Philippseck was a modern fortress-like castle complex on the Schlossberg above Münster, a district of Butzbach in the Wetteraukreis in Hesse. It was built by Landgrave Philipp III of Hesse-Butzbach. Only very few remains of the complex have been preserved.
Between 1609 and 1643, the village of Münster belonged to the Landgraviate of Hesse-Butzbach as a partial territory of the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt. According to his own plans, Landgrave Philipp III had the fortified castle built on the then “Gehberg” between 1626 and 1628 as a plague and escape castle near his residence in Butzbach.
After Philipp’s death, the castle reverted to Hesse-Darmstadt, but was passed on to the collateral line of Hesse-Homburg until 1681. From 1688 until her death, the landgrave’s widow Elisabeth Dorothea of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg alternately used the castle in Butzbach and Philippseck as her widow’s residence, after her death until 1741 her son Heinrich of Hesse-Darmstadt.
However, Darmstadt’s interest in the remote complex was low and the maintenance costs high. Philippseck was auctioned off for demolition in 1773/74. Parts of the cellar facilities remained until the 1970s and were used for storage.
Philippseck belonged to the area of common law, which applied here without the superimposition of particular law. This retained its validity even during the affiliation to the Grand Duchy of Hesse in the 19th century, until it was replaced by the Civil Code, which was uniformly applicable throughout the German Reich, on January 1, 1900.
In 2007, peripheral areas of the site were investigated by the Wetterau district’s archaeological monuments department during construction. A model of the site on a scale of 1:100 can be found in the museum of the town of Butzbach.
The core of the castle consisted of a palace building on a triangular ground plan with an inner courtyard and several risalites. The flanks had a length of 73 m each. The moats in front formed an irregular twelve-pointed star. The type of construction is represented several times with variants in the fortress literature of the 16th and early 17th centuries (Buonaiuto Lorini 1607; Johann Wilhelm Dilich 1640). The only comparable structure in Germany is the Wewelsburg, built in 1604-1607. There are further examples in Venetian-influenced Croatia and in Italy.
The triangular shape was already considered difficult to defend in the fortress architecture of the time, as enemy artillery fire could only be inadequately returned from the bastions. The central bastions on the flanks of Philippseck were an attempt to compensate for this weakness, but only smaller guns could be placed there due to the size of the platform. Lorini, however, already emphasized that the triangular shape represented the smallest possible construction method for a fortress.
Over the entire floor area, the basement was of free-standing design and provided with rectangular, transverse embrasures. Several inventories of the 17th and 18th centuries, which are kept in the Hessian State Archives in Darmstadt, give clues to the rich interior decoration of the buildings. The slender tower at the head of the inner courtyard is also unusual. It contradicts the principle of modern fortress construction of minimal height development. Its purpose was presumably to provide a visual and signal link to the Butzbach town fortifications.
The entrance with gateway and personal gate was located on the north side. The structure on the south-western flank of the castle was probably extended beyond the alignment of the north side in order to better protect the gate.
A view by the draughtsman Valentin Wagner is known from the time of its construction. Another elevation and ground plan has been preserved on a steel engraving from 1851, which presumably goes back to an 18th century model.
Little is known about the outer works. They are recognizable on Wagner’s drawing and can be partially revealed today by aerial archaeology. According to this, the wall-like slope of the Schlossberg formed the outer defensive ring. On top of this was a wall which served as a breastwork defence. The terrain between the rampart and the castle building was probably deepened like a ditch in order to protect the building from direct fire. There is also evidence of a pleasure garden belonging to Landgrave Philipp and a tower-like building to protect the entrance to the castle. A fair had been held in front of this gate since 1 May 1633.
- Elmar Brohl: Landgrave Philipp III of Hesse-Butzbach and Valentin Wagner’s Fortress Drawings. In: Holger Th. Gräf and Helga Meise (eds.): Valentin Wagner. A draughtsman in the Thirty Years’ War. Exhibition catalogue Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-921254-92-2, pp. 71-82.
- Elmar Brohl: Fortresses in Hesse. Published by the German Society for Fortress Research, Wesel, Schnell und Steiner, Regensburg 2013 (=Deutsche Festungen 2), ISBN 978-3-7954-2534-0, p. 28.
- Marcus Jae/ Jörg Lindenthal/ Dieter Wolf: Reste des “Zufluchtsorts” Schloss Philippseck des Landgrafen Philipp III. von Hessen-Butzbach. In: Hessen-Archäologie 2007, Wiesbaden 2008, pp. 149-153.
- Ulrich Schütte: Das Schloss als Wehranlage. Fortified castle buildings of the early modern period. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1994, ISBN 3-534-11692-5, p. 235f. and Fig. 164.
- “Philippseck Castle, Wetterau District”. Castles, manor houses. (As of 9 May 2010). In: Landesgeschichtliches Informationssystem Hessen (LAGIS).
- Renaissance Castles in Hesse (Project at the Germanic National Museum by Georg Ulrich Großmann)
- Arthur B. Schmidt: Die geschichtlichen Grundlagen des bürgerlichen Rechts im Großherzogtum Hessen. Curt von Münchow, Giessen 1893, p. 100, note 6 and pp. 9, 11
- Buonaiuto Lorini: Della Fortificationi libri cinque. Venice 1607, Libro Terzo p. 150.
- Johann Wilhelm Dilich: Perilogia oder Bericht von Vestungs gebeuwen. Frankfurt am Main 1640, pl. 236.
- Elmar Brohl: Landgrave Philipp III of Hesse-Butzbach and Valentin Wagner’s Fortress Drawings. In: Holger Th. Gräf and Helga Meise (eds.): Valentin Wagner. A draughtsman in the Thirty Years’ War. Exhibition catalogue Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt 2003, p. 73f. with further sources.
- HStAD Best. D 4 No. 67/7; HStAD Best. D 4 No. 61/1
- Elmar Brohl: Landgrave Philipp III of Hesse-Butzbach and Valentin Wagner’s Fortress Drawings. In: Holger Th. Gräf and Helga Meise (eds.): Valentin Wagner. A draughtsman in the Thirty Years’ War. Exhibition catalogue Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt 2003, p. 74f.