Above the village are the ruins of the castle of Rheingrafenstein (12th century), formerly a seat of the count palatine of the Rhine, which was destroyed by the French in 1689, and those of the castle of Ebernburg, the ancestral seat of the lords of Sickingen, and the birthplace of Franz von Sickingen, the famous landsknecht captain and protector of Ulrich von Hutten, to whom a monument was erected on the slope near the ruins in 1889.
His drama, Franz von Sickingen, published in 1859, is a work of no poetic value.
The class to which Hutten and his friend, Franz von Sickingen, a daring and ambitious Rhenish baron, belonged, was that of the small feudal tenants in chief, the Ritterschaft or knights of the Empire.
They were intensely jealous of the princes, and it occurred to Hutten and Sickingen that the Reformation might be used to improve the condition of the knights and to effect a total change in the constitution of the Empire.
Sickingen, who has been compared to Wallenstein, and who doubtless hoped to secure a great position for himself, had already collected a large army, which by its very presence had contributed somewhat to the election of Charles at Frankfort in 1519.
Luther and other persons of influence stood aloof from the movement; on the other hand, several princes, including Philip, landgrave of Hesse, united their forces against the knights, and in May 1523 Sickingen was defeated and slain.
The latter supplied only the rough materials; the Gotz von Berlichingen whom Goethe drew, with his lofty ideals of right and wrong, and his enthusiasm for freedom, is a very different personage from the unscrupulous robber-knight of the 16th century, the rough friend of Franz von Sickingen and of the revolting peasants.
Returning to Wittenberg he met Luther, acted as tutor to the sons of Franz von Sickingen at Ebernburg, taught Hebrew at Wittenberg, and aided Luther in his version of the Old Testament.
In 1522 and 1523 he assisted to quell the rising of Franz von Sickingen, who had raided Hesse five years previously, and in 1525 he took a leading part in crushing the rebellion of the peasants in north Germany, being mainly responsible for their defeat at Frankenhausen.