Alt-Eberstein castle was originally built in 1100 as the primary residence of the Counts of Eberstein, but by the end of the 16th century had been abandoned and much of the castle was torn down to provide materials for other structures. Presently it is a German national monument and a State Palace of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
A spur castle situated on a once-strategic mountain peak, the fortress was constructed as the seat of the Counts of Eberstein perhaps as early as 1100. The oldest part of the castle remaining intact are the ramparts. The first historical mention of the castle occurs in 1197 as Castrum Eberstein. In the second half of the 13th century, the Ebersteins began construction on Castle Neu-Eberstein and the older seat declined in prominence and ultimately fell into disrepair; by 1573, it was uninhabited and thereafter became a quarry used by both the Eberstein descendants and locals. Starting in the 1800s, efforts have been made to preserve the site (which now consists solely of elements of the curtain wall and keep) and it presently one of the State Palaces and Gardens of Baden-Wuerttemberg, housing a restaurant and garden open to tourists.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.