The Splendour Falls

When time forgets us and fog has settled around our eyes, when we live only from our memories and have no-one left to share them with, perhaps then remembrance of our past glory comes into its own.

That is what has happened to Grasburg Castle. Alone it stands on a rocky outcrop, well above the churning River Sense, enshrouded in it’s own thoughts, the once mighty walls no longer standing against treacherous foes, now only gathering moss. There is memory here but it is distant, like a wisp of a dream. The ghosts are too tired now and they are resting somewhere, just out of sight.

It was not always this way…

“Grasburg Castle was once one of the most defiant castles in our country – inhabited by the lord and tyrant Amadeus. He oppressed his subjects in every possible way and had people imprisoned in the castle dungeons for no reason. Finally, during a stormy thunderstorm night, a maid pushed him into the thundering river Sense..” (Translated from: Quelle: Sagen und Märchen aus dem Senseland)
Only fragments remain today of the largest castle in Canton Bern. The imposing ruins lie above the Sensegraben – an island in the sky above the water.
The main complex once housed knights and courtiers, a keep crowned the rocky spur of the mountain as a look out to the far beyond. Although this part is no longer accessible today, you can still venture down into the remains of the building, down a ladder. When you look up, there are doors and windows suspended in the air.
The dominion of Grasburg Castle ended in 1572 – too costly to maintain and too much of a hassle to live in. The rulers decided to flee to the comforts of nearby Schwarzenburg, building themselves a nice new one, mostly from the demolition of Grasburg. The castle was given over to the wilderness and more than 3 centuries of memories went to sleep.
Although overgrown now, beneath the castle walls there is still the remains of the bridge ramp. How many hundreds of hooves must have tramped up and down those stones, the call of “Who goes there?” sounding out across the valley. When lamps lit the way up and up, the only lights against the dark forest. At the top the castle square is all that remains of the front castle, of it’s five storey keep and the Englisberghaus where the inhabitants resided.

Further on, the palace of Kernburg still stands, albeit four walls of it. It was surrounded by moat and was once only accessible by a bridge.

It was here a further residence was found (Wippingerhaus) and a tower with a prison.

The castle was redesigned repeatedly, so there is a lot of speculation attached to how it must have looked when it was in it’s prime. A rocky staircase, presumably a means of escape to river below, still shows its well trodden stones at the far end of the castle  – at the best of times a slippery, long way down. Could it be the “five farmers” who are said to have murdered the very unpopular bailiff Amadeus von Villars in 1398 fled down these steps? They crossed the Sensegraben and found protection in Fribourg. Vaulted corridors on the lower battlements and a supply of spring water from the immediate vicinity meant they could have lasted a siege if hard pressed. He must have been a terrible tyrant to have died 2 different ways…but that is the lore of castles. Whether Villars was pushed to his death by maiden or pitchforked by five furious farmers, either way, it lends a certain romanticism to these old walls.

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