Forchtenstein Castle

Forchtenstein, Austria

Forchtenstein Castle first part with its 50-metre high keep was built in the beginning of the 15th century by the Lords of Mattersburg, who later named themselves Lords of Forchtenstein.

The castle features a tower, known as the 'Black Tower' although the black rock that originally lined the tower has since been stripped. The tower contains a 12-metre deep pit used as a prison cell for those condemned to death. Rezallia, wife of Lettus of Forchtenstein used this with great frequency; on the return of her husband from military service, she was herself sentenced to death in the tower by her husband.

Around 1450 the Lords of Forchtenstein died off due to lack of a male heir and the castle was passed over to the House of Habsburg, which owned it for 170 years. They leased it to others, including the Counts of Weissbriach and Hardegg. During this time the building was not changed significantly.

In 1622 Nikolaus Esterházy, founder of the western Hungarian Esterházy line, received the castle from Emperor Ferdinand II, and Esterházy became a Count. Nikolaus started to fortify the crumbling castle and refurbished it with the services of Vienna builder Simon Retacco from 1630 to 1634 and with Domenico Carlone from 1643. The construction workers were all from Italy. Kaiserstein stone was used for the main portals, fountains, cannonballs, etc. Once hewn the stone was delivered on large wagons drawn by six oxen.

In the second half of the 17th century his son Paul further extended and ornamented the castle with architect Domenico Carlone. After Paul's death the castle's function changed. It became a repository for weapons, archives, chronometers, machines, exotic animal preparations and other 'marvels'. The only access to the treasure vault was a secret passage leading to a door requiring two different keys used together. One key was kept by the Count and the other by his treasurer. In the second half of the 18th century the castle was extended by master builder Ferdinand Mödlhammer. During this work the roof truss was lifted and the interior was renovated.

The treasure vault remained undiscovered and intact throughout World War II. The original glass-paned cabinets containing the collection are works of art in themselves.

The castle is still owned by the Esterházy family and, together with Schloss Esterházy in Eisenstadt, it chronicles the history and treasures of this ancient aristocratic family.

When Austria and Hungary separated in 1921, the Esterházy family's lands were split between the two countries. Their financial records remained at Castle Forchtenstein and the family records were taken to the Hungarian Federal Archive in Budapest.

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Founded: 15th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Austria

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Bojan Benko (2 years ago)
A very nice castle. I liked it a lot. On the hill, above very beautiful little town. Parking lot is free of charge. There is also a nice Cafe/restaurant on the site. Museum inside castle is very interesting. There are so many interesting things to see and learn. Staff was more then friendly and polite and very professional and helpful. For every recommendation.
ogu ferai (2 years ago)
very well maintained and run historical location. kid friendly nice stuff good restaurant amazing views and a piece of history from the lives of the Esterhazy family. worth to visit.
Andras Horvath (2 years ago)
Definitely worth a visit, this is one of our favorite castles, it is in great condition and we can see an incredibly rich collection from different ages during the visit. The view from the terrace is beautiful, you can see the whole valley.
Iva Sim (2 years ago)
Great restaurant under the castle (Grenadier I think?), castle is big and castle tour is extensive.
Kasia Gé (2 years ago)
Beautifully saved castle on the hill - you can enter the area without buying a ticket. Down the road you have this bench and a view perfect for a picture with the whole castle.
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