About Willibaldsburg Castle
A ninety-minute drive north from the southern German city of Munich in the town of Eichstätt is Willibaldsburg Castle. Known as a ‘spur castle’ – a medieval fortification using its location as a vital element of its defence – the castle complex of Willibaldsburg was built 1355 and was the seat of Eichstätt’s prince-bishops.
History of Willibaldsburg Castle
The first incarnation of the medieval castle was likely to have been made up of a main house, a tower, and a chapel surrounded by walls and a moat. In the late 1500s and early 1600s, a transformation took place, with it being extended into an impressive residence.
Under the direction of Martin von Schaumberg, bishop and later Prince-Bishop of the diocese of Eichstätt (1560 – 1590), the castle was dramatically extended by Elias Holl, perhaps the most important architect in the late German Renaissance period. During the reign of Prince-Bishop Johann Conrad von Gemmingen, Holl created a magnificent residence – including removing the onion domes from the towers. At this time, the renowned botanical garden ‘Hortus Eystettensis’ was laid out.
The castle was later used as a prison, a barrack, and a prisoner of war camp for French soldiers. In 1880, the city of Eichstätt purchased the complex with the aim of preserving the castle, and in 1866, created a local history museum to accompany it.
In 1900, the state purchased the castle. During the First World War, the castle was again used as a prisoner of war camp for French prisoners. In 1962, the Bavarian body “Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung” responsible of castle administration took over the fortified complex. Since then, it is undergoing wide restoration works.
Willibaldsburg Castle Today
Parts of the castle are currently undergoing restoration. Parts are open, however, with a museum covering natural history and geology being a particular highlight.
Incredibly, copperplate engravings illustrating the plant collection which were created in 1613 by Basilius Besler meant that the Bastion Garden was reopened in 1998 with a full reproduction of the plant world of the original botanical garden.
Getting to Willibaldsburg Castle
From the centre of Munich, the castle is reachable in an hour and 40 minutes via the A9 road. A train will take you there in about the same amount of time from Munich Central Station – stop off at Eichstätt Stadt and walk about 10 minutes to reach the castle.