Medieval castles in Austria

Senftenberg Castle

Senftenberg Castle was mentioned first time in 1197. In the 13th century it belonged to the Zebringer family and between the 14th and 15th centuries to the Wallseern family. The castle was destroyed during the rebellion in 1407-1409 and rebuilt later. It was a refuge place during the Siege of Vienna in the Ottoman Wars. The castle was finally destroyed by the Swedish troops in the Thirty Years' War in 1645. Today still im ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Senftenberg, Austria

Ottenstein Castle

The mighty shingle-covered cone and hipped roofs of Ottenstein Castle are an impressive sight. Antique fairs, art and other special exhibitions are regularly held in the castle. Of particular interest to art-lovers is the Romanesque castle chapel with vaulted ceilings decorated with monumental frescos dating back to about 1170. There is also a restaurant. One of Ottenstein family members was first mentioned in 1177, but ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ottenstein, Austria

Kobersdorf Castle

Kobersdorf castle was built in 1528 to the site of moated fortress from the 13th century. The history of original castle dates back to the age of Ludwig the German (806-876). The first document of Kobersdorf castle dates from 1229. The fortress withstood the first siege in 1270. 10 years later it was conquered, also 1289 after it was successfully recaptured. Finally, Duke Albrecht I and King Ándrás III concl ...
Founded: 13th century/1528 | Location: Kobersdorf, Austria

Saalhof Castle

Saalhof is one of the oldest castles in the Pinzgau region. It dates back to the 11th century, when it apparently was the home of the Counts of the region. During the renovation of the facade in 2010, the oldest parts of the castle on the north-east side were revealed. In 1600, Christoff Amann from Judendorf and Saal rebuilt the castle. The marble relief and emblem above the main entrance, laid in 1606, as well as a large ...
Founded: 11th century/1600 | Location: Atzing, Austria

Feistritz Castle

Feistritz Castle in Ilz was built in the 12th century and mentioned in 1122. The current main building dates from 1570. The castle was restored and expanded after the fire in 1605.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Ilz, Austria

Araburg Castle

Araburg castle was built in the 12th century and continues to expand into the 17th century. During the first Turkish siege of 1529 it was a refuge place for the local population. Araburg also played a role in the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants. In 1683 it was destroyed during the second Turkish siege. Since then Araburg has been ruined.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Kaumberg, Austria

Neulengbach Castle

Neulengbach castle dominates the view above the town of Neulengbach. The castle has a three-storey main building and double defensive ring with eight round towers. There is a magnificent Renaissance portal and a courtyard with Tuscan columns and fountain. The Neulengbach castle was founded around 1189. The castle became the center of the local rule of Lengenbach family. After extinction of Lengenbacher in 1236 it came in ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Neulengbach, Austria

Plankenstein Castle

Plankenstein castle was documented first time in 1186 when it was built by Plankensteiner family, vassals of the Counts of Peilstein. The castle was rebuilt in 1453. Plankenstein was renovated in the late 20th century and is today a hotel.
Founded: c. 1186 | Location: Plankenstein, Austria

Gutenberg Castle

Schloss Gutenberg stands on a prominent rock. IT was founded by Luitold III of Waldstein, who moved into the castle in 1185. The castle has belonged to the Stubenberg family since 1288. The oldest section from the 12th century was supplemented by a 2-story bailey that is protected by two moats. The outer moat is bridged today, the inner was filled in. The castle was remodeled and expanded, mixing the medieval style with R ...
Founded: 1185 | Location: Gutenberg-Stenzengreith, Austria

Schachenstein Castle Ruins

Schachenstein Castle was the last hill castle to be built in the Styria. It was built in 1464 by Abbot John II Schachner of Lambrecht as a summer residence and lordly manor. It was extended in 1630 and 1740. From the end of the 18th century the castle lost its significance and fell into ruins. The main purpose of the fortification was as a home and summer residence of the abbots of St. Lambrecht"s Abbey as evinced b ...
Founded: 1464 | Location: Thörl, Austria

