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Castle Layen

The fortress Burg Layen was built in the 13th century, then in 1802, the Diel Family came into possession of the castle estate. During the occupation of Napoleons troops in the neighboring regions, Johann Peter Diel acquired large parts of the historic mountain sides and the proper estates from Herbert Wolfgang Freiherr von Dalberg. 

The History of Burg Layen

The ruins of the castle Layen are  found on the ridge of a cliff in the Trollbach  valley at the lower end of the Nahe stream close to the estuary of the Rhein. There are no records as to the beginnings of the estate. In the earliest documents, the castle was referred to as “Veste Laiga” and was built in the 13th century.

It is controversial whether the castle was owned by the aristocrats of Rheingrafen, who reigned the right side of the Rhein in the Rheingau area, or by the aristocrats of Bolanden who came from the area of the Donnersberg, owning large possessions in the Nahe region.

After 1250, the castle Layen belonged to the aristocrats of Bolanden and was passed through out on to the Earls of Sponheim-Tannenfells of the same family line, 100 years later inheritance. In 1393, the castle Layen became part of the inheritance of the Earls and future sovereigns of Nassau-Saarbrücken, respectively Nassau-Weilburg. In 1796, the castle was confiscated during the French occupation.

During the Middle Ages, a few noble families lived together in the castle, sharing possessions and governance over Rümmelsheim, with each owner having a greater, or lesser share. The shareholders of the respective families lived together in order to avoid feuds.

At that time, it was common that knights were involved in feuds and wars; thus, were the knights of castle Layen. In 1450, three brothers signed a peace agreement with the Cistercian monastery, Eberbach, in the Rheingau area. In 1493, seven knights of the castle Layen committed themselves to peace for a period of 20 years.

There is no proof of the occasional accusation that the castle was a stronghold for robber knights. Documents from the 15th century, between the archbishop of Mainz and the inhabitants of castle Layen, reveal that the archbishop was given the opportunity to use the castle as a military base in case of armed conflicts. By the 1680s, the castle was in ruins due to wars.

 

Approximately 100 years later, in 1771, the fortress of Layen consisted of an old castle surrounded by walls, watch towers, kennel and trench. The old walls still exist. Within the walls there were three separate buildings, which belonged to the families Ullner von Dieburg, Weyhers-Leyen and Fürstenwärther.

The building left of the entrance gate belonged to the Ullner family. It was a three-story building and was leased. The building right next to it belonged to the family of Fürstenwärther. According to reports of that time, this building was in terrible condition.

 

 

 

At least 25 families, referred to as “trash” lived there. These people had a bad reputation. The author of the report was obviously appalled at this prospect.

The gentry did not only rule over Rümmelsheim, but had extensive possession of land: acres, vineyards, meadows and forests close to the castle Layen. They leased the land to the villagers on a yearly leasehold to be paid in money and in kind on Saint Martin`s day.

In 1499, Ulrich Ullner von Dieburg acquired 13 acres of Land in Rümmelsheim and Sarmsheim from Paul von Leyen. Thus he became neighbor to the castle Layen. Later, his cousin gave him his part of the estate including a barn and some inventory. It was officially assigned to him and his descendants by the Earl of Nassau-Saarbrücken in 1508. This act made him an official owner in part of the castle Layen.

In 1545, he received another 84 acres (21 hectares) in the area of Rümmelsheim, Sarmsheim and Genheim from the Earls of the Palatinate; making the Ullner family the largest landowner within the area of Schloss Layen. Only one year later; the family was given a third feud. All of the feuds were given for a lifetime and passed down within the family. In 1573, the Ullner family was given minor leadership rights in Rümmelsheim. By 1771, the political influence increased to 1/4th of the total authority. That very year the family name became extinct.

 

 

In 1770, Baron Wolfgang Herbert von Dalberg (1750-1806) became partially into possession of castle Layen, due to his marriage with Elisabetha Augusta Freiin Ullner von Dieburg.

From 1792 to 1796, Napoleons troops conquered German territory on the left bank of the Rhein declaring it French. In 1789, the aristocrats lost all political rights and possessions. However, the Baron of Dalberg managed to abrogate the confiscation of castle Layen. On September 11, 1802, Johann Peter Diel signed the purchase contract for Burg Layen.      

 

Coat of Arms

Visitors to the Diel estate will immediately notice the Coat of Arms of Castle Layen, which is set into a wall niche of the main building. A relief of two shields is framed by sandstone from gothic times, anchored by gothic framework.

The History of the Coat of Arms

The ensemble is a rare example of joining of two Coats of Arms that only came into existence when a couple paired theirs. The shield of the husband was always positioned on the right. Here, it shows a golden-roofed, three-towered castle with gate and portcullis. The left shield displays two crossed slim poles, each ending in a lily at the top. This Coat of Arms is crowned by a gothic-shaped roof as ornament.


The right shield shows the Coat of Arms of the aristocrats of Ullner von Dieburg, in Hesse. It shows a castle with a moat. This castle was mentioned in 1169, for the first time. In 1499, Ulrich Ullner von Dieburg acquired 13 acres of land within the boundary of Burg Layen. In 1501, his cousin, Hartmann von Albig gave him his share of the castle as a present. The gratuitous gift was given to Ulrich and passed on to his descendants by the Earl of Nassau-Saarbrücken. This made Ullner von Dieburg a legitimate co-owner of castle Layen.

In 1536, Philippus Ullner von Dieburg married Catharina von Venningen. The couple created a new Coat of Arms by taking the emblems of each and placing them side by side. The lily stands for the family of Venningen whose family tree goes back to Diether von Venningen. He was a knight and lord stewart in the area of Kurpfalz.

On September 11, 1802 Johann Peter Diel purchased the castle Layen including its vineyards and farmland from Baron Wolfgang Heribert von Dalberg. The Diel family followed the tradition of previous owners taking over the two-shielded Coat of Arms as theirs. In the 6th generation it stands for the continuity of the Diel estate.