Waidhofen an der Ybbs



Waidhofen an der Ybbs is a small, old industrial town with around 12,000 inhabitants in the Lower Austrian Alpine foothills near the border with Upper Austria. The town's iron processing companies were mentioned as early as 1316 and, due to its proximity to the Erzberg in Styria, iron processing was the town's main source of income until the 20th century.



The town impresses with its medieval townscape (city of towers) and the well-preserved fortifications.

City fortification Waidhofen an der Ybbs: The city center of Waidhofen has a remarkably closed historical building stock. The core of the residential buildings in the inner city area is late medieval. In many houses there are therefore Gothic courtyards with arcades. Most of the facades were created from the beginning of the 19th century and mostly belong to the Biedermeier, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque styles. Only remnants of the medieval fortifications are still preserved, for example the walls around the parish church with the tower of the former armory. In addition to the Ybbstor, described below, there is also the historically altered Müllnerturm and the Lachenturm, which has been adapted as a residential building. With a little intuition, following the course of the street, you can also discover the Eckelturm integrated into a house. You have a good overview of the city from the Heimkehrerkreuz on the Krautberg.
Catholic parish church Waidhofen an der Ybbs Hll. Maria Magdalena and Lambert: The late Gothic three-aisled hall church was built in 1470–1510 in place of a Romanesque predecessor church. The filigree net, ribbed and spandrel vaults rest on slender octagonal pillars. The galleries were built in the Baroque (1680) or in the Neo-Gothic (1879–1881) to offer more space. The richly decorated baroque Lady Chapel (1715) is attached to the side. The most important piece of the interior is the striking late Gothic winged altar (around 1500), which was taken over from the Bürgerspitalkirche in 1935. The most valuable sculpture in the church is the late Gothic statue of St. Leonhard (around 1500). Also noteworthy are two pictures of the two church patrons, created by Martin Johann Schmidt (known as Kremser Schmidt), an important Austrian baroque painter: St. Maria Magdalena (1762) and St. Bishop Lambert (1779–1781). Another historical detail is the church gate: this comes entirely, i.e. wood including the fittings, from the time it was built. The church tower is essentially Romanesque, but was redesigned in 1689 in Baroque style through a redesign of the tower facade and an increase in the bell storey.
Waidhofen’s most valuable work of art is not housed in the church, but well secured in the parsonage: the Gothic knife monstrance (created in Freising 1469–1472), which was given to the parish by the wealthy knife guild. It can usually only be seen during the Corpus Christi procession, where the 1.05 m high and 6 kg heavy piece is ceremoniously carried through the city.
Kirchhof: The cemetery was located around the parish church until 1542, which was subsequently relocated to the location of today's Schillerpark. This cemetery was closed in 1887 and the new cemetery opened at its current location (Pocksteinerallee / Friedhofstrasse).
Former armory, also called Lutherturm: Today this building is mostly referred to as the Boy Scout Tower because the home of this youth organization is located inside. The late Gothic three-quarter round tower with an attached rectangular building was built at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries. At first the building was used as a chapel, later it was used as an armory and today the holy grave with a baroque, carved and gilded crucifixion group is housed in the basement.

