History of Germany between 844 AD - 918 AD
In medieval historiography, East Francia or the Kingdom of the East Franks forms the earliest stage of the Kingdom of Germany, lasting from about 840 until about 962. East Francia was formed out of the division of the Carolingian Empire after the death of Emperor Louis the Pious.
In August 843, after three years of civil war following the death of Louis the Pious, the Treaty of Verdun was signed by his three sons and heirs. His namesake, Louis the German, received the eastern portion of mostly Germanic-speaking lands. The kingdom of West Francia went to Louis's younger half-brother Charles the Bald and between their realms a kingdom of Middle Francia, incorporating Italy, was given to their elder brother, the Emperor Lothair I. While West and Middle Francia contained the traditional Frankish 'heartlands', the East consisted mostly of lands only annexed to the Frankish empire in the eighth century. These included the duchies of Alemannia, Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia, as well as the northern and eastern marches with the Danes and Slavs.
The external threat from marauding Vikings in the west and from Magyars in the east aggravates an already grave internal problem for the feudal dynasties of Charlemagne's descendants. Feudalism, with its decentralization of military and territorial power, has at the best of times a tendency to foster regional independence. In periods of crisis, when the regions need to be well armed if they are to repel invaders, it is almost inevitable that the feudal holders of large tracts of frontier territory grow in strength until they are capable of challenging their own king. Baronial contenders upset the succession to the throne in the west Frankish kingdom from the late 9th century and in the eastern kingdom a few years later.
In 911 the east Frankish king Louis the Child died without a male heir. The only legitimate claimant within the Carolingian dynasty is Charles III, ruler of the west Frankish kingdom. Rather than do homage to him, and reunite the empire of Charlemagne, the eastern Franks and the Saxons elected one of their own number to the vacant throne. Conrad, the duke of Franconia, became the German king. Although not of the Carolingian line, Conrad is nevertheless a Frank. But on his death the Franks and the Saxons together elect a Saxon king. In 919 Henry I becomes the founder of the Saxon, or Ottonian, dynasty.
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.