With its close connection to royalty and its location at the junction of important highways, Nuremberg soon developed to become an important transit trade and export centre and a financial marketplace. The Letter of Freedom granted by Emperor Friedrich II in strengthened the civic autonomy of the city, removing it almost entirely from the purview of the burgraves. By the end of the Hohenstaufen period in , it had become an independent imperial city. It finally emerged victorious from the bitter disputes with the Zollern burgraves, who had acquired extensive territories in Franconia and established seats of government first in the castle of Cadolzburg and later in Ansbach: in Emperor Sigismund transferred responsibility for the castle to the town, to the benefit of the king and the emperor.
From this time on the whole castle complex was in the hands of the city. In the late Middle Ages Nuremberg ranked as the "most distinguished, best located city of the realm". Nuremberg thus became one of the centres of the empire — in addition to Frankfurt where the kings were elected and Aachen where they were crowned. Painting "Maximilian I" at the portal to the Imperial Chapel.
At the same time, however, the castle became less important. The town hall completed in was used instead as a place of assembly and from Ludwig the Bavarian on, the emperors preferred the more comfortable accommodation of the patrician houses. In , Sigismund gave the imperial regalia into the keeping of the city, a mark of particular trust. Their successor Charles V also broke with the tradition of emperors holding their first Imperial Diet in Nuremberg. Because of epidemics raging at Nuremberg he relocated his first Imperial Diet to Worms and did not visit Nuremberg until , on his way to the Regensburg Diet.
After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in and the incorporation of Nuremberg into the kingdom of Bavaria, there was revived interest in the castle as an important German historical building.
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King Ludwig I had it restored from by the architect Carl Alexander von Heideloff so that he could live there as sovereign. However, the romantic neo-Gothic interior begun by the architect was not to his taste and he stopped the building work in It was not until the reign of his son Maximilian II that a royal apartment was created, the work of August von Voit in the years to Emperor Wilhelm II lived in the castle on a number of occasions and never omitted to style himself "Burggrave of Nuremberg" when he did so.
After the end of the monarchy in , the historistic redecoration of the Palas and Bower lost its appeal. In , under Rudolf Esterer, the work of replacing the neo-Gothic with the supposed original interior was begun, also — with a view to future party conferences of the NSDAP — with the idea of creating an "apartment" for important guests of the Reich.
The castle was not to be simply "preserved as a monument, but was to resume its old place in the life of the nation" Heinrich Kreisel. Esterer believed he could unite the past and present by replacing the neo-Gothic interior with "timeless German artisanship". It was the keep of the Burgraves' Castle. Its lower part made of ashlars may have been built at the same time as the Imperial Chapel. During later gothic times, a storey of brickwork was added.
The Walburga Chapel appears to have been built shortly thereafter. It was originally dedicated to Saint Othmar , but after the city purchased the ruins of Burgraves' Castle, it was rebuilt and dedicated to Saint Walpurga.
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Destroyed in World War II, it was reconstructed and opened to the public in The Luginsland literally look into the land was built in near the main gate of the Burgraves' castle, in order to enable the city to monitor the activities inside the Burgraves' Castle, at a time when the relations between the city and the Burgraves had already deteriorated. The Vestner Gate was the only exit from the castle to the north, at that time an open land. The Imperial Stables were built as a granary in to by Hans Beheim the Elder , Nuremberg's most important architect at that time.
The ground floor was also used as stables. The Bastions were built in to in response to the progress in artillery which threatened the northern side of the castle.
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At about the same time, the fortifications of the city of Nuremberg as a whole were renewed and extended. Archeological excavations within the castle unearthed remnants of walls dated around , and in deeper strata even older ones that may be attributed to a building of Henry of Schweinfurt. The first written record is of , when Henry III issued the so-called Sigena document in Norenberc releasing a bondswoman.
