The Bock is a promontory in the north-eastern corner of Luxembourg City's old historical district. Offering a natural fortification, its rocky cliffs tower above the River Alzette which surrounds it on three sides. It was here that Count Siegfried built his Castle of Lucilinburhuc in 963, providing a basis for the development of the town which became Luxembourg. However, the Romans and later Franks had probably already inhabited the Bock although there is only scant archeological evidence of their presence. There are however traces of a 4th-century Roman watchtower close to the point in the Fish Market where two major Roman roads used to cross, one from Reims to Trier and the other from Metz to Liège.
Over the centuries, Siegfried's fortified castle on the Bock was considerably enlarged and protected with additional walls and defences. In 987, the castle chapel was built at the nearby Fish Market. Today's St Michael's Church stands on the same site. Under Conrad I, the castle became the residence of the Counts of Luxembourg. It was damaged, destroyed, captured and rebuilt on several occasions as the Burgundians (1473), the Habsburgs (1477), and the Spaniards (1555) attacked and took the fortress.
As time passed, the fortifications needed to be adapted to new methods of war based on increasingly strong firepower. During the 1640s under the Spaniards, the Swiss engineer Isaac von Treybach significantly reworked the defences. The Bock was also strengthened with three forts, the Large Bock, Middle Bock and Small Bock (from west to east), separated from each other by cuts in the rock and linked by bridges. As a result, little remained of the medieval castle.
A little later in 1684, on behalf of Louis XIV, Vauban succeeded in capturing the city of Luxembourg during a month-long siege under which the Bock fortifications were completely flattened. Thereafter Vauban, perhaps the most competent fortification engineer of his day, undertook major additions to the defences, realizing that underground passages and chambers were just as important as the surface installations. The Large Bock, connected to the old town by the Pont du Château, was further reinforced. Enclosed by a wall 12 m high, it was the major component of the new fortress.
In addition to these structures, the Bock also included a system of casemates which originated in the cellars of the medieval castle. In 1744, during the Austrian period, these underground passages were considerably enlarged by General Neipperg. The main passage. which still remains, is 110 m long and up to 7 m wide. Branches leading off on either side were equipped with no less than 25 cannon slots, 12 to the north and 13 to the south, offering considerable firepower. In the event of war, the Bock casemates, covering an area of 1,100 m2, could be used as barracks for several hundred soldiers.
Thanks to its defences, in 1794 during the French Revolutionary Wars, the city held out against the French siege for seven months. When the garrison finally surrendered, the walls were still unbreached. The fortifications were finally demolished under the terms of the Treaty of London in 1867. The demolition took 16 years and cost the enormous sum of 1.5 million gold francs.
In 1933, the Bock casemates were opened to the public. During the Second World War, they were used as a bomb shelter able to accommodate up to 35,000 people. In 1994, the casemates were added to the list of UNESCO's world heritage sites, attracting some 100,000 visitors a year. Renovation work and repairs were undertaken in 2008–2009 including the opening up of the mine galleries which contained explosives able to blow up part of the Bock in case of need.References:
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 ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.