County of Katzenelnbogen

County of Katzenelnbogen
Grafschaft Katzenelnbogen
State of the Holy Roman Empire

Coat of arms

The County of Katzenelnbogen (in dark gray)
and surrounding principalities in 1400
Capital Katzenelnbogen
Religion Roman Catholicism
Government Principality
   1095 (first) Dieter I
  1444–79 (last) Philip I
Historical era Middle Ages
   First mentioned 1095
  County 1138
   Comital line extinct,
    to Hesse-Marburg
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Rhenish Franconia
Landgraviate of Hesse

The County of Katzenelnbogen (named after Chatti Melibokus) was an immediate state of the Holy Roman Empire. It existed between 1095 and 1479, when it was inherited by the Landgraves of Hesse.

The estate comprised two separate territories. The main parts were the original Untergrafschaft ("lower county") with its capital at Katzenelnbogen in the Middle Rhine area and the Obergrafschaft ("upper county") south of the Main River around Darmstadt, predecessor of the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt.


Katzenelnbogen Castle

One Diether I of Katzenelnbogen - literally cat's ellbow - (circa 1065–95), then serving as Vogt of Prüm Abbey, was first mentioned about 1070 in a deed issued by Archbishop Anno II of Cologne. From 1094 onwards, Diether and his son Henry I built Katzenelnbogen Castle in the Taunus mountain range; in 1138, King Conrad III of Germany vested his grandson Henry II with the comital title, when the Kraichgau was bequested to him. The counts also built Burg Rheinfels and Auerbach Castle in the 13th century and finished Burg Katz in 1371, they rebuilt the Marksburg purchased from the Lords of Eppstein and acquired highly lucrative customs rights on the Rhine River. In almost four centuries, the county grew bit by bit, from the Neckar to the Moselle Rivers.

Berthold II of Katzenelnbogen became a leader in the Kingdom of Thessalonica in the first decades of the 13th century.

The counts founded many cities, and for centuries or decades, they owned others, such as Offenbach, Gießen, Diez and Limburg. They also contributed to the enlargement of Eberbach Abbey, which became their family tomb in the 14th century. After the early death of Count Philipp's only son in 1453, he called himself Count of Katzenelnbogen-Diez. When Philipp died in 1479, the male line of the Katzenelnbogens became extinct. The Obergrafschaft was passed to the Landgraves of Hesse by virtue of the 1458 marriage of Henry III of Upper Hesse to Count Philipp's daughter Anna of Katzenelnbogen. Thereafter, the Landgraves of Hesse added to their title "Count of Katzenelnbogen".

Today, both the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and the King of the Netherlands have the title "Count of Katzenelnbogen" as part of their style.

History of wine

In 1435, Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen was building his last castle in Rüsselsheim, where he ordered the famous Riesling variety should be grown. This is the first documentation of the grape in history. Hundreds of vineyards were documented, many of which still exist: among them the famous rock Loreley documented in 1395.

Vogts (Vögte) of Katzenelnbogen

Counts of Katzenelnbogen

Original line

The county was divided in 1260 and ruled by two lines of counts.

Senior branch

Junior branch

Eberhard IV was succeeded by Diether VIII, reuniting the junior branch.

The whole county was reunited in 1402 by Johann IV, son of Diether VIII, who had married his cousin Anna, daughter and heiress of Eberhard V, in 1385.

Reunited county

Anna married Henry III, Landgrave of Upper Hesse, and the county passed to the House of Hesse.

External links

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