Habsburg Castle near the Aare River was the original seat of the House of Habsburg, which became one of the leading imperial and royal dynasties in Europe. At the time of its construction, the location was part of the Duchy of Swabia.
Around 1020–1030 Count Radbot, of the nearby county of Klettgau in the Duchy of Swabia, had the castle erected. It is believed that he named the castle after a hawk (Habicht) seen sitting on its walls. Radbot's grandson, Otto II, was the first to take the Habsburg Castle name as his own, adding 'von Habsburg' to his title and creating the House of Habsburg.
Habsburg Castle's importance diminished after Radbot's seventh generation descendant Rudolph moved the family's power base to Austria in 1276. Habsburg Castle remained property of the House of Habsburg until 1415, when Duke Frederick IV of Austria lost the canton of Aargau to the Swiss Confederacy.
The original coat of arms to fly over Habsburg Castle, a red lion on a golden field, remained part of the Austrian arms up to the end of the imperial period. The modern arms of the municipality of Habsburg, Switzerland, depict Habsburg Castle.
The area around the castle was covered by forests that were only cleared around 1500, nearly half a millennium after Habsburg Castle was first constructed.
Today the large and small towers of the original castle are preserved, attached to a residential building of the 13th century, while large parts of the complex lie in ruins. The extent of its eastern part is recognizable only by foundation walls. The palatial residence hosts a restaurant and a small exhibition.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.