The face of Hohenecken Castle has not changed much in its almost 700-year history between its construction around 1200 and its destruction in 1688. It still appears as a fortified castle built during the Staufer period with characteristic features such as keep, shield wall, humpback ashlar, palace, kennel and neck moat. The “continuity” at Hohenecken testifies to the fact that its owners did not go through a power-politically expansive career, but belonged to the group of knights who, during the kingless period until 1273, lost more and more importance as imperial ministerials and became impoverished in the process. And so it can be explained that Hohenecken became a Ganerbenburg early on through the sale of property shares and was thus no longer subject to the design ideas of an individual, which in particular made the structural expansion and development according to the requirements of the time over a long period of about 300 years very difficult. However, one family was able to hold on to the castle until it was sold to Duke Charles IV of Lorraine in 1668: The lordship of Hoheneck.
The castle, located above the Kaiserslautern district of the same name at 360 meters above sea level, was built as an imperial castle in the castle belt around the imperial palace of Lautern and probably had security functions here. Its location above the important road from Lautern to the south (today’s B 270 to Pirmasens) provides the strategic background for the selection of the building site. Rich road tolls could be collected here.
With the election of King Rudolf I of Habsburg as German King in 1273, Reinhard III of Hoheneck lost his offices as Reichsschultheiss in Lautern and as administrator of the imperial jewels on the Trifels. And thus began, as shown above, the financial decline of the dynasty. The fact that the castle was an imperial fief* from the beginning is shown by the fact that Count Friedrich von Leiningen, as bailiff of the Speyergau, gave the castle to Heinrich III von Lautern-Hohenecken as a fief*. Already in 1333, according to a document, there were co-owners, namely Heinrich v. Scharfeneck and Emmerich Kämmerer of Worms. A luckless feud of Reinhard V. von Hoheneck almost ended with the total loss of his shares in the castle, which could only be averted by the right of opening to Kurmainz. (*ownership rights in return for allegiance)
From 1481, the Electoral Palatinate gained influence as co-owner of the castle through an exchange deal: Hoheneck handed over its share to the Electoral Palatinate and received it back as a hereditary fief.
The castle survived the Peasants’ War by surrendering without a fight. Any destruction by the peasants is not documented and it is likely that the castle was not burned out.
During the reconstruction in 1560 the castle complex was significantly extended to the east by leveling the previous neck ditch and building a new lower castle with service and farm buildings. It was also preceded by a new barrier hewn out of the sandstone rock, which in turn was separated from the hillside to the east by a new neck ditch. From then on, the way into the castle led from the east over a bridge spanning the neck ditch, which was designed as a drawbridge in the last third and had its reception in the newly built gate at the southern edge of the rock barrier.
Electoral Palatinate as co-owner of Hohenecken Castle was quasi expropriated by imperial decree in 1631 and the castle fell completely back to the Empire, which returned it to the two brothers Philibert and Johann Philipp as a fiefdom. After the end of the Great War, the Electoral Palatinate, which was slowly gaining strength, was able to reassert claims that smoldered for years and were litigated. Finally, in 1668, the Hoheneckers sold the castle to the Duke of Lorraine for 75,000 – the imperial release for this came only weeks after the sale.
Palatinate moved against the Lorraine troops on the castle and shelled it for five days with several guns (two 3-pounders and an unspecified number of 12-pounders and mortars) until the Lorraine troops gave up and withdrew in return for an assurance of free passage. The Palatine emphasized to the emperor that he had not fired on the imperial part of the upper castle, but only on the lower castle of the Elector Palatine. The Elector left 50 men behind. In January 1669, however, the Electorate Palatine had to return the castle after the defeat against Lorraine.
The final destruction took place 20 years later during the Orléans War in 1688 by the French, where this time not Mélac but General de Boufflers blew up and burned out the castle. Since then Hohenecken has been in ruins and has not been rebuilt despite further changing owners, namely France, Kgr. Bayern, RLP and finally the city of Kaiserslautern. Improper clearing and securing work in 1875 and 1905 finally led to the fact that the lower castle is empty today.
Hohenecken Castle is located in the village of the same name near Kaiserslautern. Take the A6 exit “Kaiserslautern West” onto the B270 and drive through the village of Hohenecken. In the village drive in the direction of the church or cemetery. From the church, the castle is signposted and can be reached by a ten-minute walk.