Location: Burgenland Burg Gussing Location on a Map
Güssing Castle is enthroned on a steep porphyry cone in the
Stremtal near Güssing in Burgenland. With its construction in 1157,
it is the oldest castle complex in Burgenland and a distinctive
landmark of the region. In addition, it gained historical importance
in 1459 when dissatisfied magnates gathered there and Emperor
Frederick III. elected king of Hungary, who thus became the opponent
of the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus.
In the shadow of the castle, a suburbium developed, which lay around the castle rock with a lens-shaped green and was called civitas in 1427 and civitas et suburbium in 1459. Today's city of Güssing developed from it.
The castle was first mentioned in a document in 1157 when the
Hungarian King Géza II awarded the “Quizun” mountain and its
surroundings to Count Wolfer from Wildon in Styria. In the same year
he erected a wooden fortification on the volcanic cone next to a
Benedictine monastery, which is to be regarded as the predecessor of
King Bela III. had the fortifications and monastery confiscated and converted into a stone castle in the 12th century. In 1198 the castle is mentioned in a deed of donation, in which it is described as novum castrum. During the 13th century the castle was expanded several times by the owners Demetrius von Csak and Moritz Pok. Along with the castles in Wieselburg and Sopron, as well as Lockenhaus Castle and those in Eisenburg, it was part of the castle belt along Hungary's western border. Güssing Castle was one of the few Hungarian castles that could not be taken during the Tartar invasion of 1241/42. In 1273 the troops of Ottokar of Bohemia had to unsuccessfully end a siege of the castle.
In 1270, the complex came from royal property and became the property of the Güssinger Counts (Lords of Güns), who temporarily owned all the castles in the area. Although the Heder noble clan strived for an independent principality and was therefore in constant dispute with the Hungarian royal family, some members made it to the highest offices in the kingdom. For example, Count Heinrich (1254–1274), ludex Curiae, Palatine and Banus, temporarily controlled the fortunes of Hungary. In 1285, Güssinger Count Ivan (Johann I von Heder), also known as Ivan the Red Knight, dared a campaign against Duke Albrecht I of Austria and was able to inflict a sensitive defeat on him in 1289 at Bernstein. However, the Styrian rhyming chronicle of Ottokar from the Gaal reports on a subsequent victory by Duke Albrecht over Count Ivan. The duke's steward, Berthold von Emmerberg, was able to conquer Güssing and held it as a fief for some time. In 1327 the Güssing counts were finally subdued and lost their importance.
After several changes of ownership, Nikolaus Ujlaky, a representative of the Habsburg party, seized the castle. Under his chairmanship, the magnates, who were dissatisfied with Matthias Corvinus, gathered at Güssing Castle in 1459 and elected Friedrich III. to the king of Hungary. Nikolaus Ujlaky later sided with Matthias Corvinus again.
Nikolaus' son Lorenz behaved so defiantly towards King Vladislav II that the castle, which was considered impregnable, was besieged and conquered in 1490 by the troops of the Roman-German King Maximilian I.
After Lorenz died childless in 1522, the complex reverted to the Hungarian crown. King Ludwig II then gave it to the Hungarian nobleman Franz Batthyány and his nephew Christoph as a reward for defeating a Turkish army at Jajce. Their family had the castle expanded into a spacious fortress in the 16th and 17th centuries because of the threatening danger from the east.
With the loss of its strategic importance - weapons began to be delivered in 1775 - the castle was left to decay in the 18th century, since the roof tax at the time made it unaffordable for the owner to maintain it.
Well aware of the importance of the castle, including the monastery and family crypt for the Batthyány family and the region of the country, Prince Philipp Batthyány-Strattmann set up a foundation in 1870 for the preservation of Güssing Castle and the monastery.
Since the foundation had lost most of its capital in the years of inflation after the First World War, a way had to be found to ensure the preservation of the castle and monastery for future generations.
For this reason, the Batthyány family offered the state of Burgenland/the public sector co-administration of the Prince Batthyány Foundation in the 1980s, and extensive renovation and preservation measures were made possible and taken.
The first conservation measures took place as early as 1957. Further extensive restoration and reconstruction work followed between 1982 and 2000, so that Güssing Castle is now in the same condition as it was 200 years ago.
The castle is still managed by the Weiland Prince Philipp Batthyány-Strattmann Foundation. Its curator is the respective head of the family – currently the 10th prince, Ladislaus Edmund Batthyány-Strattmann, who manages the foundation together with the administrator of the state of Burgenland.
The castle today
Access to the outer bailey is via a fortified gateway on the north side of the complex. Their courtyard is surrounded by the remains of the former fortress.
A wide staircase leads to the inner courtyard of the stronghold. The buildings surrounding the inner courtyard mostly have three floors, of which the basement was partially hewn directly out of the rock.
Between the living quarters and the chapel wing from the 15th century rises the mighty keep, some of which dates back to the Romanesque period.
20 rooms in the stronghold are now home to a castle museum with around 5000 exhibits. You can see, among other things, the ancestral gallery and family museum of the Batthyány family, old weapons, sculptures and handicrafts, as well as Renaissance and Baroque paintings, including two portraits by Lucas Cranach the Elder.
A very special attraction is the ascent to the bell tower, which has been made accessible and from which a panoramic view of the Pannonian lowlands is possible.
Today, theatrical performances, concerts and readings take place on the grounds of the castle. Some rooms can also be rented for private events. It has recently become possible to have a civil wedding in the castle and a church wedding in the castle chapel.
The Batthyány family meets every year at the end of June for a family day at their family castle. In recent years, some Batthyány family members have also been baptized in the castle chapel.
Since 1994, the Güssing Castle Games have been held annually in the castle courtyard, which tie in with the cultural tradition of the Batthyánys.