A short walk in Alsace above Ribeauvillé where you can visit three different castles……………………………….. on the same mountain.
Girsberg-Stein is the most recent of the three castles that dominate the medieval fortified town of Ribeauvillé, its neighbours being Saint-Ulrich (or Grand-Ribeaupierre) and Haut-Ribeaupierre. They are mentioned in a saying more than three centuries old: "Three castles on a mountain (Ribeauvillé) / Three churches in an enclosure (Riquewihr) / Three cities in a valley (Ammerschwihr, Kaysersberg, Kientzheim) / This is Alsace as a whole". His original name, Stein, appears in a text from 1288, the date on which he was struck by lightning, setting fire to the roof of the castle.
In fact, it was built by the Sirs of Ribeaupierre, one of the most powerful families of the Alsatian nobility, in the first half of the 13th century. It was in 1304 that the Sirs of Girsberg became the owners and gave their name to the castle. It is certainly not him who was besieged by the Ribeaupierre and Lupfen in 1422, but the Girsberg which is in the valley of Munster. The Girsberg-Stein is still inhabited in 1513, but it is gradually abandoned thereafter, the Ribeaupierre no longer finding sufficient reasons to maintain it, especially since they have owned a castle in the town of Ribeauvillé since the end of the 15th century.
▲▼view from the Girsberg
The castle is literally set on a rocky peak, which is impressive.
View from the second castle……………….
The Saint-Ulrich castle (alt. 530 m) is the most imposing and best preserved of the three castles of Ribeauvillé.
Also known as Rappolstein, Gross Rappolstein, or Ukrichsburg, it was built around the middle of the 13th century on a rocky spur overlooking the Strengbach valley and received successive extensions, the most remarkable of which consisted in the addition of a wing of grandiose proportions, composed of two huge rooms arranged one on top of the other and illuminated on the Levant side by a double row of 7 semi-circular windows.
If the St-Ulrich has little military character, it is a fine example of a seigneurial habitat. Residence of Ribeaupierre until the 15th century, it is one of the most beautiful achievements of profane art in Alsace.
In the 16th century, the castle fell into ruins by abandonment, although it still had a small garrison at the beginning of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). In the 17th century, the castle was burned down.
Today, it still impresses by its proportions. The remains currently visible date back to several periods:
The third castle is the highest and most difficult to access at about 120m of altitude, I was disgusted to learn that there was an easier way.
The Haut-Ribeaupierre castle is the oldest castle in Ribeaupierre since its existence was reported in 1084. Its origin is probably due to the Counts of Eguisheim, primitive owners of the land of Ribeaupierre.
It is said to have been built on an old Roman site. Known as Altenkastel, it was Anselme de Ribeaupierre who took possession of this castle around 1288. In the thirteenth century it appeared under the name of Vieux-Château.
This castle was visited by Emperor Rudolf IV of Habsburg in 1280 and 1284, then again in 1286 for a siege during which an important treaty was signed between King Charles VII of France and the sire of Ribeaupierre. By this treaty, the latter undertook to keep the fort always open to the forces of the kings of France.
Around 1368, Brunon de Ribeaupierre became the owner of the castle. He harboured a fierce hatred for the English and locked Knight John Harleston in his dungeon, who had had the misfortune of parading around the region with an imperial safe conduct from 1384 to 1387.
John Harleston was only released for a high ransom and following strong pressure from the empire. At the end of the 13th century, the castle became a residence of the Ribeaupierre family. Another famous prisoner was locked up in the dungeon of the Haut-Ribeaupierre in 1477. It is Philippe Ier de Croÿ (1435-1511), Count of Chinay, an ally of Charles the Bold, who was taken prisoner by a Ribeaupierre in Nancy.