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The castle of Heidelberg


Heidelberg Castle is the city's landmark and should be at the top of the list when visiting.
In addition to its romantic setting, it has much to offer, especially for those interested in history, as its past as the former residence of the Palatine Electors is closely interwoven with German and European history.

Way to the castle

There are two ways to get from the old town to the castle:

via an idyllic but steep footpath or - more comfortable and faster - with the mountain railway.

The castle ticket includes admission to the castle courtyard, barrel cellar, the German Pharmacy Museum and the ticket price for the mountain railway is also included.

You will find the entrance to the mountain railway above the Kornmarkt, in the immediate vicinity of the market place (see map point 1).

Ruprechtsbau - the oldest building


If you cross the gate and enter the inner courtyard, the Ruprechtsbau is just to the left.

The building is named after its builder, Elector Ruprecht III, who became German king in 1400.

The building served him for representation purposes. The single-storey residential palace of the late Middle Ages was then extended by Ludwig V in 1534 with a stone upper floor.

The conversion can still be seen today in a pedestrial
in the wall at the front edge,
and the year 1534 inside the building.

Ruprecht III was buried in the Holy Spirit Church of Heidelberg.

The tomb with the statue of Ruprecht and his wife Elisabeth has been preserved and can still be seen today in the Heiliggeistkirche.

The Friedrichsbau - gallery of ancestors in stone

Upon entering the inner courtyard, the Friedrichsbau immediately attracts attention.

The building is named after Elector Friedrich IV (1574 - 1610), who was also the founder of the city of Mannheim.

Frederick IV shows here his gallery of ancestors and thus demonstrated his claim to power to all his contemporaries.

He sees himself in line with the other rulers of the important Wittelsbach dynasty, which he has represented by his grandfather, father and uncle in the same row.

In the diaphragm gable (top row of figures) at the top left, the statue of Charlemagne leads the row.

Frederick thus portrays Charlemagne as the ancestor of his dynasty, although this is not historically true.

In the lower row, on the right as last sculpture,
the builder himself - Frederick IV - can be seen.

Who was Frederick IV?

Friedrich IV. lived from 1574 - 1610.

His regency thus falls into the period of the Reformation, during which the political landscape is also redefined by the denominational separation.

In 1608 Frederick took over the leadership of the Union of Protestants, which considerably increased the conflict between Catholic and Protestant principalities.

Despite his poor education, Frederick had a keen interest in the humanities and had chairs of history and oriental studies established at Heidelberg University.

Founder of the city of Mannheim

He is considered the founder of the city of Mannheim.

In order to increase the influx and the number of inhabitants, he showed himself generous and granted the inhabitants special rights such as exemption from compulsory military service. Foreigners were exempted from property tax for 20 years.

Friedrich's addiction to drink

Frederick was known for his penchant for excessive binge drinking.

Not least because of his excessive drunkenness, he died at the age of 36.

His diary note of 9 June 1598 "Bin ich fol gewesen" became the model for the refrain of a famous Heidelberg student song:

"Furiously, Elector Frederick of the Palatinate once rolled in bed
Against all etiquette he roared at the top of his lungs:
How did I get in bed yesterday?
Looks like I've been drunk again."

The Ottheinrich Building

To the right of the Friedrichsbau: the Ottheinrichsbau, named after Ottheinrich of the Palatinate, 1502 - 1559.

The building is thus older than the Friedrichsbau and is considered an outstanding example of German Renaissance architecture.

The facade

The 16 statues are allegorical representations and figures from the Old Testament and the world of the gods.

From the latter the Ottheinrichsbau still had the name "The Pagan Building" in the 18th century.

In the lower row, left of the main portal, Joshua and Samson, right of the main portal Hercules and David are shown.

The figures on the first floor symbolise strength, faith, love, hope and justice, the virtues of a Christian ruler.

The row of figures on the second floor shows the ancient gods Saturn, Mars, Venus, Mercury and Luna.

On the roof you can see Sol and Jupiter, which once adorned the diaphragm gables that no longer exist today.

Who was Ottheinrich?


After the death of his uncle Elector Friedrich II of the Palatinate in 1556, Ottheinrich was finally able to take up the long sought-after reign as Elector of the Palatinate.

In terms of his health, Ottheinrich, who weighed almost 200 kg, was already seriously ill at the time.

When Ottheinrich became elector, he had only 3 years to live.

Nevertheless the Palatinate electorate was decisively influenced by him.

Under his reign he pushed through the Lutheran Reformation, so that the Electoral Palatinate developed into one of the centres of Lutheran Protestantism in Germany.

Reform of the University

In the course of the Reformation, Ottheinrich also implemented a fundamental restructuring of the University of Heidelberg.

The lecturers were previously Catholic priests, paid by the Catholic Church.

Ottheinrich financed the university with immediate effect by secularising church property, thus making the lecturers independent of the Catholic Church.

After the completion of the university reform there was no longer a faculty of Catholic theology at Heidelberg University.

He was considered a friend of the arts and a patron of the sciences.

He obliged budding physicians to dissect corpses.

His library, the Bibliotheca Palatina, is considered one of the most important of its time.

The big barrel

The large barrel is the fourth and last in a series of large barrels and was completed in 1751 under Elector Karl Theodor.

It had a capacity of 221,726 litres, but was only filled three times because it was never tight.

However, it was decided to keep the barrel as an attraction for visitors to the castle.

By the way: Both the stairs and the platform on the barrel are not from the present day. It is assumed that the wooden floor was used as a dance floor in the past.

Perkeo - the hard-drinking court jester

Opposite the big barrel stands the statue of Perkeo.

Legend has it that Elector Karl Philipp brought a dwarf from Tyrol who was only about one meter tall but weighed 100 kg with him and made him a court jester because of his fun-loving nature and his pun.

When asked whether he could drink the cask alone, he is said to have replied in Italian, as he does to everything else, "Perché no? (Why not?).

That's how he got the name Perkeo.

Map with the places of interest.
Click to enlarge!

Further information

about Heidelberg Castle you will find under

Image rights:

The pictures are the property of the State Castles and have been used with kind permission to illustrate this article.