Wachau valley cultural landscape

Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey is a Benedictine abbey on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube river, adjoining the Wachau valley. The abbey contains the tomb of Saint Coloman of Stockerau and the remains of several members of the House of Babenberg, Austria"s first ruling dynasty. The abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. A monastic school was f ...
Founded: 1089 | Location: Melk, 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

Göttweig Abbey

Göttweig Abbey was founded as a monastery of canons regular by Blessed Altmann, Bishop of Passau. The high altar of the church was dedicated in 1072, but the monastery itself not until 1083: the foundation charter, dated 9 September 1083, is still preserved in the abbey archives. By 1094 the discipline of the community had become so lax that Bishop Ulrich of Passau, with the permission of Pope Urban II, introduced t ...
Founded: 1083 | Location: Krems an der Donau, 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

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

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

Piarist church

Gothic Piarist church in Krems was built in 1014. It was refurbished in mid-15th century. Its choir was consecrated in 1457 and later sanctified again in 1508 following the adaptations. Its frescoes and altar are credited to the famous artist M. J. Schmidt in Baroque architectural style. The church was also the theological college of the Piarists between 1636 and 1641.
Founded: 1014 | Location: Krems an der Donau, 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

Hinterhaus Castle Ruins

The ruins of the Hinterhaus Castle originate from the 12th century. The castle dates back to the time of Kuenringers rule when it served as a strategic stronghold. From here they were able to rule the entire Wachau valley. Touring the ruins with the famous Red Gate gives visitors a good impression of what medieval defence methods were like. The ruins still offers visitors a fantastic view of the Danube river even today.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Spitz, Austria

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Beersel Castle

The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.

The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.

After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.

The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.

Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.

The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.