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:
Tyniec Benedictine abbey was founded by King Casimir the Restorer probably around 1044. Casimir decided to rebuild the newly established Kingdom of Poland, after a Pagan rebellion and a disastrous Czech raid of Duke Bretislaus I (1039). The Benedictines, invited to Tyniec by the King, were tasked with restoring order as well as cementing the position of the State and the Church. First Tyniec Abbot was Aaron, who became the Bishop of Kraków. Since there is no conclusive evidence to support the foundation date as 1040, some historians claim that the abbey was founded by Casimir the Restorer’ son, King Boleslaw II the Generous.
In the second half of the 11th century, a complex of Romanesque buildings was completed, consisting of a basilica and the abbey. In the 14th century, it was destroyed in Tatar and Czech raids, and in the 15th century it was rebuilt in Gothic style. Further remodelings took place in the 17th and 18th centuries, first in Baroque, then in Rococo style. The abbey was partly destroyed in the Swedish invasion of Poland, and soon afterwards was rebuilt, with a new library. Further destruction took place during the Bar Confederation, when Polish rebels turned the abbey into their fortress.
In 1816, Austrian authorities liquidated the abbey, and in 1821-1826, it was the seat of the Bishop of Tyniec, Grzegorz Tomasz Ziegler. The monks, however, did not return to the abbey until 1939, and in 1947, remodelling of the neglected complex was initiated. In 1968, the Church of St. Peter and Paul was once again named the seat of the abbot. The church itself consists of a Gothic presbytery and a Baroque main nave. Several altars were created by an 18th-century Italian sculptor Francesco Placidi. The church also has a late Baroque pulpit by Franciszek Jozef Mangoldt.