Eltz Castle

Did You Know …?

The origin of the Eltz name
Extraction: The family and the castle are named after the stream Eltzbach. The word probably originates in the old German "Els" or "Else", both names for the black alder, a tree commonly found along rivers. The Romans named the stream "Alisontia", a reference to the probably old Celtic word for the same tree.

The "500-DM Castle"
Value: From 1961 to 1995 the German 500 DM banknote showed a view of Eltz Castle.

The Castellans and their duties
Charge: For centuries Eltz castle, like other castles, has been managed by "castellans" (Latin: castellum – the castle), formerly also referred to as "wardens" or " constables". Until 1786 each of the three family branches had one castellan, then there were two until 1815 and from then only one castellan for the Counts zu Eltz from the house of Kempenich. Angelika Nelius and Stefan Ritzenhofen are the present castellans. Together they manage the tourism business and take care of the preservation and curation of the historic Eltz ensemble.

The Eltz Castle Stamp
Postal service: The German post office published a series of stamps depicting castles (1977 to 1982). Eltz Castle was depicted on the 40 Pfennig stamp, then the postage required for postcards.

The Jester’s’ Heads
Wisdom: The walls in the Knights Hall of Eltz Castle, the central meeting place of the Knights of Eltz, are decorated with jesters’ heads. They symbolise freedom of speech, as in the Middle Ages, jesters were allowed to say whatever they wanted, without having to fear any consequences. They are also a reminder not to overestimate one’s self-importance. The medieval perception of man saw wisdom and foolhardiness, virtue and vice in close proximity.

The Rose of Silence
Confidentiality: The Rose of Silence decorates the Knights Hall as well as the canopy of the large bed in the Rübenach Bed Chamber. It symbolised the promise that the spoken word would not leave the room.

The Eltz "Burgfriedensbriefe" (Castle Peace Deeds)
Constitution: In 1269 the brothers Elias II, Wilhelm II and Theoderich divided the castle and the estate and established three lines of succession, which were named "with the Golden Lion", "with the Silver Lion" and "with the Buffalo Horns". The three families shared and lived together in the castle, forming a so-called "Ganerbengemeinschaft". This cohabitation was regulated in great detail by formal contracts, the so-called "Burgfriedensbriefe" (castle peace deeds) of 1323 and 1430 as well as the amendments of 1481 and 1556.

The codex also included punishments for any person failing to adhere to the peace deed, for example: "If someone murders another person inside the castle or within the boundaries of the "Burgfrieden" (note by the author: The boundaries of the "Burgfrieden" include the castle as well as the entire estate owned by the "Ganerben"), the delinquent shall be expelled from the castle. He and his heirs shall lose all rights to Eltz Castle, they may never again enter the castle boundary, unless the victim’s closest family member declares that the murder has been vindicated." The consequences for other crimes or omissions were also regulated in great detail.

As there were no hotels in those days, it was a nobleman’s obligation to provide accommodation for any guests arriving with good intentions. Such visits could not be entirely free of charge, however, as any visitors and their entourage had the right to stay for up to one year. There was a fixed tariff that was valid throughout the Empire which was also stipulated in the "Burgfriedensbrief". "A prince, who is granted permission to stay in the castle, shall pay the builder of the castle a sum of forty "Oberländische" Guilders in Mainz currency and two good crossbows, which shall remain in the castle. He shall give the gate keepers one Guilder. A count or landlord shall give twenty Guilders and one good crossbow and one Guilder to the two gate keepers; a knight or servant shall give six Guilders and one Guilders to the two gate keepers. This money shall be used for building the castle."

There were more than two dozen other rules regulating financial and organisational issues, which were amended on a regular basis. This joint constitution remained in effect until 1815, when the line with the White Lion sold their share of the castle and the "Ganerbengemeinschaft" was dissolved. Since the line with the Buffalo Horns, later the line Eltz-Rodendorf, had ceased in the 15th and 18th century and had transferred their shares to the Kempenich line, the house Eltz-Kempenich remained as the sole owner of the castle.

Pragmatic Sanction
Inheritance: The Pragmatic Sanction is a deed signed by Emperor Charles VI on 19 April 1713, which determined the unity and impartibility of the Habsburg estate, thus for the first time establishing a uniform order of distribution. This new Habsburg house law broke with the old Salian Succession Law, which only considered male successors, and established the so-called Legal Primogenitureship. While at first only male descendants were entitled to inherit, this was later changed to include female descendants in the order of their age.

This abandonment of the old Imperial Law benefitted the later Empress Maria Theresia: she was permitted to take possession of the inherited estate, however, as a woman she was not eligible to be elected empress. This became possible only through her husband, Franz of Lotharingia, from 1745 Emperor Franz I. Maria Theresia was the dominant partner in this marriage, but as a result her family was henceforth called Habsburg-Lotharingia.

During his reign from 1732 to 1743, the Imperial Arch Chancellor Prince Elector Philipp Carl zu Eltz actively supported the enforcement of this Habsburg issue within the Empire. The Pragmatic Sanction was finally recognised after the end of the Habsburg War of Succession and the Peace of Aachen in 1748 and remained a constitutional right until the end of the Austrian monarchy in 1918.