The Castle in Lauf – also known as the Wenzelschloss – was built by Charles IV in 1356 on the way between Prague and Nuremberg. It holds an impressive series of frescoes depicting 114 coats of arms of the Bohemian Kingdom.
Lauf lies in what was formerly known as the Bohemian Palatinate (Neuböhmen) until it was ceded to the Bavarian dukes in the end of the 14th century. The town itself is located in the valley of the River Pegnitz. The settlement was founded in the 11th century, but was given the status of a town in 1355 by Charles IV. Immediately after the Emperor initiated the building of a new castle on the foundation of an earlier fortification.
The town is a remarkably well-preserved medieval town in southern Germany with a number of half-timbered houses, two impressive gates in the partly preserved wall, and an old town hall. One of the more interesting sights is the Church of St. John (Johanniskirche), also built between1350 – 1370.
Pride of the place, though, is the Castle, called Wenzelschloss. This was built on an island in the river and was the last “Bohemian Castle” on the “Golden Route” before the emperor would make his entrance into Nuremberg. From 1504 it became the property of that city and was for many years used as a regional administrative centre. From 1985 to 2013 it was used by the Academy of Art in Nuremberg as an exhibition venue. In connection with this it underwent a complete restoration. Until 2016 it has been empty except for the occasional wedding and guided tours in the summer.
However, in 2016, the castle has once more been opened up to the public in connection with the celebrations of the anniversary of Charles IV. On view is the impressive hall with the recently recovered frescoes depicting the coat of arms of the Bohemian Kingdom, discovered in 1934. Of especial importance is the fact that each includes a written legend, explaining to whom and where it belonged. At the centre of the frieze the visitor will find a small relief depicting St. Wenzel, the patron of Bohemia and the ancestor of Charles IV.
A corresponding frieze can be found in the Castle of Kastl. This, however, only shows 69 coats of arms and in the church.
One of the more charming details of the Castle of Laun is the wooden covered bridge, which leads from the castle across the Pegnitz and into town.
This summer – 2016 – a small exhibition has been mounted detailing the stories of the different castles on the so-called Golden Route between Nuremberg and Prague.
Die Wappen in der Burg zu Lauf a. d. Pegnitz. Eine Initiative der Atlstadtfreunde Lauf zum 700.Geburtstag von Karl IV.
By Baldur Stroebel
Altstadtfreund Lauf 2015
Castle in Lauf – Wenzelschloss-gallery of coat of arms © Bayern/Olaf Przubellâ