Niederfalkenstein Castle is part of the larger Falkenstein fortification complex; while the main fortress of Oberfalkenstein today is a ruin, the lower barbican of Niederfalkenstein is largely preserved.
The fortification was erected on a rocky promontory on the southwestern slopes of the Reisseck Group in the Hohe Tauern mountain range. The ruins of Oberfalkenstein comprise a Bergfried keep with surrounding moats and the foundations of a Romanesque palas. A chapel dedicated to John the Baptist was first mentioned in 1246, significantly enlarged in a Baroque style in 1772 and is still in use.
The fortification was first mentioned as Valchenstain Castle in an 1164 deed. The first documented ministerialis Gumpoldus de Valchenstein was a liensmen of Count Engelbert II of Gorizia (Görz), scion of the Meinhardiner dynasty. The Counts of Gorizia also held the office of a Vogt of Bendictine Millstatt Abbey, and the Lord of Falkenstein established close ties to the monastery.
The Falkenstein dynasty became extinct about 1300, soon after two castles, upper and lower Falkenstein were mentioned, enfeoffed by the Counts of Gorizia to several local nobles. On 24 June 1394 Count Henry VI gave the upper castle in pawn to the Habsburg duke Albert III of Austria. It was finally seized by Albert's nephew Emperor Frederick III in 1460, after he had defeated Count John II of Gorizia in the conflict over the heritage of the extinct Counts of Celje. The lower castle was temporarily held by the Carinthian knight Andreas von Graben, who sold it in 1462.
In 1504 Frederick's son and successor Emperor Maximilian I again pawned the castle to Count Julian of Lodron, by his wife Apollonia brother-in-law of the Salzburg archbishop Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg. It was acquired by Apollonia's second husband Christoph Frankopan after Lodron's death in 1510. The countess donated an altarpiece by Jan van Scorel in the Obervellach parish church, depicting Saint Christopher, herself and her castle. At the same time, large funds had to be raised in order to restore the dilapidated premises. Afterwards, several nobles held the castle, among them the descendants of Gabriel von Salamanca-Ortenburg and the Khevenhüller dynasty, while the premises decayed. When the Austrian mountaineer Joseph Kyselak visited the site in 1825, it largely laid in ruins.
Rebuilt from 1905, the Unterfalkenstein palas burnt down after a burglary in 1969 and had to be restored again. Up to today the castle is a private property, but can be visited in summer.
The Tauern Railway line, opened in 1909, initially passed under the rock in a 67-metre long tunnel. In the course of the double-tracked expansion carried out from 1971 to 1973, the rail tunnel was replaced by a wide arch bridge, the present-day Falkenstein Bridge passing between Ober- and Niederfalkenstein, with 396 metres the longest of the line and one of the longest in Austria.References:
Kroměříž stands on the site of an earlier ford across the River Morava. The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens and described as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first residence on the site was founded by bishop Stanislas Thurzo in 1497. The building was in a Late Gothic style, with a modicum of Renaissance detail. During the Thirty Years' War, the castle was sacked by the Swedish army (1643).
It was not until 1664 that a bishop from the powerful Liechtenstein family charged architect Filiberto Lucchese with renovating the palace in a Baroque style. The chief monument of Lucchese's work in Kroměříž is the Pleasure Garden in front of the castle. Upon Lucchese's death in 1666, Giovanni Pietro Tencalla completed his work on the formal garden and had the palace rebuilt in a style reminiscent of the Turinese school to which he belonged.
After the castle was gutted by a major fire in March 1752, Bishop Hamilton commissioned two leading imperial artists, Franz Anton Maulbertsch and Josef Stern, arrived at the residence in order to decorate the halls of the palace with their works. In addition to their paintings, the palace still houses an art collection, generally considered the second finest in the country, which includes Titian's last mythological painting, The Flaying of Marsyas. The largest part of the collection was acquired by Bishop Karel in Cologne in 1673. The palace also contains an outstanding musical archive and a library of 33,000 volumes.
UNESCO lists the palace and garden among the World Heritage Sites. As the nomination dossier explains, 'the castle is a good but not outstanding example of a type of aristocratic or princely residence that has survived widely in Europe. The Pleasure Garden, by contrast, is a very rare and largely intact example of a Baroque garden'. Apart from the formal parterres there is also a less formal nineteenth-century English garden, which sustained damage during floods in 1997.
Interiors of the palace were extensively used by Miloš Forman as a stand-in for Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace during filming of Amadeus (1984), based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who actually never visited Kroměříž. The main audience chamber was also used in the film Immortal Beloved (1994), in the piano concerto scene.