800 years of history
We first hear of Kolvenburg Castle in the middle of the 13th century, in the year 1246. The era of the famous Staufer emperors was just ending. Throne disputes shook the empire, the building of the Cologne Cathedral was due to begin shortly. At that time a man of lower gentry, Sweder von Billerbeck, lived in the south of Billerbeck. We do not know much about him, but he can be identified as the first owner of the castle. This small aristocratic residence could easily have foundered, as many already did in the Middle Ages. Instead, with continual transformations, it experiences almost 800 years of history – and today, as a cultural centre and attractive destination, it provides us with exciting experiences.
Castle in Transition
The constructional beginnings of Kolvenburg castle are not precisely known. Travelling back in time, we might discover a wooden tower on the mound to the southeast of today’s castle house. This simple type of castle, together with a few outbuildings, was very common in the High Middle Ages. It is called “Motte” – derived from the French word for mound of soil. It is not clear when a stone manor house was first built at Kolvenburg Castle. The current brick construction with its half-hipped roof and the Renaissance bay dates mainly from the 15th and 16th centuries. All outbuildings, as well as traces of the lime and brick manufacturing, which took place on the premises during the late 17th and early 18th century, have disappeared.
Beyond the water
The name “Kolvenburg” did not exist at the time of Sweder von Billerbeck. In fact, the term castle “Overwater”, meaning over the water, was used because of its location beyond the river Berkel. Obviously, Sweder’s descendants already left the area in the 13th century. During the following two centuries, we meet other owner families of lower aristocracy – the Colve, the Holthausen and the Voet families. The latter gave rise to the term “Voetshus” as the castle was called, when in 1456, during a large feud in the bishopric of Münster, it was temporarily occupied.
A legendary name
In about 1494, the nobleman Godecke von Münster inherited the Billerbeck estate, and he soon announced astonishing news: as early as in times of Charlemagne in the 8th century, the castle had already been a Christian base against the heathens and had been entrusted to the Colve family. Consequently, Godecke preferred the name “Colvenborch”, and to this day it has remained “Kolvenburg”. With this glamorous legend, the castle owner hoped to gain an advantage in the prestige battle with the neighbouring Hameren House. It is, however, not a historical fact. Kolvenburg Castle has therefore, borne a truly legendary name for more than 500 years.
In 1598, Kolvenburg Castle was occupied by Spanish troops, which, at the time, were fighting against the Netherlands. In the meantime, the respective owners did not reside at the castle. Its maintenance was left to so-called stewards. This was also true for the von Romberg family, which took over the Billerbeck property in the 17th century, but preferred to reside in the castles Brünninghausen and Bladenhorst in Dortmund and Castrop. At the end of the 19th century, Kolvenburg Castle was sold to the barons of Twickel at Hameren House, and in 1966, they transferred it to the District of Coesfeld.
The Culture Castle
In 1976, after an extensive renovation, Kolvenburg Castle was newly opened as a cultural centre of the District of Coesfeld. Exhibitions, concerts and many other events attract numerous guests every year. Works of internationally renowned and young contemporary artists like Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys, Daniel Richter or Julian Schnabel, have been exhibited in the historic premises, unfolding a special magic within the mediaeval walls.