg built the small fort known as the Vinegar Jug Castle in the hill of today’s Infirmary Quarter in 1080. The counts oversaw this part of Franconia at the time from their court in Schwäbisch Hall and their castle allowed their to protect the river. For more about their early castle and the Infirmary Quarter see out Castle Wall walking tour.
In 1115, Conard III (House Hohenstaufen) married Gertrude, the daughter of local Count Heinrich II von Comburg-Rothenburg. The wedding was important for the region as Conrad was directly related to all previous 18 Holy Roman Emperors going back to Charlemagne the Great and was destined for the throne himself. Just one year after the wedding the Count died leaving no male heirs and Conrad III was named Duke of Franconia by his maternal uncle Holy Roman Empire Henry IV. Conrad was also named Prince-Regent for Germany along with his older brother Frederick I (Duke of Swabia). HERE is a map of the territories at the time to understand how much land the brothers were put in charge of.
House Hohenstaufen Vs. House Welf
When Conrad’s uncle Henry IV died in 1125, he could have become the King of Germany since he was Prince-Regent, but instead supported his older brother Frederick I (Duke of Swabia) who lost the election of in surprise fashion to a distant cousin Lothair III (Duke of Saxony, House Welf).
Hohenstaufen Castle in Göppingen (now ruins) was the old family seat in Swabia built by Frederick I (1050-1105, Duke in 1079) and is later where King Philp of Germany was assassinated in 1208.
Lothair (who was old at almost 50) stripped the brothers of their titles after the election, but Conard was appointed as the German Anti-King in Nuremberg with the support of Swabia, Austria (which his mom had ties to), and the Imperial Cities. Conrad was also crowned the King of Italy 1128 following the death of Matilda of Tuscany, but after huge military defeats, he eventually had to acknowledge Lothair III as the German King. Leading up to Lothair’s crowning as Holy Roman Empire in 1133, House Welf leveraged there being two Popes at the time to get support to influence the Electors. Breaking with House Hohenstaufen, Lothair claimed that the Empire got its power from the Pope and gave Tuscany to his son-in-law Henry The Proud (Duke of Saxony & Bavaria, House Welf). Tuscany would later be handed to Henry’s brother and two additional generations of House Welf (1137-1173) before Frederick Barbarossa House Hohenstaufen would get it back
King of Germany – 1138
After Lothair died (December 1137), Conrad III was quickly elected King of Germany in Coblenz (March 1138) snubbing Lothair’s son-in-law and heir, Henry The Proud (Duke of Bavaria & Saxony). Henry was a Bavarian Duke from the Welf family and was the most powerful prince in Germany at the time. Because Henry the Proud didn’t support him, Conrad striped Henry of the Bavarian duchy and gave it to his half-brother Leopold Leopold the Generous (House Babenberg) who also control the Margrave of Austria. The whole thing sparked a bit of a civil war between the families which continued on with Henry the Proud’s son Henry the Lion versus Conrad III.
The newly crowned King Conrad III grew to be one of the most powerful men in Europe over the next 14 years and seemed destined for the Holy Roman Empire Crown which had sat vacant since Lothair’s death. Conrad had a lot of close allies as his brother-in-laws included Prince Vladislav II of Bohemia (later King), Prince of Polish Ladislaus the Exile, and Byzantine Emperor Manuel I. Conrad III’s mom had also re-married to Leopold III Margrave of Austria (House Babenberg) in 1106 the year after their father’s death. Leopold had fostered the development of Vienna and Krems as their family oversaw Austria from 976-1246 when they died out.
New Castle In Rothenburg
Because the land in Rothenburg was fertile and cheap, King Conrad III decided to build Castle Hohenstaufen here in 1142 sparking the true beginning of Rothenburg. Gertrude
and was headed toward the title Holy Roman Emperor, but unfortunately died before he could be crowned. Conrad’s Brother Fredrick II
After the death of Castle Hohenstaufen’s next resident, Friedrich the Duke of Rothenburg, it sat vacant in disrepair, but the village around the castle continued to grow.
Rothenburg sat on the crossroads of two major trade routes, and was further elevated to a Free Imperial City in 1274 by Rudolf I King of Germany (Habsburg Dynasty).
Conrad’s Kids and Crusades
Gertrude of Comburg (died 1131, married 1115) was the first wife and queen of Conrad III, her dad was Henrich II the last Count of Rothenburg (died 1116). The couple had one daughter together Ahnesa -or- Agnes Hohenstaufen (1116-1152) who married to Grand Duke Izyaslav II Mstislavich Of Kiev and possibly two other daughters Bertha and Gertrud.
