Valbuena Abbey was founded in 1143 by Estefanía, daughter of Count Ermengol V of Urgell, and settled from Berdoues Abbey in France, of the filiation of Morimond. Valbuena received a number of privileges shortly after its foundation, and flourished to the point where it was able to settle three daughter houses of its own.
In the 14th century a decline set in. Valbuena remained a daughter house of Berdoues until 1430, when the Castilian Cistercian Congregation was established; thereafter it was a daughter house of Poblet Abbey.
The abbey was dissolved under the anti-ecclesiastical Mendizábal government in 1835.
The church became a parish church. The conventual buildings passed into private ownership and were eventually acquired by a Baron Kessel, who sold them to Juan Pardo, who looked after them until 1950, when the Instituto Nacional de Colonización acquired the site and buildings for settlement purposes. In 1967 the Archdiocese of Valladolid took possession of the monastery buildings, and in 1990 leased them to the foundation Las Edades del Hombre.
The building complex, which was more or less complete by 1230, and most of which still stands, comprises the church, built from 1149 onwards, the conventual buildings, the guest wing, dormitories and the lay brothers' area. The groin-vaulted church of three aisles in four bays, with a barrel-vaulted transept and a crossing which was heightened in the Renaissance and covered with a cupola, is largely in accordance with the usual Cistercian building practice. The church also has an unusually large semi-circular apse, between two smaller semi-circular side apses, and also a rectangular side-chapel, built in 1165. The nave is in the early Gothic style. The west front has a portal with a pointed arch and several archivolts, over which is a large oculus in a blind arch.
The chapter house and the day room are also groin-vaulted, while the refectory on the south side of the complex has a pointed barrel-vaulted roof of four bays. The cloister has two storeys. The Capilla San Pedro chapel contains an arcosolium with a mural of a king from the period of around 1270. The lay brothers' wing was removed in the Renaissance to make room for a second courtyard. By the river stand the ruins of the abbot's house, dating from the 16th century.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.