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"The prison Grindelwald built to hold his opponents."
Hermione Granger's description of Nurmengard[src]

Nurmengard Castle was located somewhere in the Austrian Alps, and functioned as a wizarding prison. Originally built by Gellert Grindelwald to hold his opponents, it also served as the base of operations for Grindelwald and his followers. Ultimately, it was used to imprison Grindelwald himself after his defeat by Albus Dumbledore in 1945, until his death in 1998.



Nurmengard outside front POV2

Exterior of Nurmengard in 1927

The prison was built on the orders of the Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in order to hold his opponents.[2] Grindelwald's slogan "For the Greater Good" was carved over the prison's entrance.[3]


Credence Gellert Nurmengard

Gellert with Credence showing him his phoenix

By 1926, the castle also served as the headquarters for Grindelwald and his Alliance during the Global Wizarding War.

Later in 1927, Gellert gave Aurelius Dumbledore a spare wand and bestowed him alleged information about who he might be and what Albus Dumbledore is up to.


In 1932, Aurelius and the other acolytes brought to Nurmengard a Qilin kidnapped from China. Soon, the election for the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards there were to be held, which Grindelwald wanted to win. When the Qilin did not bow to him, Grindelwald cut its throat with a knife, and moments later in the creature's blood he saw visions of Albus Dumbledore with the blood pact pendant and Newt and Theseus Scamander heading to Hogsmeade.

Later, Grindelwald had visions of Yusuf Kama heading to Nurmengard and Dumbledore in the Hog's Head Inn. When Vinda Rosier appeared, Grindelwald told her that they should prepare to leave the castle the next night, because they would have a visitor in the morning. As Aurelius's phoenix flew over him, Rosier asked Grindelwald if Aurelius could really kill Dumbledore. Grindelwald stated that the phoenix was supposed to protect Aurelius in connection with his assigned task, and Aurelius's pain was the only way he could defeat Dumbledore.

Soon Grindelwald was visited by Yusuf, who told him that he was sent by Dumbledore to spy on him, and asked Grindelwald what report he was to pass on to Albus of this visit. Grindelwald ordered Queenie to use Legilimency on Kama. Queenie read that Kama was furious at Grindelwald, after the Dark wizard killed Leta Lestrange, his sister. Grindelwald erased with the Elder Wand the painful memory of his sister's death, altering his memories.

Soon after, a gathering of Grindelwald's followers took place in Nurmengard, where the Dark wizard gave his speech. After that, he [[Necromancy|reanimated] the dead Qilin in the underground pools in order to use it during the election for Supreme Mugwump. In the water Grindelwald had a vision of the second Qilin and became enraged at Aurelius, ordering him to find the second Qilin.

After a number of years of terrorising Europe, Grindelwald was confronted and defeated in a duel between him and his former best friend and lover Albus Dumbledore on the dawn of 2 November 1945.[4]

Grindelwald's imprisonment[]

Grindelwald Nurmengard

Grindelwald imprisoned in Nurmengard

Grindelwald was imprisoned in the top-most cell[5] in the highest tower[6] inside Nurmengard after his defeat by Dumbledore.[4] His cell had a small window, too narrow for a man to leave or enter,[7] a hard bed,[8] and a thin blanket.[9][10] It is unknown if there were any other prisoners ever held at Nurmengard, but around the time of Grindelwald's death, it is likely that he was the only prisoner present as the past inmates were likely incarcerated there at Grindelwald's behest. Grindelwald was certainly fed and kept alive for fifty-three years, so there was at least a supply of food and someone (or something) bringing it to him, although he was emaciated, frail and missing teeth.[10]

Quest for the Elder Wand[]

Voldemort and Grindelwald

Voldemort seconds before killing Grindelwald

In his quest for the Elder Wand, Lord Voldemort travelled to Nurmengard in 1998, using his skills of Flight and possibly Human Transfiguration to break into Grindelwald's cell.[11][12] After confronting him for information on the wand's location, Voldemort killed Grindelwald[8] and then flew away.


Description and exterior[]

Nurmengard was a stone fortress at the edge of a mountain. It had a tower with a cone-shaped top, possibly being a watch-tower. There was a building connected to the tower, that was slim with windows. Nurmengard also had a courtyard, which was gated. Whenever there was an outsider, one or more of Grindelwald's acolytes would interrogate them, while wanded. On either side of the courtyard were prisons with black-coloured bars, very probably enchanted by Grindelwald to hold less powerful enemies, while the other ones were held captive further inside, in the castle's interior. On top of these prisons were houses. On the mountainside, at the back of Nurmengard Castle, were a series of steps that led to a hill, where Aurelius Dumbledore would wait for his phoenix to arrive.[13]


This tower was a square shaped tower with a cone shaped top.[13]


Inside the main building, there was a hallway with velvet carpet detailed with white lines and also a table.[13]


Grindelwald in pool

Grindelwald in pool

When Grindelwald revived the dead Qilin he had recently killed, Grindelwald went to a room with two pools of water, and placed it in one of the pools of water somewhere in the castle. This pool was possibly on the lowest floor of the castle, possibly even underground, as there were only upward-leading stairs there. Written on the walls of the room where these pools was located were rune symbols, including a fancy-looking number 3. There were also several candelabras in the room, some of which were on the ground, while some were chained to the ceiling.

Aurelius Dumbledore's room[]

Gellert Grindelwald in Nurmengard Castle

Grindelwald in Aurelius Dumbledore's room

Aurelius Dumbledore washed his hands in this room while talking to Queenie Goldstein. There was also a mirror that Aurelius used to send messages to Aberforth's mirror in Hog's Head Inn. Aurelius's use of the mirror was unknown to Grindelwald and the rest of the Alliance.

