The largest Wine Barrel in the World is in Heidelberg

After taking a two hour boat ride on the Neckar, we disembarked and walked towards the Heidelberg University. On a steep incline to the Schlossberg we saw the funicular “Bergbahn” to the ruined Heidelberg castle.

We decided to jump on and take a short ride up to see the largest Wine barrel in the world.

Once arrived, we noticed the Heidelberg castle has a combination of several buildings surrounding a central courtyard. We saw various buildings that represent a different period of German architecture. Not having much time, we went ahead and to take a tour through the wine cellar to see the largest Barrel in the world.

The largest wine barrel in the Heidelberg Castle (Johann Casimir barrel) was built under Johann Casimir by Michael Werner from Landau from 1589 to 1591, and had a capacity of around 127,000 liters. Unfortunately it was destroyed in the Thirty Years’ War

The four of the largest barrels are:

  1. Johann-Casimir-Fass 1591
  2. Karl-Ludwig-Fass 1664
  3. Karl-Philipp-Fass 1728
  4. Karl-Theodor-Fass 1751
Grosses Heidelberger fass, barrell

Taking the stairs up and walking on top of the barrel, then looking down from a pedestal, the great height is now reality.

Anton Praetorius, pastor in Dittelsheim, and later a fighter against witch trials and torture, made a trip to Heidelberg in 1594 when it was stronghold of the Reformed faith. When he was a pastor, he dedicated a writing to the reformed Duke-Kurfürsten Frederick IV, during whose tenure was during the first large barrel was completed.

The world’s only copy of the poem (see below) is in the Berlin State Library. Eight pages of the surviving copy was printed, the remaining seven pages have been handed down by hand. The letters on the front page are graphically arranged in the form of a large wine barrel. Praetorius was the first to draw the world’s public’s attention to the giant barrel of the Neckarstadt and to make it famous all over the world.

The precise description of the dimensions of the barrel is a poem, the “Vas Heidelbergense” and was published in 1595. The writings with the large barrel in Heidelberg Castle is visible evidence of the superiority of the Calvinist faith.

Fassbuch Poem 1595 (per Wikimedia)

Titelseite Fassbuch Praetorius 1595 Poem:

Mehr staunt, wer selber das ganze Werk. Persönlich betrachtet; auch kann er. Für wahrhaft jederzeit gelten und Zeuge sein.. Viele kommen daher aus der Ferne. Zu guten Freunden, um dieses Fass. Sehen zu können, gleichwie ich selbst kürzlich tat.. Und fürwahr, dieses Werk ist bei Gott wert, dass man’s. Besichtigt, wenn sich eine passende Gelegenheit ergibt.. Solch ein Gefäß mit so großer Gabe des Weinstocks, glaub’ ich,. Gibt’s nicht, soweit der riesige Erdkreis reicht.. Vergeblich erreicht die Kunde vom Fass die ungläubigen Ohren.. Denn keiner vermag es zu glauben, wenn er’s nicht hat geschaut.. Hier leuchtet die Güte, hier die Majestät, hier die höchste Macht. Des ewigen Gottes überall heller.

Translated from the Latin in German: Burghard Schmanck)

Second Largest Barrel

Duke-Kurfürst Karl Ludwig had a new barrel built in 1664 under the direction of Heidelberg cellar master Johannes Meyer. It had the capacity of 195,000 liters and was given a dance floor. It survived the destruction of the palace during the Palatinate War of Succession in 1689 and 1693. Due to progressive decay, a repair was carried out in 1702 without a fundamental improvement in the condition of the barrel.

First large barrel in the Heidelberg castle
First large barrel in the Heidelberg castle (per Wikimedia)

Third largest Barrel

An all-around renovation was carried out in 1724 and 1727/28 under Duke Karl Philipp, which resulted in the third barrel. It had a capacity of 202,000 liters and was thus around 4,700 liters larger. But the barrel kept leaking, so that a new building was planned by the court chamber as early as 1740.

Fourth largest Barrel

The fourth barrel was completed under Duke- Kurfürsten Karl Theodor in 1751, and had a capacity of 221,726 liters. It was only filled three times because it was never tight. However, it remained as an attraction for visitors to the castle. It was filled up through a large hole in the ceiling. A hose was inserted through this hole into the barrel below and the wine was pumped into the barrel so that you did not have to climb onto the barrel.

Second oldest largest Barrel from 1594 in Gröningen (per Wikimedia)
Second oldest largest Barrel from 1594 in Gröningen (per Wikimedia)

The Gröninger Barrel

In the Halberstadt hunting lodge Spiegelsberge is an approximately 10% larger barrel, which is the second oldest and called the Gröninger barrel. It was built about three years after the completion of the first Heidelberg barrel by the same maker, Michael Werner from Landau. This barrel is still there today and can be considered the younger brother of the world-famous Heidelberg barrel.

After our tour we took the Bergbahn down and found a Restaurant in the Altstadt near the famous Alte Bücke “Wirtshaus zum Nepomuk” (Oberen Neckargasse 2) . There I ordered the perfect Schnitzel with home fries.

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