Aggstein Castle


Location: Lower Austria Map

Constructed: 12th century by Manegold III


The Aggstein castle ruins are the ruins of a spur castle on the right bank of the Danube in the Wachau, the origins of which date back to the 12th century. The castle ruins are about 300 meters above the right bank of the Danube on a rocky spur running in an east-west direction. It is about 150 meters long and has a rock structure at both ends. The ruin is located in the municipality of Schönbühel-Aggsbach in the Lower Austrian district of Melk.



The castle was probably built by Manegold III at the beginning of the 12th century. built by Acchispach (Aggsbach). In 1181 it came into the possession of the Kuenringer von Aggsbach-Gansbach. During the uprising of the Kuenringer under Hadmar III. and his vassals against Duke Frederick II, it was besieged and conquered in 1230/31. In the disputes about the successor to Frederick II, during the "rulerless period", the Kuenringers changed sides several times. So it was that Leutold I von Kuenring-Dürnstein made a name for himself in the uprising of the Austrian nobility against Duke Albrecht I. The castle was then again besieged and conquered from 1295 to 1296. As the last Kuenringer, Leutold II owned the castle from 1348 to 1355. After that, it increasingly fell into disrepair.

In 1429, Duke Albrecht V confiscated the castle from the Maissauer ministerial family and entrusted it to his chamberlain (Georg) Jörg Scheck von Wald. He obliged him to rebuild the ruined castle to secure shipping on the Danube. In 1438 Scheck received the right to toll from Wald for ships sailing up the river. In return, he had to ensure the preservation of the stairways on which the ships were pulled up the river. To do this, he built a toll house on the river bank, which today serves as a forester's lodge. Over time he became a robber baron by robbing the ships on the Danube. Hence his name "Fright Forest", which is said to have been given to him by the population because of his cruelty. In 1463 the castle was besieged by another later robber baron, Georg von Stain. He defeated Scheck von Wald and took over the castle as a pledge, since the duke is said to have owed him money. In 1476 he was driven out by Ulrich Freiherr von Graveneck (Grafenegg, Grafeneck), who ruled the castle from 1476 to 1477 until he too was forced to give up the castle.

1477 Duke Friedrich III. the castle itself and occupied it with tenants and caretakers in order to stop the plundering. In 1529 the castle was burned down by a group of Ottomans during the first Turkish siege of Vienna. It was rebuilt and equipped with loopholes for artillery defense.

In 1606, Anna Freiin von Polheim und Parz, the widow of the last tenant, acquired the castle. After her death, the castle was severely neglected. In 1685, together with Schönbühel Castle, it became the property of Count Konrad Balthasar von Starhemberg. Ludwig Josef Gregor von Starhemberg sold the property to Count Franz von Beroldingen in 1819. It remained in the possession of the Beroldingers until 1930, when the Schönbühel estate, together with the Aggstein ruins, was sold to Count Oswald von Seilern-Aspang, whose descendants still own it.

Hadmar III. von Kuenring is said to have considered the castle impregnable. In fact, there is no evidence that the castle was ever stormed. Presumably other measures, such as starvation, led to the conquest of the castle.

Today, the Aggstein castle ruins are one of the most visited sights in Lower Austria with around 55,000 visitors a year.

Building history
Built at the beginning of the 12th century, the castle was successfully besieged and destroyed at least twice during the time of the Kuenringers. Only a few foundations on the so-called Bürgel, a rocky spur in the east, and on the Stein, a rock structure on the west side of the castle, date from this period. In 1429 it was said to have fallen into disrepair and was rebuilt by Jörg Scheck von Wald. The castle was then rebuilt and enlarged in the period from 1429 to 1436 by the local population through forced labor. Most of the surviving parts, such as the remains of the three-storey women's tower, the palace and the Gothic castle chapel, date back to this reconstruction. The well-known little rose garden was also set up at this time.

After being set on fire by the Ottomans, the castle was rebuilt for artillery defense and equipped with loopholes.

Under Anna Freiin von Polheim und Parz, the castle was renovated after 1606 and the central castle was furnished with Renaissance-style chancellery buildings. After her death, the decay of the castle could no longer be stopped. Stones and parts of the entablature were used to build the nearby Servite monastery in Maria Langegg. The first security measures to preserve the ruins were carried out under the Beroldingen and completed under Oswald Graf von Seilern-Aspang. From 2003 to 2004, the castle ruins of Aggstein were renovated at considerable expense by Schlossgut Schönbühel-Aggstein AG. Damaged masonry was repaired, the sewage system, water pipes and building services were introduced and installed, and the entrance area was redesigned and the knight's hall was redesigned and roofed. The state of Lower Austria also made a contribution of around EUR 50,000.


Legends about Aggstein

Hadmar and the Iron Chain
Hadmar III. von Kuenring is said to have hijacked ships sailing downstream using an iron chain stretched across the Danube. When this became too much for Duke Friederich, he wanted to storm the castle. But it withstood all attacks. So he used a ruse. A merchant named Rüdiger from Vienna has been attacked by Hadmar several times. This was sent to Regensburg. There he fitted out a strong ship. Loaded with valuable cargo above and heavily armed soldiers below, it sailed down the Danube. A ship with a rich load was reported from Schönbühel on the Danube to Aggstein. The ship has been stopped. The rich cargo lured Hadmar himself to the ship. As he entered, he was overpowered by the soldiers. The ship immediately cast off and took the prisoner to the Duke in Vienna. The abandoned castle was taken soon after. The duke gave Hadmar his life and freedom, but he was obliged to return all stolen goods and to make good all damages. He is said to have died a few years later on a pilgrimage to Passau in a small village on the upper Danube.

Jörg Scheck von Wald und das Rosengärtlein
The best-known legend is that of the little rose garden. It was about Jörg Scheck locking his prisoners out on the stone slab that protruded from the castle like a balcony, so that they could only starve or jump to their deaths. Those who were locked out always reminded Scheck of roses, from which the name Rosengärtlein comes. However, prisoners were able to save themselves twice by jumping into the surrounding treetops. The second time, the bells from the valley started ringing so loudly that Scheck went insane and was easily defeated by Georg von Stain.

On November 30, 1973, the Austrian Post Office issued a five-shilling definitive stamp of the stamp series Landscapes from Austria with this motif.

The ruin is a control point on the north-south long-distance hiking trail.