Castles and fortifications in Austria

Hohensalzburg Castle

Hohensalzburg Castle is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Construction of the fortress began in 1077 under Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein. In the Holy Roman Empire, the archbishops of Salzburg were already powerful political figures and they expanded the castle to protect their interests. Gebhard"s conflict with Emperor Henry IV during the Investiture Controversy influenced the expansion of the castl ...
Founded: 1077 | Location: Salzburg, Austria

Heidenreichstein Castle

The colossal Heidenreichstein castle situated in the moorlands to the northwest of the Waldviertel is the largest and best preserved medieval water castle in Lower Austria. The oldest parts of the castle are dated back to the 12th century. It has never been in enemy hands since its construction. The walls of the four wings, the three corner turrets and the keep are up to four metres thick. A guided tour through the three- ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Heidenreichstein, Austria

Linz Castle

The first written document of castle in Linz dates from 799 AD, during the reign of Charlemagne. Today there are still some walls of this castle, together with bastions and the Friedrich Gate, named after Emperor Friedrich III, who resided here until his death in 1493. As the temporary heart of the Habsburg Empire, Linz was raised by the Emperor to the status of provincial capital. In the 17th century, Rudolf II rebuilt t ...
Founded: 8th century | Location: Linz, Austria

Hohenwerfen Castle

Hohenwerfen Castle stands high above the Austrian town of Werfen in the Salzach valley. The castle is surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the adjacent Tennengebirge mountain range. The fortification is a 'sister' of Hohensalzburg Castle both dated from the 11th century. The former fortification was built between 1075 and 1078 during the Imperial Investiture Controversy by the order of Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ...
Founded: 1075-1078 | Location: Werfen, Austria

Lamberg Castle

Schloss Lamberg originates from the 10th century and was first time mentioned in 985 AD. It was called Styraburg and owned by the Traungauer family (of the Otakare branch). Later the castle was moved to to the hands of Bamberg and Habsburg families. In 1666 the castle was acquired by Count of Lamberg. After a fire was destroyed the old castle in 1727 the new palace was built. It was damaged in the Napoleonic Wars in 1800 ...
Founded: 985 AD / 18th century | Location: Steyr, Austria

Ambras Castle

Ambras Castle is a Renaissance castle and palace located in the hills above Innsbruck. Considered one of the most popular tourist attractions of the Tyrol, Ambras Castle was built in the 16th century on the spot of an earlier 10th-century castle, which became the seat of power for the Counts of Andechs. The cultural and historical importance of the castle is closely connected with Archduke Ferdinand II (1529–1595) ...
Founded: 1563 | Location: Innsbruck, Austria

Kufstein Fortress

Kufstein fortress is one of the most impressive medieval constructions in Tyrol. It is located on a hill rising above the city of Kufstein. This fortress has already been built very early in order to control the entrance from the Alpine foothills into the Inntal valley. However, it has been mentioned for the first time in 1205 AD, when it was in possession of the bishops of Regensburg. In 1415 it was reinforced by Louis V ...
Founded: c. 1205 | Location: Kufstein, Austria

Hochosterwitz Castle

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 ...
Founded: c. 860 AD | Location: Hochosterwitz, Austria

Riegersburg Castle

Riegersburg Castle is a medieval castle situated on a dormant volcano above the town of Riegersburg. The castle is owned by the Princely Family of Liechtenstein and contains a museum with changing exhibitions. The castle was built on a hill which had once been an ancient volcano. To be precise, it is the petrified remains of the solidified molten interior, a volcanic neck of a large stratovolcano that probably became ext ...
Founded: 1122 | Location: Riegersburg, Austria

Aggstein Castle

Burgruine Aggstein is the remnant of a castle on the right bank of the Danube, north of Melk. According to archaeological excavations of the foundations of the castle it has been inferred that the castle was built in the early part of the 12th century. The castle was built by Manegold III Aggsbach Getbeen of the Kuenringer family descent and his son Aggstein Manegold IV inherited it as a fiefdom of Bavaria. They started l ...
Founded: 1180 | Location: Schönbühel-Aggsbach, Austria

