Bernstein Castle

Bernstein Castle


Location: Bernstein, Burgenland Map

Constructed: 1199

Official site



History of Bernstein Castle

Bernstein Castle is a medieval citadel constructed in a twelfth century. Over several centuries its was increased in size and rebuilt several times. Bernstein Castle stands on a strategic hill in Bernstein im Burgenland in Austria. Bernstein Castle was constructed in 1199. Bernstein Castle changed hands several times and experienced numerous remodeling and reconstructions to fit taste of new owners. In the 16th century it was proved to be a formidable citadel against sieges of Ottoman Turkish army. Turkish armies tried to capture it in 1529 and 1532. In 1604 Bernstein Castle was again besieged by a joint force of Ottoman Turks, Tatar allies and Hungarian forces under leadership of Stephen Bocskay. Their attacks were proven as futile.
In the 17th century Bernstein Castle lost much of its strategic military importance, but it still served as a private residence. In 1617 Ludwig Konigsberg rebuilt parts of the citadel in a more peaceful Baroque style. Parts of the old defenses were torn down including the keep and several towers. Currently Bernstein Castle is owned by Eduard von Almásy with a part of the compound turned into a hotel.


High above the Tauchtal, it is the highest castle in Burgenland.



In the year 860 AD the whole area belonged to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. Erimbert, a vassal of the archbishop, handed over the land on the Pinka to his servant, "Miles" Jacobus. The place name Rettenbach has not yet been mentioned, but the old Slavic name of the nearby hamlet of Grodnau = the village belonging to the castle indicates that there was already a castle nearby, and it can only have been amber.

From 1199 the castle already belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary. The Miczbán de genere Akos was named as the owner. It is not known exactly when the castle passed to Duke Frederick II of Austria and how long it lasted, but in 1236 Bela IV of Hungary conquered the castle. Years later (1260) he gave it to Count Heinrich II von Güns.

In 1336, the Counts of Güssing and von Bernstein were decisively defeated by the Hungarian King Karl Robert von Anjou, and Bernstein Castle was then confiscated as a Hungarian crown estate. In 1388 the castle was mortgaged to the Kanizsay family. In 1389 they began to rebuild the ruined castle. In 1392 the castle became the property of the Kanizsay family.

Almost a hundred years later (1482) the castle temporarily came into the possession of Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. After a few years, Hans von Königsberg received the castle in 1487 as a pledge from Emperor Friedrich III.

In 1529 and 1532 the Turks besieged the castle but could not take it. The bastion wreath was then erected in order to convert the castle into a refuge.

In 1604, Bernstein Castle was unsuccessfully besieged for weeks by a combined army of Hungarians, Turks and Tatars under Stephan Bocskay. Ludwig Königsberg had the Gothic interior of the castle baroque-style in 1617, and the keep and towers were removed. A little later, in 1644, Ehrenreich Christoph Königsberg sold the manor and castle to Count Ádám Batthyány. Almost two hundred years later (1864) Gusztáv Batthyány sold the castle to his administrator Edward O'Egan. O'Egan's heirs sold the castle to Eduard von Almásy in 1892. A well-known member of this family was the pilot and desert explorer Ladislaus Almásy. The castle is still owned by the Almásy family today. In 1953 part of the castle was converted into a comfortable holiday hotel.

According to legend, the castle is haunted by the White Lady of Amber.

The sprawling building was besieged by the Turks in 1529 and 1532. Since it withstood the sieges, it was converted into a refuge. The building was damaged by an explosion of the powder magazine in 1617 and then baroque styled. Worth seeing is the knight's hall from the first half of the 17th century, which has a magnificent stucco ceiling.

The castle is a hotel with a restaurant (registration required). The alchemist's kitchen and the torture chamber from the 16th century with museum exhibits can be visited.

In 1978, parts of the film Das Lustschloß im Spessart by Walter Krüttner were shot in Bernstein Castle.