You’re now standing at the Iron Gate – the real entrance to the castle. Gates were the weak points of any castle, so they were strongly fortified. This one was reinforced with iron plates and equipped with a portcullis. There are two-storey galleries on either side of the gate. The loopholes and the upper battlements allowed the gate itself and the approach to be defended and protected. Two of the loopholes at the lower level of the gallery on the right have been opened up – see if you can find them!
If you look up at the keystone at the top of the pointed arch, you’ll find the date when this defensive structure was built. The inscription in the Gothic style names 1491 as the year, and Count Otto as the builder. Towering above the vaulting is the castle church, which dates from the same period and extends the protection of the divine to the entire complex. Then as now, the large main gate is locked at night or in uncertain times, and access to the castle is strictly by the small postern.
On the right, set within the wall of the passage, is a small prison cell. It’s called “Böse Herberge”, essentially “villains’ lodging”, and also dates back to the 15th century. The sign above the door notes that being put inside is easy, getting out is hard. Graffiti on the solid wooden door testify to how prisoners who’d breached the peace of the castle were mocked.
A panel painting from 1527 used to hang here. It’s on your screen now. The inscription translates as: "Whoever breaches the peace of the castle will be subject to justice". The warning was illustrated by the drastic image of an axe chopping off a hand – so even those who couldn’t read would get the message.
You’re nearly at the top! Just a few more steps along the passage beneath the church until you reach the entrance on your right.
All depictions: © Schloss Braunfels