Dobra Castle Ruins

Dobra castle was built in the 12th century and first mentioned in 1186. The name Dobra is derived from Slavic word for forest. At the beginning of the 18th century Baron Johann Philipp von Ehrmann was the landlord Dobra. After he expanded the Wetzlas castle into a mansion, Dobra castle fell into disrepair.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Pölla, Austria

Arnoldstein Abbey Ruins

Arnoldstein is a former Benedictine abbey. A fortress at the site was first mentioned about 1085/90, then held by ministeriales of the Bamberg prince-bishops who had received extended Carinthian estates from the hands of Emperor Henry II on the occasion of his coronation in 1014. To strengthen his episcopal authority, Bishop Otto of Bamberg had the castle slighted and established a Benedictine convent at the site in 1106. ...
Founded: c. 1080 | Location: Arnoldstein, Austria

Ortenburg Castle Ruins

Ortenburg castle was erected in the late 11th century by ministeriales of the Bavarian Prince-Bishops of Freising, who then held large possessions in the Duchy of Carinthia. Their descendants began to call themselves Counts of Ortenburg. The castle is located on the northern slope of the Gailtal Alps overlooking the Drava valley. Damaged by the 1348 Friuli earthquake, the significance of the castle diminuished after the ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Baldramsdorf, Austria

Taggenbrunn Castle Ruins

Taggenbrunn Castle site was already used as a Celtic-Roman hillfort settlement in the 6th century BC. The first mention of current castle dates from 1142. The castle was destroyed in 1258 in a rebellion agains Duke Albrecht I and rebuilt ten years later. Later the castle was owned by the Holy Roman Empire and archbishopric of Salzburg. The castle was expanded in 1497-1503. In the 17th and 18th centuries Taggenbrunn was le ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Taggenbrunn, Austria

Greifenstein Castle

Greifenstein castle overlooks the Danube river. Approximately opposite is Burg Kreuzenstein, on the north shore of the Danube. The castle is thought to be built around the 11th century, and was first mentioned in 1135. However, the owners of the castle changed owners frequently during its service from the 11th century to 1918. It began life playing a significant role in the defense system along the Danube. More recently, ...
Founded: | Location: Sankt Andrä-Wördern, Austria

Itter Castle

A fort at the site of Itter castle was first mentioned in a 1241. The previous constructions may have existed since the 10th century. The Brixental originally was a possession of the Prince-Bishops of Regensburg; the castle was an administrative seat of the Counts of Ortenburg in their capacity as Vogt bailiffs, it also served to protect the Regensburg estates from incursions undertaken by the neighbouring Archbishops of ...
Founded: 10th century/1878 | Location: Itter, Austria

Wagrain Castle

Wagrain Castle was first mentioned in 1135. From 1447 on, it belonged to the Engl family of Steyr. In 1499, the property was raised to a noble estate by Emperor Maximilian I. Except for a religiously motivated break in 1620, the castle and its estate remained with the Engl family until the early 20th century. In 1717 the Engls were raised to Counts. With the death of Count Siegmund Engl in 1911, the male line became extin ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Vöcklabruck, Austria

Bidenegg Castle

Bidenegg castle in Fliess was mentioned for the first time in 1339 AD. It was acquired in 1546 by Hans Trautson. The complex was rebuilt in the 16th century, and still retains its appearance. Bidenegg is not open to the public.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Flies, Austria

Reifenstein Castle Ruins

Reifenstein castle was probably built in the 12th century by the Reifenstein family, a branch of Liechtenstein family. In the 13th and 14th century extensions were completed. 1521, the castle was sold to Sebald Pögl from Thörl and rebuilt in the Renaissance style. 1698 the castle came into the possession of the family Schwarzenberg who still owns Reifenstein lands. The castle was inhabited until 1809. It was dam ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Pöls-Oberkurzheim, Austria

Hohenwang Castle

Hohenwang castle dates back to the 12th century and was one of the most important medieval fortifications that time. It is exceptional long structure and one the largest castles in Styria. It consists of the stronghold and two outworks, which are separated by trenches. Their massive decline began in the late 18th century, after it was severely damaged by an earthquake. During World War II more parts of the ruins were dest ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Langenwang, Austria

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.