Vichtenstein Castle (Vichtenstein Burg)

 Vichtenstein Castle (Vichtenstein Burg)

Vichtenstein Castle or Vichtenstein Burg is a medieval citadel in the Danube River valley in Upper Austria region of Austria.



Location: Upper Austria  Map

Constructed: 1090 by Henry II



The year the hilltop castle was built cannot be documented; it is assumed that the castle was probably built around the year 1100 and belonged to the County of Formbach. The first mention can be found in 1116 with the Counts of Formbach at Schloss Vornbach, who also called themselves "von Vichtenstein". It is possible that Heinrich II von Formbach, who died in 1090, was the builder of the first castle complex.

Hedwig von Vichtenstein from the Formbach family had brought the rule of Vichtenstein as a dowry to her husband Engelberg, Count zu Hall und Wasserburg at Wasserburg Castle, when her family of origin had ceased to exist in the namesake family. In 1217, King Andrew II of Hungary took part in the fifth crusade, the Damiette Crusade, to the Holy Land, in which many German, but above all Bavarian knights took part, including some from the vicinity of the Counts of Wasserburg and Vichtenstein. The attempt to enter the Holy Land failed and King Andrew returned. Most of the German knights stayed behind and tried to conquer Egypt, because the Holy Land was under Egyptian political influence. They summoned more knights and Count Konrad von Wasserburg and Vichtenstein prepared for war. On October 22, 1218, he borrowed the money of 1,000 marks of silver he needed for the war journey from Prince Bishop Ulrich II of Passau and pledged his Vichtenstein Castle, together with all the extensive possessions in the upper and lower Kößlbach valley, to the Bishopric. In addition, it was agreed that when the count returned home, he would only be able to redeem the castle from his own funds and only pledge it for his own use, so that the diocese could not be cheated by strangers in the donation mentioned. Shortly after the contract was signed, Konrad married and signed Vichtenstein Castle over to his wife Kunigunde, Countess of Lambach (Hirschberg). Towards the end of 1218 Konrad marched into Egypt at the head of a crusader army detachment and in the summer of 1219 began the siege of the fortress of Damietta. Although the fortress fell, the crusade failed a little later and Konrad and Bishop Ulrich von Passau, who had followed, fled back home.

Bishop Ulrich died on October 30, 1221. Count Konrad von Wasserburg and Vichtenstein returned safely to Vichtenstein about six months later. In the meantime, a fierce dispute had broken out in Passau about the legality of the transaction because of the transfer of Vichtenstein Castle to Konrad's wife. In the course of this feud, the vassals and burghers of Vichtenstein and other robber barons devastated episcopal property, so that Bishop Gebhard of Passau turned to the German King Heinrich VII of Worms for help. The emperor outlawed the affected knights on March 13, 1222, which led to a brief peace. After his return, however, Konrad again took part in the raids and raids of the unscrupulous robber barons and obstructed trade routes and shipping by blocking the Danube. As a result, Konrad was excommunicated several times and finally only managed to shake off the imperial ban under the harshest of conditions.

Under the chairmanship of Emperor Friedrich II, it was decided that Hallgraf Konrad von Wasserburg and Vichtenstein had to hand over the ownership of Vichtenstein Castle, including its accessories and all goods that they owned between the Salza and Enns and from the Isar to the Bohemian Forest, to the Bishop of Passau . As a visible sign of Passau ownership, the bishop took over the Vichtenstein castle tower and the two adjoining and associated fiefdoms. The guards and gatekeepers of the castle were to be provided at the expense of the bishop, these and the other tenants of the castle had to swear allegiance to both the bishop and the count and undertake not to harass travelers any more. In return, the bishop pledged 1,200 marks of Passau weights to the Count for Vichtenstein, including his belongings and ministerials, and gave him a house in Passau as a fief.

The bishops of Passau had the castle, which they also pledged when they needed money, managed by caretakers or burgraves. The Passau city judge Andreas Haller was the lienholder of the castle in 1367, but also the leader of the Passau citizens' uprising against the rule of the bishop. After the defeat of the citizens, he sold the castle to the knight Friedrich von Puchberg. This, in turn, entailed a feud over the property that lasted for several years. When he was facing financial ruin in 1370, the bishop decided to pawn Vichtenstein Castle and the associated manorial estate to the nobles of Schaunberg. After the defeat of the Schaunberger against Duke Albrecht III. from Austria, Vichtenstein returned to the diocese of Passau. From 1661 to 1691 the lordship of Vichtenstein was administered by Burgrave Georg Franz Ebenhoch von Hocheneben, remained with the Passau Monastery until secularization on January 3, 1803, and then became the property of Austria. Vichtenstein Castle and the land were sold to private investors. After the peasants were liberated in 1848, the castle and large estates came into the possession of the Counts of Pachta through purchase in 1868. The current owners acquired the castle and the associated possessions from the inheritance of the leasehold. In the last months of the Second World War in May 1945 and the subsequent period of expulsion of the Germans from Czechoslovakia, the castle was a reception camp for expellees and refugees. The castle is owned by Klaus Schulz-Wulkow and cannot be visited.


Vichtenstein Castle today

The castle is located above the right bank of the Danube on a steep hillside above the village of Vichtenstein. The castle was inhabited without interruption. As a result, the castle area was often rebuilt and renovated over the centuries.

A massive high Romanesque tower rises on the narrow ridge that connects the castle to the forecourt. The oldest parts of the castle are the isolated keep and the gate building. Access to the tower is via a brick bridge leading to the gate tower with a lancet arched gate and pulleys above for an earlier drawbridge. The two square residential towers were built in the 15th or 16th century. After the gate hall is the elongated front courtyard, bounded on both sides by walls. After a sharp bend, the actual courtyard opens up. The residential and farm buildings are based on the circular wall. This is reinforced by towers that were used to paint the sides.

The palace chapel dedicated to Saint Hippolytus of Rome, which was built in the 14th century and expanded in the 17th century, is also of art-historical importance. The interior of the chapel has a ribbed vault with figural keystones.