Warring neighbours

They look so peaceful now, and yet they were once bitter enemies. The two castles of Manderscheid in the Eifel to the north of the Moselle are only separated by the river valley; two magnificent ruins opposite one another that could not have been better placed. They look enchanting and the area is perfect for nature lovers to dawdle awhile.

They would probably have got the shock of their lives if they had been here in the High Middle Ages. For centuries, these neighbours fought tooth and nail, those in the upper castle could not stand those in the lower one. It was no coincidence that these two fortresses stood so close to one another. The valley of the Lieser between them not only separated the castles, it was a national border: it was where the Duchy of Luxembourg and the Electorate of Trier met, and the consequences were often brutal.

The Bishop of Trier took control of the upper castle in 1147, while the lower castle was held by the Counts of Manderscheid, who represented the Luxembourg interests as stewards of Echternach Abbey. These were spiritual sovereign territories, as were common in the Holy Roman Empire. The Ecclesiastical Princes were not shy in their territorial ambitions, and had no fear of using violence.

One of the most powerful bishops was Baldwin (1285–1354), Electoral Prince of Trier and king-maker, very few of the rulers of the time passed him by. Between 1346 and 1348, he and his troops laid siege to the lower castle in Manderscheid in yet another attempt to bring his neighbours to their knees. He was not successful, partly because Count William V of Manderscheid had previously turned the lower castle into a virtually impenetrable fortress.

The lower castle of Manderscheid, Eifel

View of the lower castle of Manderscheid, Eifel

It is still an impressive collection of defensive walls and towers: with its defensive buttresses and residential buildings William V virtually transformed the lower castle into a castle town, and took the village of Manderscheid below into the perimeter of the defensive walls. It was a settlement of hard-working cloth-makers whose woollen products were well-known far and wide.

If you drive through Manderscheid today, you can still gaze up at the majestic castle walls atop which the region’s yellow and red flags featuring the crests of a glorious past, which is still very much present today, wave. Every August, there is a big knights festival at the lower castle, with mock battles and minstrels to take visitors to the castle back to the Middle Ages.

Red and yellow flags in front of the lower castle of Manderscheid, Eifel

Red and yellow flags in front of the lower castle of Manderscheid, Eifel

Castles of Manderscheid, Eifel

View of the upper and the lower castle of Manderscheid, Eifel

The upper castle was destroyed in 1673 and the lower castle was attacked by French troops in 1794. It was not rebuilt. The time of knights and their castles was over. What remains are its ruins, which were soon discovered by the romantics, as well as the hikers of the Eifelverein, which managed the lower castle for over 100 years.

At its feet is a castle café serving delicious home-made cakes. Further up, guided tours transport visitors back to the Middle Ages, or you can walk around the lower castle without a guide for a small donation.

However the upper castle is completely free to access. The castle keep can now be climbed again. You can get an impression of what it was like to look down on the others just a stone’s throw away and draw up battle plans.

Burgencafé in Manderscheid, Eifel

The "Burgencafé" near the castles of Manderscheid, Eifel

Interior of the "Burgencafé" in Manderscheid, Eifel

The cozy "Burgencafé" near the castles of Manderscheid, Eifel

More leisure tips for culture lovers in the Eifel region:

More information about holidays in the Eifel

Find out everything you need to know on events, attractions and other destinations at Eifel Tourismus GmbH.

Vulkaneifel Trail: Manderscheider Castle-Path (around Manderscheid)


5,4 km

2:30 h
The Manderscheider Burgenstieg (Castle-Trail) leads around the twin castles of Manderscheid.

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