Castle Hoensbroek or Gebrookhoes is one of the largest castles in the Netherlands. This imposing watercastle is known as 'the most lordly stronghold between Rhine and Meuse'. The oldest part of the castle, notably the tall round tower, dates from around 1360, when it was built by Herman Hoen, though a predecessor to the castle had already existed in the swamp (or Gebrook) the castle was located in. This so-called motte-and-bailey dated from around 1225. In 1250 a fortified manor was built on the location of the present castle. Because of its important strategical location in the Duchy of Brabant, located along important trading routes to Maastricht, Aachen and Cologne, the castle was expanded in several phases, becoming the largest stronghold between the Meuse and the Rhine rivers. It contains at least 67 halls, rooms and living quarters.
The castle was the ancestral home of the knights Hoen van den Broeck, the Imperial baron Hoen van Hoensbroeck, and the Imperial counts and viscounts Van en tot Hoensbroeck for nearly six centuries. The family Van Hoensbroeck left the castle at the end of the 18th century, after which the castle entered a period of decay. Count Frans Lothar sold the castle in 1927 to the present day owners, the foundation 'Ave Rex Christe'. It was thoroughly restored between 1930 and 1940. During and shortly after the second world war, the castle and accompanying buildings were used for diverse ends. From 1951 to 1973 the writer-poet Bertus Aafjes lived in parts of the castle. In the period 1986-1989 another restoration took place. Since then it has formed a popular and educative museum destination, funded by the municipality.
Over the centuries the castle has received extensive rebuilding and expansion three times. The different architectural styles from the different centuries (14th, 17th and 18th) are easy to separate from each other. The complex is surrounded by a moat and has four wings situated around a rectangular courtyard. The main building is reachable over a bridge. The main building has two identical square towers with union-tops, flanking the entrance, and two taller half-separate corner towers of irregular shape at the backside. The forecastles are both U-formed and enclose two large inner courts.
From 1720 to 1722, Frans Arnold, Imperial count van Hoensbroek, had substantial reworking done, including the building of a new north-western wing. The interior, with its illusionistic ceiling paintings from the 18th century, shows French influence. The son of Frans Arnold, Lotharius Frans, was the last lord of Hoensbroeck (1759–1794) who resided in the castle, until 1787, just before the French revolution.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.