Medieval castles in Austria

Rappottenstein Castle

Rappottenstein is one of the best preserved castles in Austria. It was founded around 1150 Rapoto of Kuenring. Since several owners it was acquired by Abensperg and Traun family in 1664, who still owns the castle. During the course of the centuries a fortification with five baileys and eight gates was constructed. The touch of luxury surrounding the interior is unexpected and comes as something of a surprise to the visit ...
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Rappottenstein, Austria

Hardegg Castle

Hardegg Castle was first mentioned in an 1145 deed, it was acquired by the Counts of Plain about 1187. Hardegg itself is first documented as a town in 1290. Located on the border with the Kingdom of Bohemia, the area was devastated during the Hussite Wars in 1425. In 1483 Hardegg was bequeathed to the Habsburg archdukes of Austria. Emperor Maximilian I granted Hardegg to his ministeriales of the Prueschenk noble family a ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Hardegg, Austria

Lockenhaus Castle

Burg Lockenhaus was built in Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles around 1200, and was initially called 'Leuca' or Léka. The castle is in the Güns Valley, set amidst a hilly terrain in eastern Austria, near the Hungarian border towards Kőszeg. Settlements in the area of Burg Lockenhaus date to the Stone Age. The castle was built around 1200, although it first appears in written records dated ...
Founded: 1200 | Location: Lockenhaus, Austria

Heinfels Castle

Heinfels castle stands in the Puster Valley, near the entrance to the Villgraten Valley. Although the town was first settled by Huns around 500 AD, a castle was not mentioned until 1243. It belonged to the County of Gorz, and was expanded on the west side in 1500. In 1526, it was besieged by Michael Gaismair and 2,000 soldiers seeking to overthrow Catholic rule in the area. Today it is privately owned.
Founded: c. 1243 | Location: Heinfels, Austria

Altes Schloss

The Altes Schloss or old castle, originally – since the 13th century – the heart of an extended hunting ground, surrounded by moats and equipped with numerous ancillary buildings, today forms an important visual motif in the gardens. It became a Habsburg possession in 1333 and was extended in the 17th century by Lodovico Burnacini. After an attack by the Turks in 1683, this building was reconstructed in 1693 ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Laxenburg, Austria

Seebenstein Castle

Seebenstein Castle, just south of Vienna, was built between 1180 and 1230. At one time, it was owned by the Princes of Lichtenstein; today it is privately owned and lived in by a family that opens it to the public on weekends. Filled with antique furnishings, the stone castle has some beautiful stained glass windows as well as a collection of children’s armor.
Founded: 1180-1230 | Location: Seebenstein, Austria

Herberstein Castle

Herberstein castle sits on a rock in the Feistritz ravine and thus is not accessible from 3 sides. At the same time, the castle is not visible from out of the ravine and was thus naturally protected from attackers. The oldest parts of the castle situated near the zoo stems from the 12th century. The first small castle called Herwigstein stood under the fiefdom of the Stubenberg Clan. Otto von Hartenberg could free the ca ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Hartberg-Fürstenfeld, Austria

Griffen Castle Ruins

Griffen castle was built between 1124 and 1146 by order of Bishop Otto of Bamberg. In an 1160 deed, Emperor Friedrich I mentioned Grivena as a Bamberg property. In 1292 the Carinthian nobleman Count Ulrich von Heunburg with support of Archbishop Konrad IV of Salzburg occupied the fort in an uprising against Albert of Habsburg, the son of King Rudolph I of Germany and Duke Meinhard II. However Ulrich was abandoned by his ...
Founded: 1124-1146 | Location: Griffen, Austria

Mittersill Castle

The area surrounding the Mittersill Castle have been settled since at least the last 4000 years, but the significance of the castle in trans-alpine traffic became especially important between the 10th to 14th centuries. The first records known of the castle date to the 12th century while Pinzgau was under the control of the Duchy of Bavaria, when the Counts of Lechsgemünd decided to establish their family seat there. ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Mittersill, Austria

Hollenburg Castle

Schloss Hollenburg is a medieval castle near Köttmannsdorf. It is on a rock of the northern slope of the Drava valley. One Swiker, Lord of Hollenburg in the Duchy of Carinthia was first documented as a witness in the 1142 deed of the foundation of Viktring Abbey. He may have been a liensman of the ducal House of Sponheim; his son Reginher is mentioned as Lord of Steuerberg, he accompanied King Conrad III of Germany o ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Köttmannsdorf, Austria