Multi-purpose room[]

Credence Barebone in Nurmengard Castle

Aurelius Dumbledore in the multi-purpose room

Connected to the hallway was a room with large wooden doors. Inside the room held tables, chairs, a desk, cabinets with books, a gold chandelier, a stove and more things. The walls were coloured red and yellow with a pattern. They also had six different heraldic symbols on the walls. At the end of the room was a big window, with a staircase going down into a lower part with a table, chair and a table. Up the staircase, was a narrow staircase, leading into the tower.[13]



Nurmengard in 1998

Half a decade later, Nurmengard turned into a gigantic, towering building made of black rock[7] and with high walls, that is described as "jet-black", "forbidding", and a "grim fortress".[14][15] The cell that was inhabited by Gellert Grindelwald since 1945 had been a dark and ominous room in the highest tower, with a hard bed and a ragged, thin blanket.[9][10]

Behind the scenes[]

Nurmengard JK Rowling Stuart Craig

J. K. Rowling and Stuart Craig in the set of the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald version of Nurmengard

  • Nurmengard may be a reference to Nuremberg, the city in Germany that was the site of many important Nazi rallies, as well as the place where the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws were promulgated. Later the city was famous as the site of the prison used to hold infamous Nazi war criminals, as well as the Nuremberg Trials where they were tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Likewise, Nurmengard was created as a monument to Grindelwald's oppressive regime, but later became a symbol of his downfall.
  • The suffix "-gard" comes from the Norse "garðr", meaning "enclosure" or "walled town". Also, in French, "garder" means "to keep, ward, guard, save, preserve".
  • J.R.R. Tolkien used a similar word for his place names in Middle-earth when referring to enclosed spaces: for instance, the fortress of the dark wizard Saruman is named Isengard meaning literally "iron fortress". Isengard was built by the people of Numenor, so the first two syllables of Numenor and the last one of Isengard would be Numengard. It is possible that J.K. Rowling did not read Tolkien's Legendarium, written a few decades ago, but it is more likely that the 'gard' part was more of a coincedence than "Numen".
  • "The greater good" is an essential idea of the utilitarian philosophy. "For The Greater Good" may also be a reference to "Arbeit macht frei" (German, "Work makes [one] free" or "Work liberates"), the motto that was mendaciously inscribed over the entrance gates to several Nazi concentration camps.
    • The exact wording of the inscription at Nurmengard is unknown. However, given the fact that Nurmengard is located in Austria and the fact that Grindelwald wrote the German translation of his slogan on his Hookah Skull, it can be inferred that the inscription is in German.
    • The German translation would be "Für das höhere Wohl", although the official German translation in the book reads "für das größere Wohl,” which is what Grindelwald inscribed on his Hookah Skull.)
  • Nurmengard and Grindelwald's imprisonment here may be based on the Nazi Rudolph Hess. Hess had Spandau Prison built to contain his enemies. He, like Grindelwald, was imprisoned in his own prison, and like Grindelwald, was its last prisoner until his death. Both Grindelwald and Hess died unnatural deaths with Grindelwald having been murdered and Hess committing suicide.


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Notes and references[]

  1. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda's Secret) - Harry Potter: "What's Nurmengard?" Hermione Granger: "The prison Grindelwald had built to hold his opponents."
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda's Secret) - Hermione Granger: "They say 'For the Greater Good' was even carved over the entrance to Nurmengard."
  4. 4.0 4.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda's Secret) - Hermione Granger: "He [Grindelwald] ended up in there himself, once Dumbledore had caught him."
  5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 24 (The Wandmaker) - Deeper and deeper Harry sank into the grave, and he knew where Voldemort had been tonight, and whom [Grindelwald] he had killed in the topmost cell of Nurmengard, and why…
  6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - looking up, up to the topmost window, the highest tower
  7. 7.0 7.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - The window was the merest slit in the black rock, not big enough for a man to enter...
  8. 8.0 8.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - "Kill me, then!" demanded the old man [Grindelwald]. "You will not win, you cannot win! That wand will never, ever be yours –" And Voldemort's fury broke: A burst of green light filled the prison room and the frail old body was lifted from its hard bed and then fell back, lifeless
  9. 9.0 9.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - A skeletal figure was just visible through it, curled beneath a blanket... Dead, or sleeping...?
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - The emaciated figure stirred beneath its thin blanket and rolled over toward him, eyes opening in a skull of a face... The frail man sat up, great sunken eyes fixed upon him, upon Voldemort, and then he smiled. Most of his teeth were gone...
  11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - and he [Voldemort] rose into the night, flying straight up to the windows at the very top of the tower
  12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - he [Voldemort] forced himself through the slit of a window like a snake and landed, lightly as vapour inside the cell-like room
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - He [Voldemort] was hiding around the high walls of the black fortress
  15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor) - Harry's scar, which was stretched tight across his distended forehead, burned savagely. More clearly than he could make out anything around him, he saw a towering building, a grim fortress, jet-black and forbidding: Voldemort's thoughts had suddenly become Razor-Sharp again; he was gliding toward the gigantic building with a sense of calmly euphoric purpose...
The Alliance
Leader Gellert Grindelwald
Alliance insignia
Acolytes Abernathy | Aurelius Dumbledore (defected) | Carrow | Queenie Goldstein (defected) | Krafft | Krall (deceased) | MacDuff | Nagel | Vinda Rosier | Zabini
Followers Cassius Bell | Gunnar Grimmson | Helmut | Karl | Anton Vogel | Henrietta Fischer
Headquarters Unidentified home | Nurmengard