With history, naturally!

Nationalpark Hunsruck-Hochwald

The Middle Ages

Disputed borders

As so often is the case, it was a crisis which forced people at the end of the Roman Age to withdraw from Hochwald. It wasn’t just the decline of the Roman Empire, but also an intensification of climate and soil erosion caused by intensive agriculture which played a role in this. After the 5th century AD, the Hunsrück highlands were therefore sparsely inhabited.


It wasn’t until the High Middle Ages that humans began to systematically occupy the landscape once more. This era significantly shaped the present landscape. Over the course of the 11th and 12th centuries, the climate become more favourable again. Back then, average annual temperatures were about 1 degree higher than they are today. It was possible for people to farm here, even at higher altitudes, and completely without any modern developments such as  fertiliser. The landscape also changed significantly due to the vigourous development of forest pastures. Without the protection afforded by vegetation, the soil increasingly fell victim to erosion. Human influence on the forest reached its peak during the High Middle Ages. The marketplaces, villages and towns which came into existence during this period form the heart of our present settlement structure in the region. Hochwald owes its wealth of castle fortresses, from Wildenburg in the east to Grimburg in the west, to its position on the borders of territories belonging to various noble houses.


Although the climate went through a rather favourable phase during the Middle Ages, because of the “Little Ice Age” this came to a sudden halt, and the outbreak of the plague decimated the population. Despite this, civilization had finally established itself in Hochwald. Some of the castle fortresses from the 11th to 14th centuries have been replaced by representative castles. Birkenfeld, for example, has been the residence of descendants of the Wittelsbachs since the late 16th century.