Fortress Marienberg

Fortress Marienberg (German: Festung Marienberg) is a prominent landmark on the Main river in Würzburg, Germany. The mighty Fortress Marienberg is the symbol of Würzburg and served as a home of the prince-bishops for nearly five centuries. It has been a fort since ancient times. After Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden conquered the area in 1631, the castle was reconstructed in the Baroque style. Today, it is a park and museum.


In 704 A.D., the Marienkirche was built atop a former Celtic shelter, and in the 13th century it was surrounded by the first fortification. In 1482, the main castle was encircled by a medieval ring wall with the Scherenberg gate. Some of the parts of the fortress accessible to the public are the Scherenberg-Tor (Gate) the Burgfried (keep), a chapel, a well house and Fürstenbaumuseum (Bibra Stairs / Lorenz von Bibra apartments, and the Julius Echter apartments).

In May 1525, during the German Peasants' War (Bauernkrieg), a peasant army of 15,000 men surrounded the fortification, which was the seat of the bishop of Würzburg, but could not penetrate the concentric walls built on a steep incline. When their leader, Florian Geyer, went to Rothenburg ob der Tauber in early June to procure the heavy guns needed to attempt to breach the walls, the leaderless peasant army that was camped out around the castle allowed themselves to be outflanked by the professional army of the Swabian League. In the ensuing battle, more than 8,000 peasants were slaughtered by the princes; and Bishop Konrad II von Thungen was able to return to his fortress, from which he had earlier fled. The Nazis would lionize Florian Geyer 410 years later, as part of the National Socialists' desire to connect with the common man and turn them away from the Catholic Church.

In about 1600, Julius Echter rebuilt the fortress into a Renaissance palace. After the conquest by Gustav II Adolf of Sweden in 1631, during the Thirty Years' War, the fortress was reconstructed as an even more formidable baroque fortification, and a princely park was laid out.

The fortress was captured during both the Napoleonic Wars and in 1945 during World War II. In the latter case the undefended fortress was captured when the US Army quickly captured the side of the Main river on which Marienberg is located, across from the city center of Würzburg.

The Baroque Armory, built 1702-1712, houses the Mainfränkisches Museum, an excellent collection of Franconian works of art, including world-famous sculptures by Tilman Riemenschneider. The Fürstenbau Museum in the princes’ wing of the fortress offers a stroll through 1200 years of Würzburg’s history.