Freistadt Castle was built, together with its bergfried, between 1363 and 1398, and was used to reinforce the fortifications of the town of Freistadt. Today the castle houses the tax office and the Mühlviertel Castle Museum.
The building of the castle was begun in 1363 in order to bolster the town's fortifications, Duke Rudolph IV the Founder issuing the orders for its construction. Until it was completed, all the manner of estates within the jurisdiction (Landgericht) of Freistadt were taxed: homes, land, fiefs and farmsteads. After Rudolph's death in 1365, his brothers, Leopold and Albert, continued with the work, and in 1397/98 the new castle and its bergfried were finished. Several improvements continued until 1440 and, in the late 15th century, the height of the bergfried was raised.
The schloss replaced the old castle in Salzgasse street, the Altenhof. From then on the new castle was used by the territorial princes as an administrative centre for the Barony and District of Freistadt and as the residence of the lord's Pfleger. The other district office for the Barony of Freistadt was Schloss Haus (from the 18th century). With the simultaneous expansion of the remaining fortifications, the castle strengthened the defensive capability of the town. Nevertheless, the castle was the weakest point in its lines of defence.
Entry to the castle was achieved then as now in two ways. On one side, access was gained through a gateway to the main courtyard and, on the other, through another gateway at the end of the Schlossgasse leading from the Böhmergasse into the outer courtyard. The castle itself was further separated from the town by a moat and drawbridge. Even the adjoining townhouses were not allowed to have a door into the outer courtyard. The castle was also protected from the town and possible attacks from that direction.
During the Hussite Wars and the numerous border feuds of the 15th century the castle acted as a strong bulwark at the edge of the town. In the 16th century it was significantly remodelled, the plans for the rebuilding of the south wing in 1588 being drawn up by architects Antonio Cerisora, Ambrosio Solari and Mert Pogner. Around 1594 the castle acted as a refuge for the surrounding population during the Turkish Wars. Only once was the castle plundered by besieging troops, in 1626, when rioting peasants captured the town and the castle. The castle's governor and three Capuchin monks were locked in the castle chapel and mistreated. Liturgical objects were stolen and all the boxes and chests broken open and looted.
In the course of time there was also opposition between the town and the castle. One sticking point was a 'back door' (Hintertürl) that led from the castle into the zwinger and over the town moat out of the town; something that had been planned even at the design stage. This enabled residents of the castle to leave the town incognito, but the gate also posed a security risk, which is why it had been bricked up in the 15th century. In 1584, Hans Christoph von Gera pressed for the opening of the gate by drawing attention to the lack of escape during the two great fires of 1507 and 1516. Finally the territorial prince ruled in favour of the town and that the gate should be left walled up.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.