Rosenburg Castle

Rosenburg castle is one of Austria"s most visited Renaissance castles. It is situated in the middle of a nature reserve which adds to its appeal. The Rosenburg was mentioned in a document for the first time in 1175, in relation to the area of the border along the Kamp River between Poigreich and the Babenberg settlements with the centres, the Benedictine Altenburg Abbey and the Gars-Thunau castle complex. The Grabne ...
Founded: 1593-1597 | Location: Rosenburg, Austria

Forchtenstein Castle

Forchtenstein Castle first part with its 50-metre high keep was built in the beginning of the 15th century by the Lords of Mattersburg, who later named themselves Lords of Forchtenstein. The castle features a tower, known as the "Black Tower" although the black rock that originally lined the tower has since been stripped. The tower contains a 12-metre deep pit used as a prison cell for those condemned to death. ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Forchtenstein, Austria

Schattenburg Castle

Schattenburg castle was mentioned in the chronicle by the monks Ortlieb and Berthold in 1138. Muntifurt Castle, mentioned in the first half of the 12th century, may have housed vassals of the Earl of Bregenz, who ruled over the area at the time. At his coming to power (1182) the Earl Hugo I, the grandson of the last Earl of Bregenz Rudolf (1150), repositioned his residence to Feldkirch Castle, important for reasons of pow ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Feldkirch, Austria

Schallaburg Castle

The central part of the Schallaburg Castle was built in the German Renaissance Age, beginning around 1540, by the Losenstein dynasty. The castle is combination of a Romanesque residential castle and a Gothic chapel, patterned in the Italian Renaissance style. Aesthetically built, it has a well-decorated two-storied arcaded court with elegant cantilevered staircases and a courtyard. The decorations are in terracotta mosaic ...
Founded: 1540 | Location: Schallaburg, Austria

Dürnstein Castle Ruins

The city of Dürnstein and Dürnstein castle ruin are connected by a wall. The castle was built between 1140-1145 by Hadmar I Kuenring and blasted by Sweden under General Torstenson in 1645. You can see a model of the city and the ruins at Dürnstein Abbey. Dürnstein castle is known from the legend about Richard the Lionheart. The legend tells, that the English King Richard the Lionheart tore up the Aust ...
Founded: 1140-1145 | Location: Dürnstein, Austria

Perchtoldsdorf Castle

Perchtoldsdorf Castle probably was laid out before 1000 AD, part of a chain of fortifications along the eastern rim of the Vienna Woods. One Lord Heinricus de Pertoldesdorf was mentioned in an 1138 deed, during the Babenberg rule. Their Perchtoldsdorf vassals continued to rule from the castle even when the Babenberg dynasty became extinct in 1246. The conflict between the Habsburg emperor Frederick III and his younger br ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Perchtoldsdorf, Austria

Villach Castle

Villach castle was first mentioned in 1270 and built probably in 1233. There are still remains of original tower and north wall. The existing castle was built in the 16th century and remodelled several times after that. The chapel dates from the 14th century. Today there is a exhibition of archaeological foundings.
Founded: 16th century | Location: Villach, Austria

Raabs Castle

Raabs Castle, situated on a steep rocky promontory above the confluence of the Thaya rivers, towers over the small town. Standing on the balcony is like standing on the bow of a ship sailing into the past. The castle was built around 1050. The castle is presently owned by the publisher Richard Pils and his family. The “province library” publishes numerous award-winning books and books are the focal point of t ...
Founded: c. 1050 | Location: Raabs an der Thaya, Austria

Schloss Ort

Ort castle was founded around 1080 by Hartnidus of Ort, and improvements continued to be made into the thirteenth century - for example by Hartnidus V in 1244. In 1344 the brothers Friedrich and Reinprecht I of Wallsee purchased the castle, which became Friedrich’s sole possession on January 25, 1350. The castle remained in the possession of the Wallsee family until 1483, when Schloss Ort passed to Frederick III, Holy R ...
Founded: c. 1080 | Location: Gmunden, Austria

Steiner Tor

Steiner Tor is a-preserved gate, originally built in the late 15th century but refashioned in the Baroque style in the city of Krems an der Donau, in the Wachau valley. It is considered the symbol of the city. Until the last third of the 19th century, the city of Krems was surrounded by a wall. This was systematically razed, and three gates were also removed. From 2005, celebrating the 700-year anniversary of the city rig ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Krems an der Donau, Austria

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.