Main Staircase

“... Above the majestic stairs incorporating white, red and green marble come the spacious podiums that permit a highly amenable, unimpeded view of the splendid ceilings and wall murals …“.
(Drachenfels and Schloss Drachenburg near Königswinter on the Rhein, undated, c.1904)


In the field of manor-house and castle architecture, the main staircase is seen as the “representative showpiece” per se. It forms the glittering start to the interior of the building and should thus be as magnificent as possible. The staircase in a baroque castle was the centre of the building, creating a link within the rigidly hierarchical sequence of rooms. It was the place where greetings were exchanged, a backdrop to the ceremonials of reception and escorting. As such, it was always aligned to the ballroom. As in the baroque era, the staircases built in the manor houses and castles of the 19th century served primarily to reinforce the dynastic prestige and personal fame of the owner, an aim manifest most clearly in the choice of paintings and murals – the whole iconographic programme. When ascending the stairs, the beholder would experience an accumulative effect, Indeed, to appreciate the iconographic programme in full, it would be right and proper to walk the entire staircase. On occasion, you were positively expected to take your time!

The Main Staircase at Schloss Drachenburg was once adorned with 24 monumental paintings, of which 13 have survived the castle‘s troubled past. They include portraits of eight German emperors as well as episodes from German history: The Handing Over of the Foundation Stone at Cologne Cathedral and The Meeting of Heinrich the Fowler with Charles the Simple both painted by Friedrich von Keller; The Contest of Song in Nonnenwerth and The Wedding of a Cologne Patrician and an English Princess in 1201, both by Heinrich Heim; and Scene from a Tournament at the New Market in Cologne 1486, by Carl Rickelt. The Main Staircase was (and still is) lit by stained-glass windows in the wall to the east. It is here that the only original stained-glass windows anywhere in the castle have been completely preserved. You see a five-part window with a wickerwork ornament under a tracery rose and an imperial eagle.

The openness of the staircase in a house serving accommodation and society purposes demanded that there be a clear separation between the lords and ladies of the manor and the servants, meaning that the latter could only set foot on the stairs to clean them. This meant in turn that extra sets of stairs for the staff and tradespeople were essential. One of these side staircases is still in place north of the Main Staircase, with another winding staircase to the south.