Schönbühel Castle

Schönbühel castle origins date from the early 12th century. The castle is built on rock approximately 40 metres above the level of the river Danube. A Roman fortress may have stood there before. The castle was begun in the early 12th century by Marchwardus de Schoenbuchele as a defensive fortress. When his descendant Ulrich von Schonpihel died at the beginning of the 14th century, the family was extinguished. Th ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Schönbühel-Aggsbach, Austria

Finkenstein Castle

Finkenstein Castle was first mentioned in 1142. It was owned by the Dukes of Carinthia who gave it to their ministeriales, who called themselves after the castle von Finkenstein. In 1223 there was a dispute between Heinrich von Finkenstein and Bishop Henry of Bamberg, the owner of the nearby castle Federaun regarding the crossing of the river Gail. After the extinction of the Carinthian Finkensteins at the beginning of th ...
Founded: c. 1142 | Location: Finkenstein am Faaker See, Austria

Golling Castle

Golling Castle is located on a strategically important location along the Salzach river. There were probably a watchtower already in the Roman times. The current castle was built in the 13th century. Later it was owned by the Archbishop of Salzburg. Today the castle hosts a local museum.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Golling an der Salzach, Austria

Ennsegg Castle

Ennsegg castle was built originally around the year 900. In the end of the 15th century it was so dilapidated that the Emperor Frederick III decided to build a new one. This imperial residence stood only for 100 years. Already in 1565 it was rebuilt again. The next expansion was made in the mid-1600s. Todau Ennsegg castle has two courtyards separated by a longitudinal wing. In the arcades are Roman finds from Lauriacum ( ...
Founded: 900/1565 | Location: Enns, Austria

Clam Castle

Clam castle was built in 1149 by Otto von Machland who owned all of Upper Austria. At that time it was a fortress consisting of two towers over 30 meters high. These two impressive buildings, one round and one rectangular, still exist in the very same shape today. Soon after Otto von Machland died, the castle fell into the hands of robber barons. They were feared by the people of Upper Austria and excommunicated by the c ...
Founded: 1149 | Location: Klam, Austria

Schlaining Castle

Schlaining Castle is one of Austria’s best-preserved medieval castle complexes. The original Gothic structure was expanded over time by additions in the Renaissance and Baroque styles. The castle was first mentioned in 1271. It has been owned by counts of Güssing, Emperor Friedrich III and Batthyány family. The castle’s inner courtyard contains a mighty keep with walls up to eight metres thick. On ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Stadtschlaining, Austria

Petersberg Castle

Around 1076 Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg, a follower of Pope Gregory VII in the Investiture Controversy, had the Petersberg fortress erected above the town in order to prevent Emperor Henry IV from crossing the Alps. The archbishop also had fierce enemies in the Carinthian ducal House of Sponheim, who after his deposition made several attempts to take possession of Friesach. Constant attacks by Duke Engelbert were final ...
Founded: c. 1076 | Location: Friesach, Austria

Wiesberg Castle

Wiesberg Castle stands above the Trisanna River, where the Paznaun Valley leads into the Stanzer Valley. The castle was probably built in the 13th century. From the end of the 14th century until 1411, the castle was owned by the Rottenberger family. From 1770 until 1840, the castle was owned by the Dukes of Wolkenstein. Near the castle in 1809 several hundred local militia defended the area against Bavarian and French tro ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Tobadill, Austria

Bruck Castle

Burg Bruck is a medieval castle in Lienz in Tyrol. It was completed in 1278 as the residence of the Meinhardiner Counts of Görz. In 1490. the chapel was decorated with frescoes by Simon von Taisten. In 1500 the last count Leonhard of Görz bequeathed the castle to the Habsburg archduke Maximilian I of Austria, who incorporated it into his Tyrolean possessions. During the Campaigns of 1796 in the French Revolutionary Wars ...
Founded: 1278 | Location: Lienz, Austria

Seggau Castle

Schloss Seggau is located on a wooded hill overlooking the town of Leibnitz. The area around Schloss Seggau has been settled since at least the Roman era, as demonstrated by the impressive lapidarium which has survived from that period. The upper castle was built by the Archbishopric of Salzburg in the twelfth century as a base for missions and supervision and this original structure was expanded in 1218 by the bishops of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Leibnitz, Austria

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.