Lost Branches on the Family Tree - The Counts Hohnstein (Part 1)
After I mentioned the Hohnstein family a few times in my post about Scharzfels, I thought they would make a good topic for the next posts. The history of Castle Hohnstein (also spelled Honstein), situated on a promontory in the south-eastern Harz mountains, is better documented than Scharzfels Castle (1). The ruins are a veritable labyrinth with material for a lot of pretty photos. Most of the building material is local porphyry (like in the nearby Ebersburg), hence the lovely red colour.
Hohnstein Castle, the palace building on a rock
Since the castle had been turned into a palace by the counts of Stolberg, then in possession of the Hohnstein, in the 16th century, the remains show a mixture of Mediaeval castle and Renaissance palace features (for example the large windows in some buildings). Some buildings like the inner gate have been altered so often that they present a nice puzzle for historians and architects to disentagle. But some of the remains date back to the Romanesque period of the mid-12th century.
A veritable maze - remains of Hohnstein Castle
The beginnings of the castle and the family of Hohnstein have turned out a right mess. The prevalent information, including the guidebook (2) says that the castle was founded by Konrad of Sangerhausen, a grandson of Ludwig the Bearded, eponymous ancestor of the Ludoving landgraves of Thuringia, in the 1120ies. But the castle website states that this is a misinformation from the Chronica Reinhardsbrunnensis
(covering the years 527-1338). The chronicle - named after the favourite monastery of the Thuringian landgraves since 1058 (3) - was only assembled in the 14th century and is a mix of older texts and some plain made up stories, and its reliability has lately been questioned. So I felt obliged to hunt down the geneaologies as far as the time I can spend on a blogpost would allow. There are indeed some nice contradictions.
Remains of the count's living quarters (Renaissance) and the gate tower to the left
Ludwig the Bearded had marrieed Cäcilia of Sangerhausen (~ 1040), and they had a bunch of sons, among them one Beringer (4), the father of Konrad of Sangerhausen. The name of Konrad's mother may have been Bertrada. Beringer died at some time before 1110 (5) when Konrad was still a minor. His uncle Ludwig the Leaper (1042-1123) acted as his guardian. Konrad of Sangerhausen seems to have sold his Sangerhausen possessions to Ludwig (between 1110 and 1116) and it is said he bought the land around the Hohnstein instead. Warsitzka, who is usually critical about the Chronicle of Reinhardsbrunn, confirms the sale of Sangerhausen in his monography about the Landgraves of Thuringia (6).
The inner gate
While the Chronica Reinhardsbrunnensis
names the 'comes Conradus de Honsteyn (filius Beringeri di Sangirhusen)' as ancestor of 'all of the Hohnstein', the Iohannis Capitis Historia Monasterii Ilfeldensis, the History of the Monastery of Ilfeld, names one 'Elgerus secundus' as 'first count in the Hohnstein'. He is said to have obtained the castle from Reinvig, the widow of Esico of Hohnstein († about 1175). This Esico may be identical with Esico (Hesiko) of Orlamünde, a younger son of Hermann I of Weimar-Orlamünde, but I could not prove that for sure. As younger son, he might have taken the title after his wife's possessions. There is no proof that Reinvig, whose parents are not mentioned in the Historia Ilfeldensis
, was the daughter of Konrad of Sangerhausen, or that he is indeed identical with the obscure Conradus de Honsteyn († 1145), but there is enough open space for a geneaological connection to be made in later centuries (7).
Remains of the great hall
Reinvig and Esico obviously had only a daugher, Lutradis, and she was married to the Elger 'secundus' (Adelger II) of Ilfeld mentioned above as the first Count of Hohnstein, according to the Historia Ilfedensis
(8). He lived on the neighbouring hill, more or less. The marriage took place in ~1162.
The inner yard
The counts of Ilfeld can be traced back to a charte dating to 1128, in which the Archbishop of Mainz confirms a donation of property for the soul of one 'comes Adelgeri' who was the father of 'Elger who built castrum Yliburgk' (Ilburg, from which the family took the name Ilfeld). This Elger appears in a few chartes since 1154. He was married to a Bertrada (8); they were the parents of our Elger II. Elger I died in 1160; his wife in 1190. The county of Ilfeld may have been created as imperial fief by the emperor Lothar of Süpplingenburg (9).
