Schloss Wildenstein. Foto/Photo: TES

Wildenstein Castle and its oaks

The former prince-bishopric of Basel ceased to exist more than two centuries ago. But the oak trees, over 500 years old, and Wildenstein Castle still experienced its heyday. Most of the land in what is today the canton of Basel-Landschaft was owned by the prince-bishopric. The village of Bubendorf and its surroundings also belonged to the prince-bishopric.

Basel, Rittergasse, the Eptingerhof

In the second half of the 13th century, the bishop gave a piece of land to the Lords of Eptingen in fief. They cultivated the area for farming and cattle breeding and built Wildenstein Castle. Since then, they have called themselves Eptinger von Wildenstein. Until 1792, several new owners followed, including the Planta family and, from 1792 to 1994, the Vischer-Merian family. Since 1995, the canton has been the new owner.

The complex and its medieval fortified tower, 17th-century paintings and interior decoration, 18th-century (English and French) gardens and castle residence, and 19th-century (chivalric) romanticism remain intact. The castle’s wells, (herb) gardens and courtyards also still exude the atmosphere of past centuries.

The landscape is also still medieval and preserved. The oak forest, whose trees are sometimes more than five centuries old, bears the name Eichenwitwald. Witwald is the old German term for pasture forest. For centuries, the pigs fed on the acorns and nuts of the beeches and the cattle on the tender grass of the meadows.

The owners of Wildenstein valued the tender meat of the wild boar and cattle. The oaks and beeches owe their survival to this meat. For oak and beech wood were also  a valuable material for making furniture, building houses and other objects. Agriculture provided the yield of vegetables, fruit and grain.

Since 1995, the canton has maintained the nature reserve. New oaks stand next to the (decaying) splendour of the centuries-old (dead) oaks, a medieval cultural landscape with a castle at its heart, less than 20 kilometres from the former bishop’s residence.

(Source and further information: Wildenstein Castle)