Then married Gertrude of Sulzbach (1110-1146, married 1135) who’s dad had Berengar II (House Babenberg) founded the monastery in Berchtesgaden. The couple had two sons Henry Berengar (1136-1150) and Frederick IV (1145-1167). His wife fell ill after the second birth and died in 1146.
Henry (at just age 3) was betrothed to Sophia daughter of King Béla II of Hungary in 1139, but when her dad died in 1141 and her brother became King of Hungary the wedding was called off. Henry was the winning general at the Battle of Flochberg (1150) near Nördlingen against Welf VI and Welf VII but then died later that year. Conrad’s son was betrothed to Sophia, daughter of King Béla II of Hungary, at age six which would have made the family even stronger but the wedding was called off and Henry died in 1150 after helping his dad defeat the Welfs in battle.
Frederick IV as the last surviving heir to Conrad III, seemed bound to become the King of Germany and Holy Roman Empire after his dad died in 1152, but it took a twist. Frederick IV married Gertrude of Saxony-Bavaria, daughter of Henry the Lion (House Welf) who later went on the marry the Canute VI the King of Denmark after his death. They had no Kids.
Before leaving in 1147 with 20,000 troops to fight with Louis VII of France in the 2nd Crusade, Conrad III arranged for his son his sons Henry Berengar (then 10 years old) Fredrick (then 2) had the princes in Regensburg named Co-Kings of Germany (Prince Regent) with him to take over in case he died in battle.
After taking a questionable route being badly defeated in Anatolia, Turkey Conrad fell sick in Ephesus and was tended to by the doctor of Byzantine Emperor Manuel I in Constantinople. Their relationship was interesting and Manuel had recently married Conrad’s sister-in-law Bertha of Sulzbach (his wife’s Gertrude’s sister, House Babenberg, the girl’s dad founded the monastery in Berchtesgaden) . made it to Jerusalem and participated in the ill-fated Siege of Damascus (1148) before returning to Germany.
Death of King Conrad
When Conrad died on the 15th of February 1152 at Bamberg (also born in Bamberg) of malaria from the Crusade, where he was buried in Bamberg Cathedral (as is Henry II the Saint HRE) and his title King of Germany went to his nephew Frederick Barbarossa who had fought with him in the 1st Crusade instead of his own six-year-old son Frederick IV (1145–1167) who then became the Duke of Swabia. It was a bit controversial as only Frederick Barbarossa and the prince-bishop of Bamberg was at his deathbed to hear the order.
a new castle in Nuremberg built under the Hohenstaufen emperors (1138–1254). Frederick IV took part in his cousin’s campaigns in Italy where he died from disease after occupying Rome in 1167 at the age of 21 and with no heirs, Frederick Barbarossa gave Swabia to his own three-year-old son, Frederick V mainly because his oldest son Henry VI was to be crowned King of the Romans (later HRE)
Ghibellini Vs. Guelphs
rival Hohenstaufens of Swabia (led by Conrad III of Germany) used “Wibellingen”, the name of a castle today known as Waiblingen, as their cry; “Wibellingen” subsequently became Ghibellino in Italian. The names were likely introduced to Italy during the reign of Frederick Barbarossa. When Frederick conducted military campaigns in Italy to expand imperial power there, his supporters became known as Ghibellines ( Ghibellini) mainly agriculture. The Lombard League and its allies were defending the liberties of the urban communes against the Emperor’s encroachments and became known as Guelphs (Guelfi) mainly merchants.
Frederick Barbarossa (Married Beatrice of Burgundy) died in 1190 in the Third Crusade but both his son, grandson, and great-grandson would become Holy Roman Emperors before they died out. While Frederick Barbarossa had his court in Mayence (now Mainz) the Holy Roman Emperors floated around castles throughout their lands.
Frederick Barbarossa took the Margrave of Tuscany from House Welf in 1195 and gave it to his fifth and youngest with the Philip who would the 1st German king to be Assassinated. One of Barbossa’s iligetimate sons also oversaw Tuscany before it broke off into City States of Siena, Florence ect. At the same time, three generations after Barbossa would maintain the HRE Crown with 1 gap.
Barbarossa had beef with the Pope over who was higher then the other and when Pope Alexander III excommunicated him he starting supporting some anti-popes although they made up in 1176. Although they were strained he raised 150,000 troops for the 3rd crusade. legend has it that Barbarossa isn’t dead lies sleeping on a throne in Kyffhauser Mountain (where a huge monument commemorating the 1813 Battle of Leipzig now sits), this is similar to the story of the sleep Charlemagne which he modeled after by traveling to always get the favor of princes in the territories.