The outer gate
Elger II of Ilfeld appears as witness in several chartes and accompagnied Duke Heinrich the Lion on his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1172. Elger received the Hohnstein as fief from Heinrich the Lion in 1178 and from that time alternately used Ilfeld or Hohnstein as designation.
Remains of some outbuildings
It is said that Heinrich the Lion had got Hohnstein Castle as imperial fief from Friedrich Barbarossa (10). Whatever the early status of Castle Hohnstein, it seems to have fallen to the emperor with the death of Esico of Hohnstein. On the other hand it is said that Elger obtained it from Esico's widow Reinvig who in that case must have had the right to sell / give it. Things get even more complicated by the mention of one Burchard of Hohnstein who in 1178 signed a charte about a transfer of possessions between the Abbot of Fulda and one of his ministeriales
. Among the bunch of witnesses is also an Adelger of Ilfeld, who must be identical with Elger II. Burchard obviously was a chatellain - his family would later spread and take the names of Arnswald and Aschenrode, though they continued to serve as chatellains on the Hohnstein. But who installed him? Esico, the emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, or even Elger II of Ilfeld?
The count's lodgings, seen from a higher level
The most likely scenario is that Reinvig had the right to live in the castle after her husband's death (while a chatellain ran the place for the emperor and later duke Heinrich). Her daughter probably lived in Ilfeld Castle with her husband, but he wanted to move to the Hohnstein, and that was Reinvig's to decide. Since Elger obviously had a good relationship with Heinrich the Lion, the duke gave the castle as fief to Elger (who kept Burchard as chatellain) (11)
Honstein Castle must have been larger and more comfortable than Ilfeld, since the latter was dismantled to build the Abbey of Ilfeld which Elger and Lutradis founded 'in gratitude for the safe return from pilgrimage' in 1184. Elger II died in 1191 (12).
Gate house (right) with round tower (left)
What we can say for sure after sorting out all those messes, is that the castle came to the counts of Ilfeld by the female line of whoever lived in Hohnstein before Elger II got the castle as fief from Heinrich the Lion in 1178. Since that time the counts of Ilfeld lived on the Hohnstein and took its name as their own.
Another view of the rock foundations and the remains of the palace
1) There is a bit more literature and a website about this castle which make a better starting point for research.
2) Mosebach, see below.
3) The monastery of Reinhardsbrunn no longer exists, there's a Baroque palace in its place.
4) The most famous of the sons is Ludwig the Leaper.
5) Konrad signed a charte in 1110, which means he must have been an adult at that date.
6) Warsitzka, p. 50 (see below).
7) Since the Chronica Reinhardsbrunnensis was written on behalf of the landgraves of Thuringia, it is well possible, that geneaological connections to places were established, in case of open claims to said possessions in the future.
8) Historia Monasterii Ilfeldensis. The name Bertrada, which is identical with the name of the wife of Konrad mentioned in the Chronicle of Reinhardsbrunn, may have added to the confusion about which widow was who. :-)
9) Jordan, p. 125 (see below). The timeline would certainly fit.
10) Heinrich the Lion tried to gather possessions in the Harz which were not already part of his allodial lands; mostly imperial fiefs which Friedrich Barbarossa gave him out of gratitude because Heinrich supported his claim to becoming emperor instead of pushing his own. Others lands he got by the way of exchange. Among the first group obviously was Hohnstein Castle.
11) In some cases, the new lord had to wait for the death of the widow to actually live in a castle, or - like in the case of the Plesse - try to have her move out.
12) Elger II and his son are also listed among the survivors of the Latrine Accident in Erfurt (1184) mentioned in the footnotes of this post
Remains of the round tower
Karl Jordan: Heinrich der Löwe. Munich 1979
Uwe Mosebach: Wo einst die Grafen von Hohnstein lebten. Clausthal-Zellerfeld 1993
Wilfried Warsitzka: Die Thüringer Landgrafen. 2nd revised edition, Erfurt 2009
The further history
of the counts of Hohnstein, and their successors, the counts of Stolberg, will be covered in another post. After that, I better move to something British or Roman else my readers will get scared by all those German geneaologies. :-)