The cultural landscape Upper Middle Rhine Valley, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, is an outstanding organic cultural landscape which includes a rich diversity of both cultural and environmental aspects. The 65 kilometres long stretch of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, with its castles, historic towns and vineyards, graphically illustrates the long history of human involvement with a dramatic and varied natural landscape. It is intimately associated with history and legend and for centuries has exercised a powerful influence on writers, artists and composers.
A dominant of the Rhine scenery is Marksburg Castle – the only medieval stronghold on the hills along the Middle Rhine which has never been destroyed, a rare example of history virtually undisturbed by the march of time. All the other castles along the Rhine were destroyed sooner or later during the centuries and felt to ruins, either by devastation – most of them only during the Palatine War of Succession in 1689 – or through disuse. Nowadays they are either ruins or they have been rebuilt in the 19th century, during the Age of Romanticism.
The value and the significance of Marksburg Castle can be found in particular in its complete preservation as a medieval fortress. The impressive stronghold with most buildings dating back to the 13th to 15th century consists of wall rings containing keep, residential buildings, baileys and bastions all on top of a hill above the small romantic town of Braubach, and with its interesting, typical interior rooms such as castle kitchen, great hall, bedchamber, chapel, armoury, wine cellar and battlements it allows to travel back into the Middle Ages.
Marksburg is the seat of the German Castles’ Association. The association considers itself an association of curators and friends of national monuments from all groups of society and professions. It includes art historians, architects, restorers, museum staff and others, as well as owners of secular monuments and people who merely enjoy visiting a castle, a ruin or a palace. German Castles’ Association is also an umbrella organisation supporting initiatives for individual monuments.
In 1900 German Castles Association was able to purchase Marksburg for the symbolic price with the direction to demonstrate it as a real medieval castle and the living on it in the Middle Ages. The castle was exemplarily restored and opened to the public.
Since 2015, European Heritage Volunteers has organised heritage volunteering projects in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley – among them in 2016 and 2018 at Marksburg Castle. In 2019, another project took place at Marksburg Castle.
In 2014, during archaeological excavations carried out on the plateau in-between the Romanesque Palace and the Small Battery, the foundation walls of a Romanesque chapel that had been turned down in 1588, were uncovered. After the excavations had been completed, the findings were again backfilled in order to preserve them. The former chapel is of big historical significance for Marksburg Castle since it is possible that the castle's name, "Marksburg" – meaning “St. Mark's Castle" – had been derived from the chapel's patron St. Mark. In order to make the former chapel more comprehensible for visitors and to include it in the tours through the castle, the projects aimed to mark the outline of the former chapel in the ground with flagstones.
In addition, the volunteers worked in the area of the Outer Bailey, the so-called "Goats' Bailey", which is – together with the there located bastion – supposed to be opened for visitors of the castle. Therefore the area was cleared of undergrowth such as thistles, blackberry bushes and ivy, which have grown rampant along the escarpment. In doing so, this part of the castle became more accessible and comprehensible in its historical dimensions and its function as a defensive zone.
Within the framework of the educational part the participants gained background knowledge about Marksburg Castle itself, but also about the different uses of fortresses from the middle age till nowadays as well as about the potentials and challenges of the conservation, the restoration and the management of historical complexes in general.
The project has been organised by European Heritage Volunteers in cooperation with Deutsche Burgenvereinigung (German Fortresses' Association).