Alsace 101: The Castle of Fleckenstein
February 04, 2019
Located in the commune of Lembach, in Alsace’s Bas-Rhin department, the 12th-century Fleckenstein castle, even in ruins, is one of the most picturesque historic architecture sites in Alsace, situated in the Regional Nature Park of the Northern Vosges.
The castle was of strategic importance, constructed on a road that linked the imperial palaces of the Hohenstaufen in Haguenau and Kaiserslautern. Sitting high on a plateau 1,200 feet above sea level and surrounded by steep hills and ravines, the castle was considered impregnable until its fall in 1689 to French troops under the command of the Ezéchiel du Mas, Comte de Mélac, a career soldier under Louis XIV.
But for nearly 600 years, this boat-shaped fortress was the castle home of the Fleckenstein family, whose first mention dates from 1174. Gottfried of Fleckenstein was a member of the imperial court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, considered one of the greatest medieval emperors.
In 1720, the last Baron of Fleckenstein, Henri Jacques, died without leaving a male heir. It was purchased in 1831. Major restoration work was performed after 1870 and around 1908. In 1919, it became the property of the French state, with restoration work and on and off since 1958. The castle has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1898.
Today, the it is still impressive as a ruin, a history lesson and a place of intrigue for children, with tours and programming including a “Challenger” scavenger hunt, and “P’tit Fleck, a natural sandstone and forest play area. It is the most visited castle ruin in Alsace.