Biberstein estate was first mentioned in 1280 which indicates a late 13th century construction date. The castle was built for the Counts of Habsburg-Laufenburg. In 1335 the Habsburgs sold the castle and town to Rudolf von Büttikon who established a Knights Hospitaller commandry in the castle. After 1368 the Habsburgs attempted to secretly repurchase Biberstein Castle from the Knights by using a minor noble as a straw purchaser. However, the Knights refused an exchange or purchase.
In 1415 the city-state of Bern occupied part of Aargau including Biberstein, though the Knights continued to own and rule over the town and castle. During the Swabian War of 1499 Bernese troops occupied Biberstein Castle to protect their northern border. In 1527 Bern adopted the new faith of the Protestant Reformation and began to suppress the monasteries in their lands. In the following year a Bernese vogt occupied the castle and administered the lands around Biberstein. The Knights protested, but in 1535 the commander of the Knights, Johann von Hattstein, was forced to sell the castle to Bern, which gave the city de jure ownership.
After 1535 the castle became the seat of one of the smallest vogtei in the Canton of Bern. In the period between 1535 and 1798 a total of 51 vogt ruled over the land. However, as one of the smallest and poorest vogtei, most office holders sought additional or other appointments as soon as possible. In 1587 the castle was gutted by a fire. A suspected witch, Elsa Schiblerin, was accused of causing the fire and burned at the stake. Over the next few years the castle was rebuilt by the city of Bern. The castle was rebuilt as a more comfortable home for the resident vogt. The Biberstein coat of arms was painted above the main gate in 1627 and in 1643 Hans Balthasar Fisch painted the Bernese coat of arms on the tower. A fire in 1784 threatened the castle, but a quick response limited the damage to the roof.
The 1798 French invasion and the Helvetic Republic swept away the old system of vogt and vogtei. With the creation of the Canton of Aargau in the 1803 Act of Mediation the three villages of the old vogtei; Biberstein, Küttigen and Erlinsbach, were combined into one municipality and the castle became the property of the new canton. The castle was renovated in 1889 and became a home for children. It became a home for mentally handicapped adults in 1987.
The castle sits on a tuff hill above the Aare river. Of the medieval castle, only portions of the outer wall and the foundations of the donjon remain. The remaining walls and castle structure generally date to the 16th century reconstruction or later renovation projects.References:
The Schloßberg is the site of ancient fortress in the centre of the city of Graz, Austria. The hill is now a public park and enjoys extensive views of the city. The fortification of the Schloßberg goes back to at least the 10th century. In the mid-16th century, a 400 m long fortress was constructed by architects from the north of Italy. There are records of a cable-hauled lift being in use between 1528 and 1595 to move construction materials for the fortifications. The castle was never conquered, but it was largely demolished by Napoleonic forces under the Treaty of Schönbrunn of 1809. The clock tower (the Uhrturm) and bell tower (the Glockenturm) were spared after the people of Graz paid a ransom for their preservation.
The remains of the castle were turned into a public park by Ludwig von Welden in 1839. The park contains the Uhrturm, the Glockenturm, a cistern and two bastions from the old castle. The Uhrturm is a recognisable icon for the city, and is unusual in that the clock"s hands have opposite roles to the common notion, with the larger one marking hours while the smaller is for minutes. The Glockenturm contains Liesl, the heaviest bell in Graz.
Near the Uhrturm there is a café with views over the old town. Additionally, on the western side of the Schloßberg, there are two small cafés, one with table service and the other one with self-service. Next to the terminus of the funicular railway there is a hilltop restaurant with views of western Graz. In what was once the cellar of one of the ruined bastions is the Kasemattenbühne, an open-air stage for concerts and performances.
Below the Schloßberg hill is an extensive system of tunnels, which were created during the second world war to protect the civilian population of Graz from aerial bombing. Some of these tunnels are still accessible, including a passage from Schloßbergplatz to Karmeliterplatz, and a grotto railway for children. Also in the tunnel complex is the Dom im Berg, which was expanded in 2000 to provide a venue space for up to 600 people.