There’s a big mystery about Meersburg: Although it is the oldest inhabited castle in Germany, it’s exact age is unknown. The castle was first mentioned in documents in 1147, however a guy called “Luitpolt de Merdesburch” was already mentioned in a document in 1113, so the town must have had existed then.
The construction style of the castle’s keep (a.k.a. Dagobert’s tower) is similar to other keeps in the area, which date back to the 12th and 13th century. So what’s known for sure is that construction of the current castle was started between late 11th and early 12th century.
However, there’s a theory that Merovingian King Dagobert I. had the first keep built in 630. It’s known that he was in the area at that time to Christianize the Alemanni. It’s also known that rulers preferred elevated grounds for their protective residences. The theory makes sense. Now, up until the 10th century, castles were build of wood. Considering Europe’s war-happy history, plus the fact that wood burns pretty well, it’s no surprise that, if there was a castle built by King Dagobert I., none of it’s original structure remains.
Meersburg was under Siege various times. One of them is particularly interesting, as it was the first time fire arms were used on German soil:
In 1334, Emperor Louis IV. and Pope Pope John XXII had a difference of opinion regarding who ought to be bishop. The Pope’s guy (Nikolaus von Frauenfeld) barricaded himself in Meersburg. The Emperor wasn’t that happy about it and made Meersburg an offer it couldn’t refuse: He ordered his army to lay siege on it.
Trying to famish a town on a lake, which provides plenty of water and fish, seems rather futile. To make the Emperor’s matters even worse, Meersburg had a secret escape tunnel, which was used to get intel into town. Now, even in the 14th century, a war was an expensive endeavor. (Sun Tzu’s “The art of war”, written in the 5th century BC, provides enlightening insights about it.) So after 14 weeks, the emperor’s troops had to be withdrawn without success and regardless of their superior fire power.
Meersburg Castle is beautifully decorated. It feels like traveling back in time. The ticket includes two guided tours, starting every 15 minutes, but overlapping each other. So you’ll need about an hour to join both.
Should you visit Meersburg, be sure to walk through the pedestrian underpass at the upper part of the historical town center. There you’ll find a display window which provides a look into the aforementioned secret escape tunnel.
Beside the castle, there’s also the new palace and the historical town center worth mentioning. You’ll need about one day to visit all of them.