Saturday, April 24, 2010

Le Chateau de Schoeneck

One afternoon during Susie's and my visit to the Vosges du Nord, I hiked to the ruins of the Chateau de Schoeneck. Even at a fast clip, the walk was pretty much 15 minutes of steep climb, through a mixed forest.

As I neared the top, through the trees I could begin to see the castle, built on top of the red sandstone that is typical of the region.

The original castle at Schoeneck appears to have been built by the 12th Century. In the 13th Century it traded hands between the bishops of Strasbourg and Lichtenberg. By the 16th Century, the castle's lords were adapting it to artillery, and during the Thirty Years War it served as a refuge for the residents of three neighboring villages. By the mid-17th Century the garrison had dwindled to four men. And in 1680 French troops occupied the castle and dismantled it. So by the 19th Century, the castle looked like this--a romantic ruin.

Schoeneck looks much the same today. It has the same towers, walls and ramparts, in the same state of ruin.

A dedicated group of volunteers is working to preserve the Chateau de Schoeneck. Their Web page describes the castle's history, shows pictures, explains the parts of the castle, shows how to get there, and describes their restoration work. When I visited, two volunteers, accompanied by an exceptionally large dog, were restoring the foundations of one of the artillery bastions.

Here's the castle's main gate, from the outside, where people seeking entry would cross a draw bridge.

The northern end of the castle has the seigneur's residence. Even in the castle's ruined state, you can make out important elements of daily life in the Middle Ages, such as fireplaces.

To me, Schoeneck's most remarkable aspect involves the staircases carved directly into the rock on which the castle was built. This the north staircase.

The double window, visible from below, is another striking feature, with its twin arches and window seats. You can easily imagine the residents of the castle looking out.

From the highest point of the Chateau de Schoeneck you can appreciate its strategic position. Trotting down the path takes you back to the parking lot, and from there the road takes you down the valley to right, toward Niederbronn-les-Bains.

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