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In 1150 Ludwig I, Count of Loon and Rieneck, ordered the building of the "castrum Rinecke" on the North-East boundary of his territory, with the aim of safeguarding the lands of this important aristocratic family against the neighbouring lordships of Mainz, Würzburg and Fulda. The little hill in the Sinn Valley offered excellent conditions: there was only one direction where the castle required additional protection by a defensive ditch, and offered as narrow a front as possible to attack. The latter can be clearly seen in the ground plan of the keep, the 19m high "Thick Tower", which is outwardly an irregular, seven sided polygon, whose tip points towards the nearby hill. The castle complex initially consisted simply of a courtyard surrounded by defensive walls, and the keep, with its 4-8 m thick walls. Inside the walls halftimbered buildings were constructed as living quarters, store rooms, and stalls. Of this only what we now know as the 'arched cellar' survives.

As life in the keep was relatively uncomfortable, it was only occupied in times of war. There was no entrance on the ground floor (the present entrance dates from the nineteenth century), but instead two doors into the upper floors, reached by wooden staircases on the outer wall, which could be quickly demolished in time of siege. The entrance to the second floor lead to the tower's main room, the count's chamber. It was furnished with a cooking place, washbasin, and even a 'private corner' (toilet) - by the standards of the day, it was extremely comfortable. The room on the third floor, which had its own entrance, was the countess' solar, where she and her suite would be safe and warm - thanks to the chimney from the count's hall below - during a siege. This floor also contains the tower chapel, which is unique in mainland Europe. It is entirely let into the outer wall of the keep, which must have posed a considerable challenge to the masons. The carvings preserved in the stonework still give an impression today of the former splendour of the chapel.