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

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.