Herzogenrath Castle

Herzogenrath 126-2

Rode Castle, with the settlement of Afden in the foreground and the church of St. Mariä Himmelfahrt Church with Rolduc in the background (Rode Castle Archives).

The noble Saffenberg family, an offshoot of the aristocratic Van De Ahrgau family, ruled the Herzogenrath area around the year 1060.
This family’s main seat, Saffen Castle, was located in the Ahr Valley near Mayschoss.
The Count of Saffenberg was granted the right of way by the crown in his areas on the important trade route between Cologne and Flanders.
This right of way served to protect traders. It allowed toll stations to be established, where traders paid for protection and to use the roads.
Since Roman times, the main route between Cologne and the Channel coast had run further west via Jülich, Heerlen, Maastricht, and Tongeren.
In the Middle Ages, however, the route went further south, from where it went from Jülich via Aldenhoven and Alsdorf to Herzogenrath, then on to Heerlen, Maastricht, and Boulogne-sur-Mer.
The toll castle of the Count of Saffenberg was built on the rock next to the Wurm crossing in Herzogenrath. A settlement developed at the foot of the castle, which later grew into the walled town of Herzogenrath.
The eastern lower gate on the Wurm and the upper gate towards Kerkrade and Aachen formed the main route through the town. There was a third city gate leading towards Eygelshoven.


Peter Dinninghoff


View of the castle from Kleikstraße (Photo: Petra Baur, City of Herzogenrath)

The name Burg Rode was first mentioned in documents in 1104 in the “Annales Rodenses”. Rode Castle is a secondary castle of the Counts of Saffenberg, whose ancestral seat, the Saffenburg, is located in Mayschoss in the Ahr Valley. At the foot of Rode Castle, one of the most important trade routes in Western Europe ran at that time, from Cologne on the Rhine via Maastricht on the Meuse and Antwerp on the Scheldt towards the North Sea and London. The road crossed the river Wurm near the castle. In return for the protection of passers-by, the emperor allowed the counts to levy customs duties.

A dispute between the Counts of Saffenberg and the Dukes of Limburg over the land of Rode, which lasted for many years, finally ended in 1136 with the marriage of the later Duke Henry II of Limburg to Mathilde of Saffenberg. This gave rise to the name “‘s Hertogenrode”, meaning “the duke’s clearing. When ‘s-Hertogenrode became part of Prussia after the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the name Herzogenrath came into being.

The town of Rode was granted town rights around 1160, and Duke Walram IV granted the town the right to mint coins around 1260. King Rudolf of Habsburg also granted the town the right to mint Limburg coins in 1282. After the death of the childless Irmgard of Limburg, married to Rainald I of Guelders, one of the greatest knightly battles of the Middle Ages, the Battle of Worringen (1288), took place due to the dispute over inheritance rights.

Afterwards, the lands of Rode came under the rule of the Dukes of Brabant. Between 1387 and 1396, Duchess Joan of Brabant transferred sovereign rights over Limburg and the lands “von Overmaas” (the lands west of the Meuse) to Duke Philip II of Burgundy. Between 1389 and 1393, the present tower of the castle was raised by Burgrave Goswin von Heer. Through the marriage of Maximilian I of Austria to Mary of Burgundy in 1477, the land again came into the possession of the House of Habsburg and was given as a fief to Duke William V of Jülich. Charles V buys the land back from Rode in 1544 and Rode is annexed to the Habsburg Netherlands, first to the Spanish, then from 1713 to the Austrian line. Political and religious unrest reigns during this period. Around 1684, the French king Louis XIV wages his wars of robbery, as a result of which the town and its castle are devastated. Only the round tower of the castle remains.

In 1750, the government of the Austrian Netherlands in Brussels decided to use the castle as an administrative centre. Two wings were built for this purpose, one to the right and one to the left of the tower. The “Bockreiter trials” took place in the rooms of the castle during these years.

With the exception of Welz and Rurdorf, the former land of Hertogenrode was annexed to the arrondissement of Maastricht in 1794.

After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the river Wurm is the border between Kerkrade and Prussian Herzogenrath until the current borders are established in 1817. The castle is then auctioned off, with the city of Herzogenrath acquiring the right to purchase. In the following years, the castle deteriorated more and more until the factory owner August Schmetz from Herzogenrath rebuilt it in 1877. In 1903, the factory owner Georg Ahlemeier has the castle renovated in its present form by the Aachen master builder Prof. Buchkremer. In 1913, Ahlemeier’s son sells the castle again to the town of Herzogenrath, which establishes the town hall and the mayor’s residence there.

On 23 May 1982, the town of Herzogenrath transferred the castle to the “Burg Rode e.V.” association. The purpose of the association is the preservation of the castle as a historical building as well as the design of the castle as a cultural and social centre in the town of Herzogenrath. All members of this association work on a voluntary basis, and concerts, lectures and exhibitions are organised. All events are also cross-border events.

One of the highlights has long been the castle festival on the first weekend in June each year, which regularly attracts more than 30,000 visitors. In addition, the Christmas market in cooperation with the Stadtmarketing e.V. and the city of Herzogenrath has become a major event.

Marriages in the castle, which offers a festive ambience, are also popular with many citizens. The various rooms can be rented for a reasonable price. We also offer groups (by reservation) guided tours of Rode Castle, from the cellar to the tower. Guided tours suitable for children can also be reserved under the guidance of the “Limburg Knighthood”. Information about all cultural offers can be found at: www.burgrode.de

But over the years, more and more renovation measures became necessary. And the city saw increasing difficulties in bearing construction measures for a building that was not owned by the city. On 19 December 2022, the Burg Rode e.V. association transferred the castle to the city of Herzogenrath. This means that the castle once again belongs entirely to the town of Herzogenrath.

Catharina Scholtens

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