Rothschildschloss or Schloss Waidhofen: It is named after the most important former owner, the banker Albert Salomon Anselm Freiherr von Rothschild (1844–1910). From 1875 to 1938, the estate administration of the extensive Rothschild lands in the region was established here. The first castle on this site dates from the 12th century. From 1365 it was the seat of the Freisingischen Pfleger (Vögte) and thus the administrative center. Today's keep was built around 1400. In 1881 there was a profound, high-quality neo-Gothic redesign, albeit with extensive loss of medieval building fabric, by the builder of the Vienna City Hall and Vienna cathedral master builder Friedrich von Schmidt (1825-1891). The architect Hans Hollein carried out a redesign in 2006/2007, who achieved a new interpretation that was noticed but controversial among the Waidhofner population with several additions that clearly stood out from the existing building fabric through the use of modern materials. In 2007, the castle and St. Peter in der Au Castle hosted the Lower Austrian State Exhibition. Today the castle houses the city history "{\ displaystyle 5 ^ {e}} {\ displaystyle 5 ^ {e}} museum" alongside various other facilities in the city.
City tower: The landmark of the city, the mighty, square tower, has to be climbed. With the booty from the expulsion of the Turkish troops (1532), the tower was raised to 50 m in 1535–1542. However, the view that the tower was built as a symbol of victory over the Turks cannot be substantiated, as the well-known inscription from 1932 suggests. One of the four clocks always shows a quarter to twelve, not because of a technical problem, but to announce the hour of legendary victory.
Citizens Hospital Church and Former Citizens Hospital: Originally it was the church of the hospital founded in 1274 in front of the city wall (asylum for the poor and elderly). The current two-aisled building with a polygonal choir and diamond vault dates from the middle of the 15th century and is thus the second late Gothic church in the old town. The stone pulpit and a statue of the Virgin Mary date from the time it was built; the renovated late Gothic fresco cycle is also of interest. From the outside, the baroque tower (1777) is particularly striking. Since 2005, the church, which is owned by the city, has been shared by Catholics and Protestants. The Bürgerspital has been the spiritual center of the Order of St. John in Austria since 2010. Since 2015, the Bürgerspital has been the seat of the Lower Austria Sub-Coming of the Austrian Coming of the Order of St. John.
Ybbsturm with city gate: On the only surviving medieval gate tower of the city fortifications there is an inscription with the motto of the city: Ferrum chalybsque urbis nutrimenta. “Iron and steel feed the city.” The facade was redesigned several times in the 19th century.
Marian column: In the course of the Counter-Reformation under Pastor Pocksteiner in 1665 the baroque Marian column was erected on the site of the pillory.
Klosterkirche (formerly Capuchin Church): The Capuchins, who were called to Waidhofen in 1663, were an essential support for the Counter-Reformation. The simple hall church was built in 1644–1652 in front of the city wall. A late Gothic Madonna (around 1520) is remarkable inside. The youngest part of the church is the simple main facade (1833-1834) with a stone relief Pietà from the time after the Second World War. In the past, the monastery church was shaped by the Konvikt, the school and student church in Waidhofen. This tradition is still maintained by the Catholic-Austrian student union Norika in the MKV, who celebrate mass there several times during the semester together with other visitors to the fair.
Schloss Zell an der Ybbs: The Hotel Schloss an der Eisenstrasse was the former administrative seat of the Gleiß rulers and was built in the early baroque style when the importance of the market in Zell, which they owned, increased due to its favorable location next to Waidhofen.
City Hall: This building consists of several Gothic houses under a uniform exterior facade, a legacy from the Nazi era (1942). In 1994 the interior was redesigned to uncover and incorporate the mediaeval building fabric (e.g. the Gothic arcade courtyard). The exterior, familiar for the Waidhofner, in this architecturally sensitive area of ​​the old town remained untouched.
Schwarzbach Viaduct of the Ybbstalbahn: This bridge leading past the city center and spanning the Schwarzbach valley is also the largest bridge structure on the Ybbstalbahn. It was built in 1896 as a “fish belly construction” using steel lattice construction.


Zeller Hochbrücke: When the simple footbridge that crossed the deep cut of the Ybbs between Waidhofen and Zell was once again very dilapidated, in 1898 the then poor Markt Zell decided to find a sustainable solution to the problem: without any support from the city administration The first flood-proof Ybbs bridge in the area was built in just one year. The project was carried out as a reinforced concrete structure based on the Monier system, with a slim, 42 m long arch spanning the Ybbs.
Catholic parish church Konradsheim hl. Nicholas
Catholic parish church St. Georgen in der Klaus
Catholic parish church St. Leonhard am Wald
Catholic parish church Windhag hl. Nicholas
Catholic parish church Zell an der Ybbs hl. Florian

Museums and permanent exhibitions
In the 5e Museum, which was opened in 2008 (named after the five classical Chinese elements), visitors are brought closer to the history of Waidhofen by working on the themes of fire, water, earth, wood and metal. The 500 most interesting exhibits of the museum association, which draws from a fund of over 8000 objects, are shown. In addition, 50 experiments provide insights into scientific contexts.

The private rural folklore collection Piaty is set up on the upper floor of the pastry shop of the same name. 2500 exhibits from the Waidhofen area can be viewed, including a mountain farmer's parlor from 1614.

A tour of the museum's Schwellöd power station on the Ybbs River takes you back to the pioneering days of electrical energy generation. A jump into the present of the energy supply follows immediately afterwards, with a visit to the new Ybbs power plant of EVN built next door.

Culture city Waidhofen
Waidhofen was awarded the title “City of Culture” in 1992 by the state of Lower Austria.

Waidhofen has three event centers: Castle Center, City Hall and Home Hall. A varied program of events with classical music, cabaret and concerts of contemporary music from pop to jazz is offered all year round.

The Waidhofen Chamber Music Orchestra, an amateur orchestra founded in 1972, mainly performs classical and romantic works. The music school in Waidhofen, one of the largest in Lower Austria, forms the basis of musical training.

