The trusty troubadour

Troubadour Blondel was a trusty soul: his master and friend Richard the Lionheart had disappeared. Blondel travelled from castle to castle looking for him, singing the song he and the king had written together. At Trifels in the Palatinate, he finally got a response, hearing Richard the Lionheart’s voice singing from the dungeon. Once Blondel had located his master, it was not long before he had freed him. The medieval legends vary as to whether he used force or clever negotiation to do so. Over the centuries, the story has been developed further, inspiring poets, composers, singers and even musical writers.

It is a fact that King Richard I of England, better known as Richard the Lionheart, was imprisoned in Trifels Castle in the late 12th century. During his crusade to the Holy Land, he had become an enemy of the empire, and was captured near Vienna on his return and delivered to Hohenstaufen Emperor Henry VI. He had the Lionheart locked in the castle, which sits atop a cliff split three ways near Annweiler.

From the top, there are fantastic views over the Palatinate Forest, which was one of the first natural parks in Germany and is designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve along with the Northern Vosges. In the castle, visitors can see the room in which the Lionheart was held, with a cross-vaulted ceiling resting on thick red sandstone walls. The prison has windows, an open fire and looks nothing like a dungeon. After all, the Lionheart was still a king and a valuable prisoner who was only released for a gigantic ransom of 23 tons of silver.

Sunset at Trifels Castle, Palatinate

Sunset at Trifels Castle, Palatinate

Visitors can find out more about the story of this famous prisoner by joining Markus Meier’s theatrical guided tour. This is an entertaining production where the actor slips into a range of different roles including the Hohenstaufen Emperor, Troubadour Blondel and even John, the brother of Richard the Lionheart, who initially baulked at paying the high ransom.

Visitors can also explore the castle, from the chapel to the imperial hall, which is an impressive testimony of the power of the empire. It is considered the most significant stronghold in the Holy Roman Empire and, because it was so secure, was used to detain only important prisoners. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Trifels Castle was also home to the Imperial Regalia: crown, sceptre and orb.

View from Trifels Castle of the Palatinate Forest, Palatinate

View from Trifels Castle of the Palatinate Forest, Palatinate

Trifels Castle near Annweiler am Trifels, Palatinate

Trifels Castle near Annweiler am Trifels, Palatinate

Today, visitors can admire replicas of the insignia in the castle’s treasure chamber and learn more about the construction of the castle and its history at the ‘Power and Legend’ exhibition in the museum. The castle’s imperial hall is also used for concerts, including the popular Trifels Serenades, when classical music rings out in the historic rooms.

The Museum unterm Trifels in Annweiler describes how the stones for these impressive buildings were worked and transported in earlier days. It includes a medieval building hut and lots of information about other crafts from the time. The town also celebrates a Lionheart festival every summer: a great medieval spectacular with market stalls, knights and jugglers, and maybe, just maybe, the voice of a troubadour may ring out over the Trifels again.

Trifels Castle near Annweiler, Palatinate

Trifels Castle near Annweiler, Palatinate

More leisure tips for culture lovers in the Palatinate:

More information about holidays in the Palatinate

Find out everything you need to know on events, attractions and other destinations in the Palatinate at the Pfalz.Touristik.

Palatinate Card: The ticket to your Palatinate adventure

Enjoy an "all-inclusive" holiday with the Palatinate Card: You can use the local public transport and enjoy more than 100 attractions throughout the region free of charge for your entire stay.

Romantic Cities: Trip to Speyer

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