Konopiště is a palace, which become famous as the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered World War I. The bullet that killed him, fired by Gavrilo Princip, is now an exhibit at the castle's museum.
The castle was apparently established in the 1280s by Prague Bishop Tobiaš as a Gothic fortification with a rectangular plan and round towers protruding from the corners. Accounts show that the Benešévic family from nearby Benešov were the owners in 1318, and that in 1327 the castle passed into the hands of the Šternberks. In 1468 it was conquered by the troops of George of Poděbrady after a siege that lasted almost two years. In 1603 the estate was purchased by Dorota Hodějovská of Hodějov, who made Renaissance alterations to the old gothic fortification. The Hodějovský family fortified their property because of their active participation in the anti-Habsburg rebellion in 1620. Albrecht von Waldstein acquired the castle and after him it was passed to Adam Michna of Vacínov. Michna gained notoriety through his repression of the serfs, who revolted against him and conquered Konopiště in 1627. The Swedes occupied and plundered Konopiště in 1648, and the Vrtba family then purchased the dilapidated structure.
After 1725 they had it transformed into a Baroque style château. The drawbridge was replaced by a stone bridge, and near the east tower a new entrance was inserted in the wall. In 1746 the upper levels of four of the towers were destroyed and one tower was completely demolished. During repair of the interiors mythological and allegorical frescoes were painted on the ceilings of the great hall and marble fireplaces with carved decorations by Lazar Wildmann were created. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria bought Konopiště in 1887, with his inheritance from the last reigning Duke of Modena, and he had it repaired between 1889 and 1894 by the architect Josef Mocker into a luxurious residence, suitable to the future Emperor, which he preferred to his official residence in Vienna. The extensive 225 ha English-style park, with terraces, a rose garden and statues, was established at the same time.
Konopiště has been open to the public since 1971. Visitors can observe the residential rooms of Franz Ferdinand who was also an enthusiastic hunter, a large collection of antlers, the third largest European collection of armoury and medieval weapons, a shooting hall with moving targets and a garden with Italian Renaissance statues and greenhouses.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.