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Sils i.D. Youth Hostel

Oberer Ehrenfelsweg 12
7411 Sils i.D. (GR)

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History - Ehrenfels Castle

The Domleschg is an ancient important transit region to the Splügen, San Bernardino, Septimer, Julier and Albula passes, as is clearly evidenced by the finds at prehistoric and Roman sites and the large numbers of Medieval castles. On the Carschenna above Ehrenfels Castle, remarkable Bronze Age rock carvings can be seen.

The history of the castle

Very little is known about the history of Ehrenfels Castle. The lords of Ehrenfels are first documented in the year 1257 under the name “C. de Herinvels”. The word “Ehren” originates from Middle High German and simply means lords. Ehrenfels was thus the rock on which the lords lived.

Situated close to the important Hohenrätien Castle, Ehrenfels once formed the centre point of a small manor and was probably owned by the Lords of Sils.

As long ago as the end of the 15th century, the castle came into the possession of Cazis monastery and served as a residence for the administrator of the surrounding estates. Nevertheless, even in the 16th century, the brothers Rudolf and Kaspar von Schauenstein were listed as residents for a time. The transfer of Ehrenfels Castle to Cazis monastery took place around about the same time that the Viamala Gorge was first made accessible to carts (1473). The theory that the other route to the south through the “Schin Gorge” and with it the Ehrenfels Castle at the gateway to the Schin might have lost its importance as a result is less probable. It was more likely a sign of the times. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the power of the feudal lords was on the decline and many noble families became impoverished.

The reconstruction

The Medieval fortifications consisted of a four-storey fortified tower (Bergfried), the residential wing (Palas) and the partially double, battlemented containing walls (Bering). The first access to the castle faced north. Later, accesses were provided via the courtyard to the 1st and 2nd storeys.

Like many other abandoned buildings of this era, Ehrenfels Castle was to some extent used as a source of stone for new houses. Fortunately, a proposed demolition of the solid castle walls at the time of the construction of the Rhaetian Railway ultimately proved too expensive for an entrepreneur. As a result, the massive Bergfried tower had still retained virtually its full height at the time the Swiss Castle Association took over the ruin in the 1930s. The residential wing on the other hand, had been almost completely demolished, apart from a few sections of wall. The intention was to reconstruct the castle as part of a work creation scheme for unemployed young people, headed by the architect Eugen Probst. Here archaeological and historical accuracy was not the first priority. Building shape, material choice and location of the openings were instead based on other examples.

At the end of July 1933, around 25 young people began to clear the heavily overgrown ruin, fell trees and excavate parts of the site. Unfortunately, lack of funds prevented the work from being continued as planned in the following year. It was only as a result of the much-acclaimed reconstruction of Rotberg Castle at Mariastein in the Solothurn Jura mountains, converted into a youth hostel under identical conditions, that the Ehrenfels project gained new confidence and resources. Work was restarted in 1936 and in completed in the following years. In 1954 the castle was taken over by the Youth Hostels Association and has served as a youth hostel since then.

Ehrenfels Youth Castle

Ehrenfels Youth Castle

Great Hall

Great Hall

Ehrenfels after the completion 1940

Ehrenfels after the completion 1940