After Barbarossa’s death in the 3rd Crusade (1189–1192) falling off his horse and drowning, Otto IV (only German king of the Welf dynasty) third son of Henry the Lion (Duke of Bavaria and Saxony) and Matilda of England was a rival German King and HRE to Barbarossa son Henry VI until Henry and two more generations after held the titles.
Henry The Lion
Frederick Barbarossa (nickname in Italian means Red Beard) was elected Holy Roman Emperor and tried to expand his holdings into Tuscany by force. His followers took on the Ghibelline banner while his opposition that of the Ghelps which drug on his Siena versus Florence for hundreds of years. After being stalled in battle, the Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick Barbarossa approached a settlement with the Henry the Lion in In 1156 as Fredericks dad was a Hohenstaufen and his mom was a Welf as his dad (Conrad III’s older brother) had married Judith of Bavaria daughter of Duke of Bavaria (1120 to 1126 ), Henry IX (second son of Duke Welf I of Bavaria) and continued his campaign elsewhere.
The move gave Henry the Lion (House Welf) Bavaria and elevated Austria to a Duke under Henry II Jasomirgott (house Babenberg) in 1156 (died 1177). Prior to this all of Austria was part of Bavaria since 976 (overseen by the Babenbergs) and Bavaria was even ruled from Salzburg for a short while in the 700s. Extinction of the Babenbergs line in 1246, whereafter they were succeeded by the House of Habsburg.
Welfs Out, Wittelsbachs In
After Barbarossa’s struggles in Italy he returned to Germany in 1180 to find Henry the Lion had grown strong ruling Bavaria and Saxony and feeling both threatened and unsupported by Henry this Declared that Imperial law overruled traditional German law, the court had Henry stripped of his lands and declared him an outlaw. Other German princess had beef with Henry and went along with it. After the exile to England/France Henry the Lion joined Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) and tried to get Saxony back
Otto I the Redhead (House Wittelsbach, Count Palatine, also called Otto VI) who was a valiant Knight of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa who had a big victory in Verona in 1155. Wittelsbach (Counts of Palatinate) who rules Bavaria from 1180-1918 with 2 HRE, 1 King of the Romains, 2 Anti-Bohemian Kings, one King of Hungary, one of Denmark and Norway, one of Sweden and Finland, and one of Greece.
When the last Duke of Merania (Dalmatia) Conrad II (House Wittelsbach) died in 1182 Duke Otto bought the Gothic Dachau castle (his family built in 1100) and moved his Royal Court there.
Lower Bavaria later run out of Landshut with a backup of Berghausen from 1353-1505 (has sort of been divided 1255-1340 with no set boundaries) all same family.
Palatine was along the Rhine with Otto I’s dad moved his residence from Scheyern Castle (which it had been the court since 940) to Wittelsbach Castle in 1120
Palatine court at Heidelberg (1085–1690) Düsseldorf (1690–1720) Mannheim(1720–1803)
Otto I may have been Otto son of Fredrick II and grandson of Fredrick I (start of Hohenstaufen), was the brother of Archbishop Conrad I of Mainz and Salzburg
Rothenburg Earthquake of 1356
In 1356, Castle Hohenstaufen was ruined by a large earthquake which also damaged sections of the city wall. Much of the stone from the castle was used as a quarry to repair and bolster Rothenburg’s fortifications. With the city at its peak of 6,000 residents in 1400AD, Mayor Toppler decided to rebuild the castle’s Upper Ducal House into what is now the Chapel of St. Blaise. Originally the castle didn’t have a chapel and the Ducal House was actually where the king received his guests. At the time of Toppler’s work, Rothenburg was the 2nd largest city in Germany and one of the 10 largest in the Holy Roman Empire. In more recent time, a memorial was added inside the chapel for German soldiers who died in WW1 & WW2. As you leave the chapel, keep an eye out of sections of the castle’s original foundation and for the Jewish Memorial. The memorial stone is for the half of Rothenburg’s 500 Jews killed in 1298 for religious reasons. The Jews were often forced to live outside of the city walls and were officially banned in 1520.
Castle Garden Created – 1700s
Roaming further down the rest of the castle grounds you will see the Castle Garden (Burggarten) which was added in the 1700s and was not originally part of the complex. The garden has beautiful geometric flower beds with 8 sandstone statues representing the 4 seasons and 4 elements. It is one of the best places in Rotheburg to relax, offering great views of the Tauber River Valley below.