Sometimes, when arriving at the Frankfurt Airport and driving on the Autobahn to Würzburg, I stop by the Mespelbrunn palace built in 1569. The moated castle, also called Wasserschloss, is located in north Bavaria between Aschaffenburg and my hometown Würzburg
The castle has gained worldwide fame due to its picturesque appearance and romantic location.
In May 1, 1412, the Archbishop Johann von Mainz gave the knight Hamann Echter the “Platz zum Espelborn” for his loyal service as electoral forester. Back then the Spessart forest was a wild and undeveloped woodland area in Franconia. Scoundrel used the Spessart as a stopover for plundering trains and terrified the travelers and residents.
Around 1427, Knight Hamann Echter’s son of the same name, preferred to build a “solid house” with walls and towers from his father’s unfortified pond house.
The generations that followed finally took the more peaceful times as an opportunity to transform the forbidding walls of a moated castle into a dreamy Renaissance palace.
The castle owes its current appearance largely to Peter Echter von Mespelbrunn and his wife Gertraud von Adelsheim, who carried out the conversion over a period of 18 years until 1569.
The family produced many children over time. Julius Echter, who as Prince-Bishop in Würzburg and Duke of Franconia founded the Juliusspital in 1576 and the university in Würzburg in 1583. He may have been best known for building the mighty Marienberg Fortress, and shaped the church image of Franconian pointed towers and Renaissance buildings with decorated gables.
A sign on the side as a symbol of their Love reads:
“Conjugal love in God and constant loyalty
brings luck and blessings without any regrets.
With earnestness and diligence we have trusted God and
built this house for our good”
Despite Peter Echter’s wealth of children, the male line of the Echters died out less than a hundred years after his death. Since the Thirty Years’ War had claimed its victims here, as it had in so many families.
Maria Ottilia, the last “Echterin”, married Philipp Ludwig von Ingelheim from the Rheingau in 1648. Her husband came from a family of barons who were later raised to the ranks of counts. The two were allowed to join names and coats of arms with imperial permission.
The name of the family is still “Counts of Ingelheim Echter von und zu Mespelbrunn”. Maria Ottilia, the last Echterin, still occupies the south wing of the house, while the north wing was partially opened to the public shortly after the end of World War II