Ehrenbreitstein Fortress

Categories: Sightseeing, Cultural and History

Festung Ehrenbreitstein
Festung Ehrenbreitstein

[ source: Wikipedia]

As the vine flourishes, and the grape empurples close up to the very walls and muzzles of cannoned Ehrenbreitstein; so do the sweetest joys of life grow in the very jaws of its perils. (Hermann Melville)

Ehrenbreitstein is a Rhine fortress located near Koblenz (Koblenz vacation rentals | Koblenz travel guide). It was built as a key component of Festung Koblenz, a regional fortification network constructed by the state of Prussia between 1817 and 1832. This system provided defense to the middle Rhine region, which had been invaded by French troops at various times. Ironically, this specific fortification was never attacked.

Archaeological findings discovered that the earliest fortifications at this site date from 1000 BC. The site was strategically important for many centuries. In 1020 AD, Ehrenbreitstein Fortress came into the possession of the Archbishops of Trier (Trier vacation rentals | Trier travel guide). The first documented reference to Burg Ehrenbreitstein dates from 1139. The site was converted into the second residence of the Trier bishops in 1250. The Archbishops of Trier expanded the castle, and from 1657 to 1794, they housed here the Holy Tunic, supposedly worn by Jesus shortly before his crucifixion.

The military importance of Ehrenbreitstein Fortress lasted into the early 1800s. In the 1790s, the fortress successfully withstood three sieges by French Revolutionary troops. Ehrenbreitstein Fortress finally did fall to the French in 1799, after a one-year siege resulted in near starvation of the individuals in the fortress. The French dismantled the fort in 1801, but that was not the end of the story. After Napoleon's defeat, the area around Koblenz was ceded to Prussia. The fortifications here became a major priority for the Prussians because of their close proximity to France. The so-called Fortress Koblenz, of which the rebuilt Ehrenstein Fortress was part, became the second largest military fortress in Europe, after Gibraltor. The fortress itself was constructed by 6,500 handworkers. In World War I, the fortress operated as a military headquarters. An American general, who admired the fort's historical significance, saved the site from its planned demolition.

Today Ehrenbreitstein Fortress houses a restaurant, archives, museum, and youth hostel. Since 2011, living history programs offer engaging interpretations of the military history of the site. Furthermore, a contemporary landscape park is available for exploration, and a nearby climbing playground is located close by for older children and youth.

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About this Article

Rachel Hildebrandt

This travel guide has been written by Rachel Hildebrandt.

Starting with her first trip to Germany at the age of 16, Rachel has traveled, worked, and studied in Germany extensively. Although her first encounter with German culture was in Lower Saxony, since that time the focus of her subsequent work as a freelance historian and translator has shifted eastward. Building on her graduate studies in Dresden, Rachel has worked for a variety of German foundations as a historian and translator, and is currently pursuing research pertaining to the Sorbs in Lusatia (eastern Saxony).

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Location, Map, and Driving Directions

Location: Ehrenbreitstein, 56077 Koblenz, Germany

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