Castles: Hostile Brothers
Sterrenberg Castle is probably one of the oldest fortifications on the Middle Rhine: Its keep was erected no later than the end of the 12th century. In addition to its age, Sterrenberg Castle is also remarkable for having two shield walls placed one behind the other. The outer wall is stronger and higher than the inner one and clearly directed towards the neighbouring Liebenstein Castle. These two castles, formerly occupied by parties bitterly opposed to each other, bear witness to the problems involved in centuries of changing ownership in the Middle Rhine Valley. Because in the Middle Ages the territories of different rulers often bordered directly on each other. Various animosities between princes, counts and abbots were manifested in the counter-castles constructed to defend their various dominions. According to the legend of the “Hostile Brothers”, on top of that Sterrenberg and Liebenstein Castles belonged to two brothers who built the strongholds as the result of a dispute. Instead of a family feud, a castle with rooms suitable for celebrations, plus a café and restaurant awaits today’s visitors.
Liebenstein Castle was built in the 13th century. The owners of the two castles became irreconcilable foes in 1320 when Sterrenberg became the property of the Archbishopric of Trier and the rulers of Liebenstein withdrew completely into their castle. The construction of a massive shield wall at Sterrenberg Castle documents in stone how deeply the ideological rift was between the two groups. In addition, as early as 1340 Liebenstein Castle became a ganerbenburg: Ganerben were noble families who, on account of joint inheritance, lived in the same castle complex. As an association of numerous very small castles, Liebenstein served as home for around ten families who lived in different buildings. Today the buildings of the ganerben can no longer be recognised at Liebenstein Castle, where a hotel and restaurant have been integrated in the course of extensive renovation work starting in 1977.