In the customary way, these documents indicate the place and date of their issuance, but do not contain any reference to the type of the place e. Henry IV , who had been the opponent of Pope Gregory VII in the Investiture Controversy , at the end of his reign, in , had to endure that in his absence, after a siege lasting two months, the castle was taken by his son Henry V and that at the end of the same year he was forced by his son to abdicate. Upon the death of Henry V in , the last member of the Salian dynasty, his elected successor Lothair of Supplinburg attempted to seize the crown lands from the Hohenstaufen Frederick II, Duke of Swabia and his brother Conrad who considered all these lands, including Nuremberg Castle, to be part of the Salian family property inherited by them.
After several sieges, Lothair succeeded in October in capturing the castle. Upon Lothair's death in , the Hohenstaufen Conrad was elected King Conrad III in the subsequent year and soon afterwards started to build a new Imperial Castle which appears to have been completed unter his reign. At about the same time, Conrad established the Burgraviate in order to ensure the safety of the castle in the absence of the king. Thus, the first burgraves from the Austrian House of Raabs built the Burgraves' Castle next to the Imperial Castle and were granted a substantial landholding in the vicinity.
Frederick I Barbarossa used the castle for a number of Diets and receptions, e. Henry VI apparently was engaged in various building activities related to the Palas, the Imperial Chapel and adjacent buildings. The Zollerns, soon renamed Hohenzollern, held it until the Burgraves' Castle was destroyed and afterwards its ruins sold to the city of Nuremberg in the Hohenzollerns, however, continued to administer their landholdings outside of Nuremberg. Frederick II also transferred various responsibilities for the care of the Imperial Castle to the city. This was the starting point not only of a remarkable development of the city, but also of a long dispute between the city and the Burgraves.
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Frederick II made his last visit to Germany in and returned to Italy in for the remaining thirteen years of his life, leaving the German affairs to his son Conrad IV. Immediately thereafter, Rudolf I attested a number of privileges to the Burgraves in consideration of their assistance in his election. Rudolf I held several diets at the Imperial Castle, and under his reign as well as under the reign of his successors Adolf of Nassau and Albert I of Habsburg, new buildings were added such as the Sinwell Tower, and works were executed on the Palas and the upper parts of the Chapel Tower Heathens' Tower.
During the same period, the Burgraves extended their adjacent castle. Both the Burgraves and the city improved their positions in the surrounding lands. The city of Nuremberg prospered and became one of the most important towns in Germany. The Golden Bull of named Nuremberg as the place of the first Imperial Diet of a newly elected ruler. Thus, it was inevitable that the relations between the city and the Burgraves on the castle hill deteriorated significantly.
In , the city obstructed the Burgraves' access to the city by a wall in front of their castle, and in , the city erected the Luginsland tower literally look into the land near the main gate of the Burgraves' castle, in order to control the activities inside the castle. In , Sigismund transferred the care of the Imperial Castle to the city, and in , Frederick I, Elector of Brandenburg sold the remains of the Burgraves' Castle to the city. With the political and commercial rise of the city, the Imperial Castle became less attractive. Emperors started to execute their governmental acts in the town hall completed in and preferred to stay in the luxurious houses of the leading families rather than in the less comfortable castle.
The castle continued to be used on important formal occasions. Frederick III appreciated the safety of the Castle and stayed there several months. In , he stayed at the castle for almost six months. His grandson and successor Charles V , because of epidemics raging at Nuremberg, relocated his first Imperial Diet to Worms.
He visited Nuremberg only in on his way to the Imperial Diet in Regensburg. At this time, in to , bastions were built on the northern side of the castle to better protect it against an improved artillery, and the Castle was integrated in the renewed and improved fortifications of the city. The new fortifications were designed by the Maltese military engineer Antonio Falzon.
The subsequent Habsburg emperors concentrated on their territories mainly in Austria , Bohemia and Hungary. Thus, Nuremberg was rarely visited any more by acting rulers. During the Thirty Years' War , in , the armies of Gustavus Adolphus and Wallenstein appeared in front of the walled city, but were diminished less by their hostilities than by typhus and scurvy.
Since , the Imperial Diet had met only in Regensburg.