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The story of the city of Kaiserslautern can be traced back over 1,300 years, and two important buildings in the city center have borne witness to a large part of this long history – the former Imperial Palace, built in around 1152 by Emperor Frederick I, also known as “Redbeard” (Barbarossa), and the Renaissance castle built by Count Palatine Johann Casimir in 1571. Both buildings have always been connected to one another because of their construction and their fate throughout history. These stony sentries give us a glimpse into the past with their walls, stone blocks, foundations, reconstructed areas and even sections that were added after the buildings were initially built.
As part of the “New City Center” project, since 2010 these valuable, historical witnesses have been brought back to life to show new visitors to the city the former size and importance of the entire complex.
The Imperial Palace
During the time of the Holy Roman Empire, there weren’t any capital cities. The Staufer kings and emperors reigned from the saddle of their horse. Whilst travelling, they mainly stayed in palaces strewn across the empire. The Imperial Palace of Lutra was the first palace built by Emperor Frederick I “Barbarossa” during his reign and it was one of the most famous and magnificent buildings of its kind in the entire empire.
The only remaining parts of the Imperial Palace are a few carved blocks of red sandstone and remnants of the stone outer wall of the double chapel added by Frederick II.
Following the excavation of the rest of the Imperial Palace and the evaluation of the findings, the city mounted the historic foundations. The Domus (imperial building) originally measured 25 by 19 meters and was 19 meters high. In order to get a real sense of the size of the building, a 3D steel and tamped concrete construction that imitates the size and shape of the Imperial Palace was built.
You can see the remains of the castle wall, which have now been fully uncovered, just next to what was the Imperial Palace. The Stapf fortress was also rebuilt in this location. The fortress was erected at the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War, in around 1619/1620, by fortress builder Adam Stapf on the orders of the widow of Frederick IV, Elector Palatine of the Rhine. Stapf built primary defensive walls with trenches, bastions and curtain walls which protected the medieval castle and city walls.
Count Palatine Johann Casimir, born in 1543, moved to Kaiserslautern in 1570 following his marriage to Princess Elizabeth of Saxony. This choice of residence was deliberate as Friedrich III, Elector Palatine of the Rhine also wanted a fortress on the left bank of the Rhine to protect against French invasions.
Johann Casimir built a Renaissance-style castle on the borders of the land of the Imperial Palace. Whilst the castle was under construction, the couple lived in the Imperial Palace and even after the castle was completed (in around 1578), they continued to hold sumptuous receptions in the Imperial Hall of the palace.
Decline of the Palace Complex
Following damage caused by the Croatian Invasion during the Thirty Years’ War and subsequent emergency repairs, blasts from French troops in 1688, 1703/1704 and 1798 ultimately brought about the successive decline of the Imperial Palace and Casimir Castle.
In 1813, the French owners auctioned off the ruins of the buildings. In 1825, the Royal Bavarian State Government demolished the north part of the complex completely and constructed a central prison. The palace and castle areas on the southern side of the complex were changed forever when they were used by the Wächter Brewery in 1842.
The building that you can see today with the Count Palatinate Hall was built in 1934 with stones from both the Casimir Castle and Imperial Palace.
The Casimirs Building and the subterranean passages can be seen on guided tours which last about 1.5 hours (price 75,00 EUR per group with a maximum turnout of 25 people).
Registration for groups:
Tourist Information Kaiserslautern
Tel. 0631 365 - 4019
Fax: 0631 365 - 2723