Bourscheid castle is located on an isolated promontory, accessible only from the north-west, 150 meters above the level of the river Sûre and 370 meters above sea level. Even today the ruins testify of an impressive fortification covering a surface of 12.000 square meters (151 meters long, 53 meters wide) and surrounded by a massive ring wall with 11 watchtowers. Bourscheid is an excellent example of the medieval castle tradition.
The centre of the enclosure came into being around the year 1000 when a stone construction replaced an earlier wooden defense structure. Archaeological excavations have yielded traces of Ottonian, Carolingian, Merovingian end even Roman times. Initially, the little square near the tower with its “palas” and chapel was surrounded by a circular wall with at least 4 towers. Only the tower and the circular wall remain of this first construction dating from the romanesque period. The manifold building ornaments in the form of ears (“opus spicatum”) are a characteristic of this part of the castle.
Shortly after the year 1350 the extensive circular wall was begun. It was finished in 1384, the same year in which the Stolzemburger house in the lower area of the castle was erected (notice the fine basement in gothic style). As the circular wall with its 8 towers now offered better protection to the core of the castle, the “palas” in the upper area was increased to a height of at least 10 meters, which corresponds to 4 storeys. A bakery-house was added on the top of a two-level dungeon hewn into the naked rock. The warden’s house with its two towers formed the entrance to this castle.
Behind the gateway, which was built only after 1477, a ditch protected by 4 towers barred the access to the upper and the lower castle. Truly a great fortification! The square in front of the exterior gate was protected by palissades. In this area stood the lime tree under which justice was said.
The castle began to delapidate after the year 1512 when the last member of the Bourscheid family had died. The upper castle was transformed into two dwellings arranged on both sides of the “palas”. One was already deserted by 1626, the other was never permanently inhabited. Yet around 1650 the chapel was enlarged so that it could boast two altars. From that time onward only bailiffs lived in Bourscheid castle, more precisely in the Stolzemburger house, which was rearranged as a residence in 1785, since the “palas” and the chapel in the upper area were threatening to crumble.
The invasion of Luxembourg by French revolutionary troops in 1704-1705 put an end to feudalism. The Bourscheid archives were taken to Gemunden in the Runsruck area of Germany in 1802, the last bailiff deserted the castle in 1803. In 1812 the last owner sold his whole property in Bourscheid and environs.
Bourscheid castle now was in private hands for more than a century and a half. In 1972 the Luxembourg State acquired the ruins, which had been declared a national monument in 1936. While some restauration work had been done since the thirties, the Stolzembourg house was reconstructed after 1972, while archaeological excavations probed into the ancient past of the castle. This restauration work has rendered Bourscheid castle accessible to visitors. The recent publication of the Bourscheid archives substantially enlarges our knowledge of the castle and its former inhabitants.