The advantageous geographic position of the Wewelsburg hill made it an ideal place for a fortress. So it was not a surprise that the first such structure (Wifilisburg) was erected as early as in the 9th century A.D.
However, there was another geographic and historical fact that made that location really unique. Wewelsburg is located just 30 km south of Paderborn – the place which in 799 became essentially the birthplace of the Holy Roman Empire (which the Nazis viewed as the First German Reich).
Paderborn district is a “black” (i.e., heavily Catholic) area – the city center has more catholic churches than the Vatican city (plus one Lutheran church). Which – as we will see later – is significant.
As it was common in the Middle Ages, the site and the buildings changed hands a few times until in 1301 the then owner of that place he Earl von Waldeck sold the Wewelsburg to the Prince-Bishop of Paderborn. Prince-Bishop was the head of both the secular and the ecclesiastical (Catholic) authorities – a common occurrence in Germany at that time.
A document about this acquisition proves that two fortress-like buildings stood on the Wewelsburg hill: the Bürensches Haus and the Waldecksches Haus.
In its current form, the Wewelsburg was built from 1603 to 1609 as secondary residence for the Prince-Bishops of Paderborn Dietrich von Fürstenberg – a highly efficient defender and promoter of the Catholic Faith against the then-dominant Protestant and a no less efficient witch-hunter (many witch trials and executions actually took place in Wewelsburg castle).
There are two theories of the “Burning Times” – the brutal persecution of witches during the late medieval and Renaissance times. According to the mainstream version of events, the intolerant and totalitarian Christian Church (both Catholic and Protestant) persecuted, jailed, tortured and brutally murdered (by burning alive at a stake) tens of thousands completely innocent women (and men).
According to alternative theory, during that time (1450 to 1750 roughly), demonic activities in Europe became so widespread and so powerful that they started to present the existential threat to the Christian (i.e. European) civilization.
In other words, the Church (both Catholic and Protestant) – the Forces of Light – was essentially fighting the existential war with the forces of Satan (Forces of Darkness) represented by the witches – the servants of the Devil.
Wewelsburg castle has another unique feature – unlike just about any other castle, it is triangular in shape. The only other such castle is the 13th century Caerlaverock Castle in Scotland.
This unique shape was determined by the shape of the hill, so the builders had apparently little (if any) choice in this matter and made the castle uncomfortable to live in and difficult to defend.
Not surprisingly, it was taken several times during the Thirty Years’ War (essentially a religious war between Catholics and Protestants). In 1646 it was occupied and then razed by Swedish Protestant troops. After 1650, the mostly destroyed castle was rebuilt by Prince-Bishop of Paderborn Theodor Adolf von der Recke and his successor Ferdinand von Fürstenberg.
The unique triangular shape of Wewelsburg (it is an isosceles triangle) closely resembles the head of the spear with the North Tower as its tip. Which immediately brings to mind the Holy Lance (aka the Holy Spear, the Spear of Destiny, or the Lance of Longinus).
According to the Gospel of John, it is the spear that pierced the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross. The popular legend states that the one who owns the Spear of Destiny, “holds the destiny of the world in his hands for good or evil.”
Adolf Hitler (who was familiar with this legend) was fascinated by the Holy Lance, which he first saw displayed in the Hofsburg museum in Vienna in 1909. His interest in the relic was further amplified by its role in the 1882 opera Parsifal by Hitler’s favorite composer, Richard Wagner.
After the restoration, nothing of much interest or significance happened to the castle (or in the castle) for the next three centuries or so. Until 1821, the castle was the place of residence of a diocesan bursary officer and during the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), the basement rooms were probably used as a military prison.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the castle fell progressively into ruin. In 1802, during German secularization campaign ownership of the castle was transferred to the Prussian state.
On 11 January 1815, the North Tower was severely damaged by a fire that was started by a lightning strike; only the outer walls remained. From 1832 to 1934, the castle was the residence of a Wewelsburg parish priest – pastor of Saint Judocus Catholic church located a hundred yards or so from the castle (another significant fact).
In 1924, the castle became the property of the district of Büren and was transformed into a cultural center, which included the local museum, banquet hall, restaurant and youth hostel.
And then the Wewelsburg castle got the attention of SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler.