Höhlenburg Kropfenstein


Useful Information

Location: 7158 Ruis.
19 between Disentis and Ilanz. 5 km west of Ilanz turn off to Ruis, follow single lane road to Breil/Brigels. Large parking lot in the forest, 10 minutes walk, signposted.
(46.769800, 9.101590)
Open: no restrictions.
[2022]
Fee: free.
[2022]
Classification: Explaincave castle
Light: n/a
Dimension: A=1,130 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Höhlenburg Kropfenstein, 1955 Chamoson, Tel: +41-27-3063581. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

13th century castle (probably) built.
1312 oldest wood found in the castle dated by dendrochronology.
1335 Crophenstain mentioned.
1342 Kropfenstain mentioned.
15th century the line dies out and the castle falls into disrepair.

Description

photography
Kropfenstein, J. R. Jahn, 1894. Public Domain.

Höhlenburg Kropfenstein (Kropfenstein Castle) is located high above the valley at the foot of a huge overhanging cliff. The castle is ruined, while the main wall is almost completely there, all the wooden parts, the ceiling and the floors are gone. It's easy to see that the castle was built by erecting a front wall and using the cliff face as back wall. This is actually a rather basic design for a cave castle.

Not much is known about the history of the castle. There is no document mentioning when it was erected. Based on the style it is estimated to have been built in the 13th century. The first records start in the 14th century to mention the Barone von Kropfenstein (Counts of Kropfenstein). It seems the family was named after their residence. But in the 15th century the line died out and the castle began to fall into disrepair.

The name Kropfenstein, which was written in different ways like Crophenstain, Kropfenstain, or Krophenstain, actually mean something like cliff castle. The German word Kropf mean goitre, outgrowth, or proliferation, Stein means rock. So it tells us the castle clings to the vertical rock face like an outgrowth.

The castle is reached from above. There is a single lane gravel road along the edge of the valley, which has a huge parking lot at one point. From here an easy walking trail leads to the castle, which was cut into the rock on the east side. The trail offers some nice views into the steep valley. It once had a parapet to prevent falls, which is mostly gone.

The cliff wall is not straight so the castle has a quite irregular form. There is first a narrow section, only 2 m wide, then it widens up. The rest is today one single room, up to 6 m wide, but was originally most likely divided into different rooms by wooden walls. Two interior rock walls are almost completely destroyed. It had three stories which can be seen by the holes for the beams of the floors and by the windows and embrasures in the upper two stories. The ground floor was windowless. The living quarters and kitchen were in this part. Its unclear what kind of ceiling the castle had, as there is actually no need for a ceiling due to the overhanging cliff. Probably there was just a canopy to keep rain out or a protection against falling rocks. There are no historic depictions which would help with such details and not enough archaeological evidence either. The earliest depictions are from the 19th century.

The castle is quite remote, hard to access and almost impossible to siege. However, the guess that it was inhabited by robber barons would be wrong. According to the existing documents the family belonged to the most noble families of the Bündner Oberland. Close relations to the lords of Rhäzüns are mentioned.