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Mariastein Youth Hostel

Burg Rotberg
4115 Mariastein (SO)

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History - Rotberg Castle

Rotberg Youth Hostel near Mariastein and Ehrenfels Castle above Sils in the Domleschg region are the two so-called Swiss "Youth Castles". During the 1930s, voluntary work programmes for unemployed young people were organised under the supervision of the architect Eugen Probst on the line of similar projects in Germany and France. The primary concern of the restoration work was not the preservation of the historic building fabric, but rather to prevent the ruin from further disintegration and to provide young people with a castle suitable for working in and staying overnight.

The northern Jura plateau region features one of the densest concentrations of castles in Switzerland, with more than a dozen notable castles and castle ruins. Rotberg Castle did not play a particularly important role, nor was it of exceptional interest in terms of architectural history. Speculation that Rotberg Castle may have been the legendary Robur fortress of Emperor Valentinian I intended to provide protection against the Germanic tribes seems implausible. It would appear more probable that the castle was founded at the same time as the majority of Swiss castles, which date back to the12th and 13th centuries.

The building was erected on a rocky outcrop at the foot of the Blauen hill. Space was so limited that special retaining walls had to be built for the road and a small enclosure.

Documentary evidence of the von Rothbergs dates back to the second half of the 13th century, with Johans and Wernher von Rothberg as the first representatives of their family to be mentioned. The von Rothbergs sought to be connected to the ever more influential town of Basel at an early stage and subsequently provided the mayor on several occasions. In 1451, a certain Arnold von Rothberg was even ordained as the Bishop of Basel.

Whether, as early as 1356, Rotberg Castle was destroyed by the great Basel earthquake is not known for certain. However, it is possible that the castle was so severely damaged then that it was never properly repaired and gradually fell into decay.

The castle estate situated at the foot of the castle mound remained in operation, however. In 1918, the "Allgemeine Consumverein beider Basel" (Co-operative Union of Basel) took over this estate and acquired the ruins into the bargain.

The reconstruction

In 1933, the Zurich architect and President of the “Schweizerischer Burgenverein” (Swiss Castle Society), Eugen Probst, proposed rebuilding Rotberg Castle as a so-called “Youth Castle” on the line of examples in Germany and France. To do so, he envisaged the use of unemployed young people in order to offer them an opportunity to gain practical work experience at the same time. The Co-operative Union of Basel supported the venture and had collecting boxes placed in its shops for this purpose.

Some 30 young people began the work in January 1934. Eugen Probst took care of the planning; the Co-operative Union for its part supplied the building management from among its ranks.

The work was finally completed on 27 November 1935 and the youth hostel opened.

Rotberg Castle Youth Hostel today

Rotberg Castle Youth Hostel today

Knights' hall

Knights' hall

Ruin on the farming estate of the Allgemeiner Consumverein

Ruin on the farming estate of the Allgemeiner Consumverein