Festung Ehrenbreitstein
Ehrenbreitstein Fortress (German: Festung Ehrenbreitstein) is a fortress on the mountain of the same name on the east bank of the Rhine opposite the town of Koblenz
Koblenz is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle, where the Deutsches Eck and its monument are situated.As Koblenz was one of the military posts established by Drusus about 8 BC, the...

 in the German state
States of Germany
Germany is made up of sixteen which are partly sovereign constituent states of the Federal Republic of Germany. Land literally translates as "country", and constitutionally speaking, they are constituent countries...

 of Rhineland-Palatinate
Rhineland-Palatinate is one of the 16 states of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has an area of and about four million inhabitants. The capital is Mainz. English speakers also commonly refer to the state by its German name, Rheinland-Pfalz ....


It was built as the backbone of the regional fortification system, Festung Koblenz, by Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 between 1817 and 1832 and guarded the middle Rhine region, an area that had been invaded by French troops
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 repeatedly before. The fortress was never attacked.


Early fortifications at the site can be dated back to about 1000 BC. At about AD 1000 Ehrenbert erected a castle. Its initial name "Burg Ehrenbertstein" became:Burg Ehrenbreitstein. The Archbishops of Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

 expanded it with a supporting castle Burg Helferstein and guarded the Holy Tunic in it from 1657 to 1794. Successive Archbishops used the castle's strategic importance to barter between contending powers; thus in 1672 at the outset of war between France and Germany the Archbishop refused requests both from the envoys of Louis XIV and from Brandenburg's Ambassador, Christoph Caspar von Blumenthal
Von Blumenthal
The von Blumenthal family are German nobility from Brandenburg-Prussia. Other, unrelated, families of this name exist in Switzerland and formerly in Russia, and many unrelated families called "Blumenthal" without "von" are to be found worldwide.The family was already noble from earliest times ,...

, to permit the passage of troops across the Rhine. French revolutionary troops, however conquered Koblenz in 1794. In the following years they besieged Ehrenbreitstein for 3 times without success, however after a one-year siege, starting in 1798, it was due to starvation that the defenders of Ehrenbreitstein had hand over the fortress to French troops in 1799. In the process of the treaty of Lunéville
Treaty of Lunéville
The Treaty of Lunéville was signed on 9 February 1801 between the French Republic and the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, negotiating both on behalf of his own domains and of the Holy Roman Empire...

 the French were forced to withdraw from the right banks of the rhine. Hence, they dismantled Ehrenbreitstein in 1801 to prevent the enemy from taking hold of a fully functional fortress just a few meters away from the French territory (at this time, the left bank of the Rhine was under French control).

After the defeat of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars,...

 in 1815, the Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 became a Prussian province, and the fortification of the Koblenz area a military priority, because of its proximity to France and the fact that Koblenz was a bottleneck for all means of transportation (ships, railways, land transportation because of bridges). Hence, the Prussians built a system of fortification around Koblenz, the so-called Fortress Koblenz, from 1817 until 1834. Yet, the name Fortress Koblenz should not be interpreted as if the whole city of Koblenz was a fortress. It should be rather viewed as a buzz word, referring to the ring of fortification around Koblenz, of which the Festung Ehrenbreitstein was a part. This Fortress Koblenz is said to represented the largest military fortress in Europe save for Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

. However, it is a common misbelief, that just the "Festung Ehrenbreitstein" was the largest fortress in Europe. Ehrenbreitstein could be defended by up to 1200 soldiers. Unchallenged, it remained in service until 1890.

In 1822 the English translation of the castle's name, The Broad-Stone of Honour
The Broad-Stone of Honour
The Broad Stone of Honour, or Rules for the Gentlemen of England, is a book written by Kenelm Henry Digby and published first in 1822 by F. C. & J. Rivington of London. Then the work was subdivided into its constituent parts and published as Godefridus , Tancredus , Morus and Orlandus...

, was used as the title of Kenelm Henry Digby
Kenelm Henry Digby
This article is about Kenelm Digby, the Anglo-Irish writer. For other people with the same name, see Kenelm Digby Kenelm Henry Digby was an Anglo-Irish writer born at Clonfert in Ireland, though he certainly did not regard himself as Irish...

's exhaustive work on chivalry
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour...


In 1897, a Monument to Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

 Wilhelm I was erected right below the Festung, but on the west side of the Rhine, known as the Deutsches Eck (German Corner). Both fortress and monument were considered as symbols for the "Guard at the Rhine", as in the song "Die Wacht am Rhein
Die Wacht am Rhein
"Die Wacht am Rhein" is a German patriotic anthem. The song's origins are rooted in historical conflicts with France, and it was particularly popular in Germany during the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War....


During World War I the fortress was used as military headquarters. After World War I, the American General Henry Tureman Allen
Henry Tureman Allen
Henry Tureman Allen was a United States Army officer known for exploring the Copper River in Alaska in 1885 along with the Tanana and Koyukuk rivers by transversing 1,500 miles of wilderness. His trek was been compared by General Nelson A. Miles to that of Lewis and Clark.Henry was born in...

, convinced of its historical value as a premier 19th century fortress, prevented its intended destruction. It was occupied by the US Army as their headquarters during the occupation of the Rhineland
Occupation of the Rhineland
The Occupation of the Rhineland took place following the armistice and brought the fighting of World War I to a close on 11 November 1918. The occupying armies consisted of American, Belgian, British and French forces...

, and after January 1923 it was occupied by the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

. During World War II, it served as a place of safekeeping for archives and cultural objects but also harbored three flak guns.

After World War II, it was used first by the French Army before it was handed over to the State of Rhineland-Palatinate. It now has multiple uses including a youth hostel, restaurant, museum and archive
An archive is a collection of historical records, or the physical place they are located. Archives contain primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organization's lifetime, and are kept to show the function of an organization...

. In 2011, Festung Ehrenbreitstein will be part of the National Garden Show in Koblenz and is thus currently under renovation.


...this pulpit, I see, is a self-containing stronghold --a lofty Ehrenbreitstein... (Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

, Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, was written by American author Herman Melville and first published in 1851. It is considered by some to be a Great American Novel and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod,...


As the vine flourishes, and the grape empurples close up to the very walls and muzzles of cannoned Ehrenbreitstein; so do the sweetest joys of life grow in the very jaws of its perils. (Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

, Pierre
Pierre: or, The Ambiguities
Pierre: or, The Ambiguities is a novel written by Herman Melville, and published in 1852 by Harper & Brothers.The publication of Pierre was a critical and financial disaster for Melville. It was universally condemned for both its morals and its style...


Here Ehrenbreitstein, with her shattered wall

Black with the miner's blast, upon her height

Yet shows of what she was, when shell and ball

Rebounding idly on her strength did light;

A tower of victory! from whence the flight

Of baffled foes was watch'd along the plain:

But Peace destroy'd what War could never blight,

And laid those proud roofs bare to Summer's rain--

On which the iron shower for years had pour'd in vain.

(Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is a lengthy narrative poem in four parts written by Lord Byron. It was published between 1812 and 1818 and is dedicated to "Ianthe". The poem describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks...

Canto III, v.58)

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