The current Bäl church was built during the first half of the 13th century and replaced an earlier stone church on the same site, fragments of which still remain in the wall between the choir and nave. Of the presently visible church, the choir is the oldest part, with the nave and tower being built successively. Paintings were added in the 13th century through 15th centuries. For some reason, the tower was never finished and does not reach its originally intended height.
The church has two portals on the western façade, one leading to the choir and a larger main portal, located on the south side of the nave. The smaller is the older and still Romanesque in style, while the main portal is Gothic, and more profusely decorated. Additionally, there is an entrance on the north façade. The window openings are all original, and have not been enlarged during later centuries.
Inside, the church is decorated by frescos, uncovered in the early 21st century. They depict the Passion of Christ and scenes from the Bible. The church has some medieval items: a triumphal cross (late 13th century), a baptismal font (13th century), and a wooden sculpture depicting Mary. The altarpiece is Baroque, executed in 1664, and the pulpit is from 1744.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.