The huge castle on the east side of the Unstrut river valley was founded around 1090 by the Thuringian count Ludwig der Springer. It secured the territory of the Ludowinger in the east, as did the Wartburg castle in the west. After the son of Ludwig der Springer, Ludwig I, became margrave, the extension was continued. Between the middle of the 12th and the middle of the 13th century a spacious facility with representative residential buildings and enormous towers, walls and gates was built. The double chapel, built between 1170 and 1200, is still an architectural treasure. Great names like that of Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossa or the poet Heinrich von Veldeke bear eloquent witness to a splendid past. Around 1185, by order of Palsgrave Hermann I of Saxony (from 1190 Landgrave of Thuringia), Heinrich von Veldeke completed his novel "Eneas", the first knightly-courtly poetical tale in Middle High German. The mentioning of Hermann as "palsgrave of the Neuenburg by the river Unstrut" in the tale's epilogue shows the importance of the Neuenburg back then. The Neuenburg had its heyday under Landgrave Ludwig IV and his wife, St Elisabeth of Thuringia (around 1217-1227), who stayed here many times.
After the dynasty of the Ludowinger ended in 1247, the Neuenburg came under the control of the Margraves of MeiBen, members of the house of Wettin. After that the facility was owned by various branches of the family. In the 15th century it belonged to Prince Wilhelm III of Weimar, and in the 16th century it was under Elector August of Saxony. In the 17th and 18th century the counts of Saxony-WeiBenfels used Neuenburg as their residence and hunting seat, until it became an administration building in 1770 and lost its centuries-old function as residence. After in the course of the Congress of Vienna Saxony had to surrender half of its territory, the Neuenburg became Prussian as well. From the 1840s there were increased efforts to preserve and rebuild the facility as a monument. After it was used as a domain and administration building, temporarily with lodgings for the Prussian King in the royal apartments, a museum of local history and culture was established in the castle in 1935. In addition to that parts of the facility served as a school for chief gauleiter during the Nazi period.
From 1945 on numerous flats were built into the castle buildings. After the museum was closed in 1970 it became neglected and dilapidated. In 1983 the keep ("Dicker Wilhelm") was reopened to the public. Since 1990 the entire facility has been restored and developed into a museum. In 1997 the trust "Stiftung Dome und Schlösser in Sachsen-Anhalt" of the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt took over Neuenburg castle. Since 1998 the private initiative group to save and preserve Neuenburg castle has been in charge of the museum
The inner castle is the oldest part of the site. From the late 11th century the ring wall, single tower-like residential buildings, a circular keep and the east rampart with two octagonal towers were been built. Typical of this stage of construction is the thorough so-called Salian layered masonry made of small square stones.
In another stage, which was started in the second quarter of the 12th century, the facility was extended and a new large outer castle was erected. Two more keeps were built here, of which only one, called "Dicker Wilhelm", is preserved (the cap dates from 1550). The other one was pulled down in the 17th century after it had been struck by lightning. Only the lower part with griffes has survived.
The most important building is the chapel. First its rectangular basement was built next to the first keep; the apse is archeologically documented. Between 1170 and 1200, in connection with the building of the large adjacent living quarters, which had four storeys and has only been preserved in part, the chapel was extended and became a two-storey double chapel. The upper chapel was first built as a three-aisled structure, and then around 1220-1230 it was changed into a two-aisled hall. Today's vault and the round arches with chevron decorative bands were put in. Pilasters which were already there were reused though.
The appearance of the remaining buildings of Neuenburg is mainly determined by later reconstructions: In the middle of the 15th century the living quarters and halls south of the old residential tract were modernized. A new kitchen was built as well. Two renaissance portals and the magnificent spiral staircase, which has served to connect the two chapel storeys since 1854, are proof of 16th-century measures. Service buildings and annexes as well as rooms inside the royal apartments were mainly changed during the baroque period.
Only the double chapel can still give an impression of the castle's high medieval appearance. With its precious decoration of the upper floor it is among the most important examples of this type of building, which was limited to castles of the royalty and higher nobility around 1200 (e.g. Nuremberg, Cheb/Eger and Landsberg). The columns, of Belgian carboniferous limestone, the round arches with chevron decorative bands and the superb ornamentation of the capitals, column bases and keystones show the influence of examples from the lower Rhine area (Cologne). Today's colouring with black and gold accents corresponds to historical findings. Remains of the original colouring are preserved on the north wall window. The only original piece of equipment is the altar block from the late 12th century. The baptismal font probably came from the former Kilian's church at the foot of the castle. The late Gothic winged altar was only recently set up in the upper chapel.
April-Oct.: Mon-Sun 10 a.m.-6 p.m., last admission 5.30 p.m.
Nov.-March (museum only): Tue-Sun 10 a.m.-5 p.m., last admission 4.30 p.m.
Adults 6 EUR, reduced rate 4.50 EUR, annual ticket 10 EUR
Guided tours: at any times by prior arrangement