Only a few minutes away from the picturesque Kurstadt Bad Frankenhausen rises the imposing "Kaiser Wilhelm I monument".
One of the most important monuments in Germany is located in the Kyffhäuser Mountains - the Kaiser-Wilhelm Nationaldenkmal (Kaiser-Wilhelm National Memorial). Built in honour of Kaiser Wilhelm I and in memory of the unification of the German Empire in 1871, the site is not only steeped in history but also closely linked to the most important German national legend - the Barbarossa saga.
According to this legend, Emperor Barbarossa is asleep sitting at a stone table in the underground castle. During his centuries-long sleep his beard grows through the table. Every hundred years the emperor awakes from his deep sleep and orders checks to see whether ravens are still flying around the mountain. It is said that Barbarossa will return and re-create his empire if the ravens have disappeared.
Kyffhausen Imperial Castle
This mountain range was already inhabited in prehistoric times. In the Middle Ages one of the largest castle complexes in Germany, which measures 608 m in length and with a width of 60 m, was built on this site. Reichsburg Kyffhausen was completed in the 12th century during the reign of Friedrich I. Barbarossa. The castle complex consisted of an upper castle, middle castle and lower castle. The ruins of the lower castle are certainly worth a visit as they are the best-kept part of the buildings. This is where you can see medieval architecture up close. The Kyffhäuser Denkmal (Kyffhäuser Memorial) was built in the area of the upper castle between 1890 and 1896. The restored keep - the Barbarossa Tower - and the world's deepest castle well, at 176 m, are relics of the earlier upper castle.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial
This monument was commissioned by former German soldiers who had fought together as comrades-in-arms. Bruno Schmitz, one of the most important monumental architects of that time, was the man who designed this site. On the east side of the 81 m-high monument, Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa, the legendary emperor, is carved in stone. Emperor Wilhelm I is mounted above. The equestrian statue is 9.70 m high and the two allegorical secondary figures, Warrior and History, are made of 3 mm thick copper plates. Once you have climbed the 250 steps up the monument tower, you will have an impressive view of the landscape from the Harz Mountains to the Thuringian Forest.
Exhibitions and events
Interesting exhibitions in the monument's tower and in the castle museum tell about the history of the Kyffhäuser Denkmal and the history of Reichsburg Kyffhausen. In 2015,for example, efforts were made to find a legendary treasure in the castle fountain. Today the multimedia exhibition provides information about the excavation work and visitors can experience a simulated 3D fountain ride. The Barbarossaturm houses an exhibition on floor paintings and medieval fortifications.
Theatre, art and drama bring the lower castle to life. Cultural, sporting and musical events take place all year round against the backdrop of the Kyffhäuser Denkmal. These events include torchlight tours, a medieval spectacle, the tower stair run and even concerts.