Stronghold above the Deutsches Eck
The plan to construct the fortress goes back to the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III. Immediately following the Congress of Vienna and Napoleon’s flight from Elba, he ordered the erection of the fortress as part of an anti-France line of defence. As many as 6,500 craftsmen and day labourers then set about building the enormous structure. By 1828, the fortress had become the centrepiece of an entire ring of defence around Koblenz. As a result, the city developed into one of the continent’s largest military garrisons in the 19th century – a position it maintained until late in the 20th century.
The fortress of Ehrenbreitstein was mobilised to its full combat strength of 1,500 men and 80 cannons a total of eight times from 1830. Yet it was not involved in major combat operations such as the Franco-German war of 1870/71. Ehrenbreitstein Fortress was saved from the litmus test of its readiness for war, and escaped destruction.
Modern warfare and weapons technology meant the fortress was condemned to strategic insignificance soon after its completion. The fortress was constructed purely for military purposes, but has become most loved as a viewing point: its neoclassical constructional aesthetics, the view down into the valley, and a monument that characterises the Rhine landscape have inspired both painters and poets.