The museum, located in the east and north wings, as well as the pentagon-tower of the castle displays approximately 4,600 pieces from the collections of the Departments of Pre and Early History, Classical Archeology, including Numismatics (the study of currency), Egyptology, Ancient Oriental Studies, and Ethnology. Special exhibits give visitors a peak at the current research of the individual institutes.
At 372 m (1,221 feet), the Spitzberg (also known as the Schlossberg or castle mountain) offers a magnificent view of the Neckar and Ammer Valleys. Goethe described the location of the city in the following words: “A back of beautifully formed sandstone mountains divides the two valleys and upon a small notch on this back lies Tübingen, as if sitting on a saddle facing both valleys”. Atop the Spitzberg, the Hohentübingen Castle, a mighty renaissance construction with four wings and a round tower, rises above the city. First mention of a castle on this site dates back to 1078, referring to the former medieval castle as “castrum twingia” or Tübingen Castle.
Emperor Heinrich IV besieged the fortress on his way back from doing penance in Canossa, Italy. At the time, Count Hugo of Tübingen, an ally of Heinrich’s rival, Duke Rudolf, was living there. They most likely conquered the land, which is today the inner courtyard of the castle. The rulers of Tübingen, who were promoted to Counts Palatine in the 12th century, lived in the castle until 1342 when they sold it to the Counts of Württemberg.
At the beginning of the 16th century, Duke Ulrich ordered the old castle to be razed, the moats to be filled and a castle to be built in the most modern Welch manner. Three dukes were consumed with the construction of the castle for over 100 years: Duke Ulrich built the castle in 1507 (governed 1498–1519, 1534–50), his son and her, Duke Christoph (governed 1550–68) furnished it, and Duke Friedrich (governed 1593–1608) expanded it to a military fortress. The lower castle portal originates from the period of defensive fortification under Duke Friedrich and is considered one of the finest pieces of Renaissance art in the state. It was designed by master-builder and city architect Heinrich Schickhardt and created by the sculptor Christoph Yelin from Schwäbisch Gmünd. The portal was designed in the style of a Roman triumphal arch and is crowned in the center with the Duke’s coat of arms. This is surrounded by the garland of the French Order of Michael and the garter of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most important English order of knighthood, which bears the order’s motto, “shame upon him who thinks evil of it“. After years of beginning Queen Elisabeth I of England repeatedly to be accepted into the order, Friedrich was finally admitted in 1603 and this membership was his pride and joy. Two mercenaries, dressed in the fashionable Tudor style of their time, point their muskets and two-handed sword at incoming visitors. The depiction of the gods Poseidon, Artemis, and Nike on the left column and in the gussets above the portal point to the laurel wreath upon Athena’s head on the right column. The goddess of wisdom – portrayed with an owl – is thus shown to be the most important. Above the archway, a frightening grimacing face looks down at visitors.
The contrasting facades of the inner courtyard, with the plaster walls of the west and south wings and the exposed walls of the east and north wings, appear strange to visitors today. The plastered walls decorated with frescos on the south and west wings are replicas of the original Renaissance composition. Similarly, the luminous ochre paint of the half-timbered building is a recreation of the original royal yellow shade.
Hohentübingen Castle’s importance as the residence of the Dukes of Württemberg began to diminish in the 16th century. The siege of the castle and the vicissitudes of the Thirty Year War left the castle relatively intact. The original southeast tower was exploded by the French in 1647 and was then replaced by a pentagon-shaped tower. Beginning in the mid-18th century, the university acquired its first rooms in the castle and in 1816 the King of Württemberg, Wilhelm I, transferred ownership of the castle to the university. The university library of nearly 60,000 bands was temporarily housed in the hall of knights, a chemistry laboratory was set up in the kitchen, and an astronomical observatory was housed in the northeast tower.
After thorough renovation of the castle from 1979–94, the rooms of the castle were made available to the Cultural Studies and Archeology Departments of the Eberhard-Karls-University. Current displays of the collections of these departments can be found in the east and north wings, as well as in the pentagon-tower of the Museum of the Hohentübingen Castle. Behind the fountain at the back of the courtyard, a tunnel leads through the west wing of the castle to the “Schänzle” or little entrenchment. Between the tunnel and the next doorway you will be able to look down upon the western castle moats, the so called “rabbit hole”.
From here you can walk through the doorway to your left, which will lead you to a hiking path over the Spitzberg to the Wurmlingen Chapel. The hike takes approximately one and a quarter hours. To the north of the castle is the “Captain’s Path”, which leads to the lower city.
Museum: Wed–Sun 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thur 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Tours are also available outside of the normal opening hours upon request.