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Wewelsburg Caste

Teutonic Knights’ Castle Turned into Nazi Cult Site?

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The word ‘crusader’ conjures up images of scarlet-cross Knights Templar. Although these heroes of the 12th century may dominate popular culture, their Order was rivalled by the black-cross Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, commonly known as the Teutonic Order or Teutonic Knights. Also, not to be confused with the Knights Hospitalier, this Catholic religious-military order was founded circa 1190 AD in Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem and played an important role in  Outremer (Crusader States), where they controlled the tolls of the port of Acre. Just like the Templars, the Teutonic Knights aided pilgrims en-route to the Holy Land and they also established hospitals and monastic centers of learning and scientific development.

Hermann von Saltza served as the fourth Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights (1209 - 1239) (Public Domain)

Hermann von Saltza served as the fourth Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights (1209 - 1239) (Public Domain)

After Christian forces were defeated in the Middle East in 1211 AD, the Teutonic Order re-established itself in Transylvania, where the knights assisted the Kingdom of Hungary in defense against the Kipchaks. The Order existed right up to 1938 when it was outlawed by Adolf Hitler, but it was revived in 1945.

Extent of the Teutonic Order in 1300. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Extent of the Teutonic Order in 1300. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Modern Expedition to ‘Wifilisburg’ Castle

In 2011 historian Ashley Cowie ventured to the Black Forest with a film crew to explore Teutonic castle ruins to film a documentary episode on the history of the legendary Spear of Destiny.  The expedition led them to Wewelsburg Castle, a magnificent Renaissance castle located above the village of Wewelsburg, in the district of Büren, in the north-east of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Ruins predating the current 17th century castle existed on the site and ‘ Wifilisburg castle’ was mentioned in 9th and 10th century texts. It was sold the Prince-Bishop of Paderborn in 1301.

Author filming at Wewelsburg Castle.

Author filming at Wewelsburg Castle.

A Dark Shadow Descends: Witches Tortured in the Dungeons

Ashley Cowie recounts: “The castle historian showed us around the courtyards before taking us down spiral stairs into the bowels of the castle, where we intended to film my search for the original 9th century foundations. We were distracted in the dungeon by a dark little hole equipped with neck clamps embedded in the walls, which were used in the 17th century to bind witches during torture. Two witches’ trails were conducted at the castle.  A dark tone overshadowed our day, a tone which would grow more ominous as the day progressed.


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Ashley Cowie is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history.

Top image: Wewelsburg Caste (CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Ashley Cowie

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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