The Pendel gallery positioned itself in the visual arts sector. It presents the works of visual artists from the region, but also international contemporary artists. Under the motto "raumimpuls" there are also regular exhibitions in the multifunctional hall, which the architect Ernst Beneder realized for the Waidhofner Museum on the upper town square.

The amateur theater association Waidhofner Volksbühne performs on summer evenings in the arcade courtyard of the Rothschild Castle. There are also plays in the town hall in spring (every two years) and in autumn. With the modern Plenker Hall in the school center, Waidhofen also has a professional stage for concerts and theater events.


In the immediate vicinity of Waidhofen is the Forsteralm ski area.


Getting there

By train
By train every hour from Amstetten. International trains don't always stop in Amstetten.

By road
You can reach Waidhofen by car via the A1 (Westautobahn) exit Amstetten West and continue on the federal road 121.



The origin of the name is uncertain. According to old tradition, it is derived from a Waidhof (i.e. hunting seat) owned by the Bishop of Freising. A more recent theory assumes a connection between the name and pasture farming.

Middle age
In 1033 the possessions of the Freising diocese in the area of ​​the lower Ybbstal, which had existed since 955, were extended to the Styrian border by donations from Emperor Konrad II (990-1039). The first mention of the name Waidhouen and a capella (pastoral care office) is in 1186 in a confirmation document from Pope Urban III. (1120-1187). In 1215 the term forum (market, business location) is used for Waidhofen for the first time.

The importance of the castle, which was built in the 12th century, was initially very low, as the administrative seat for the Freising areas in the upper Ybbstal was Konradsheim Castle (3 km from the city center). Since the Freising Vogt Konrad II. Count von Peilstein († 1195), who himself owned large areas in what is now Lower Austria, built this castle without the permission of the lender, a lawsuit that lasted generations broke out, which only began with the extinction of the Peilsteiners (or one of the last Sideline) ended in 1218 with the relapse of all Freising possessions.

In the decades that followed, the city was first fortified and expanded as planned on the strategically favorable terrace at the confluence of the Ybbs and Schwarzbach rivers. Waidhofen does not have a town census document, but it is referred to as civitas (town) for the first time in a document as early as 1273. Since then, the typical layout of the two parallel city squares has also existed at different heights.

In the course of a dispute between the Habsburg Duke Rudolf IV (1339–1365) and the Hochstift Freising, Konradsheim Castle and the city were occupied in 1360. The castle was demolished under circumstances that were not exactly clarified, which is why, after the conclusion of peace five years later, the already quite important Waidhofen became the seat of the Freising keepers and thus the regional jurisdiction.

The Bishop of Freising, Berthold von Wehingen, who was also Chancellor of Austria, had the city's defense system thoroughly modernized between 1390 and 1410 (including the construction of 13 towers along the walls).

Iron processing center
Iron ore mining began on the Styrian Erzberg in the 12th century. In Waidhofen, at the intersection of two trade routes (from the Ybbstal and from Weyer im Ennstal), the first blacksmiths developed quickly. In 1236 the minstrel Neidhart von Reuenthal celebrated the quality of a Waidhofner sword. Eisenwurzen as a decentralized - but well-organized - economic area did not emerge until the late Middle Ages. At that time 10% of European iron production was handled in this region, and around the middle of the 16th century even 20%.

Along with Steyr, Waidhofen became the most important iron processing center. At the time of its heyday in the 14th and 15th centuries, 200 blacksmiths from different sectors were active in the city and not only traded in the products throughout the Habsburg Empire, but also exported them via Venice to the Middle East. The Waidhofen motto comes from this time: Ferrum chalybsque urbis nutrimenta, German "Iron and steel feed the city". The late Gothic parish church and the unique knife monstrance are signs of the prosperity of this time.

Hungarians and Turks
Numerous dangers threatened the city over the centuries: The Hungarians fought in vain in front of the city walls and then tried to force Waidhofen to its knees through a siege, but this was caused by the surprising death of the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus (1443 - 1490). was prevented.

The most striking event in the city's history took place in 1532: after the first Turkish siege of Vienna (1529), mounted, lightly armed auxiliary troops (Akıncı) marched through Lower Austria as runners and burners and devastated the country in a kind of terror war. The 500 armed men Waidhofen was able to muster succeeded in driving the enemy to flight in three casualties without any significant fighting. They had to leave rich booty behind, as well as their prisoners, most of which had been murdered by them beforehand: 339 civilians were killed in this way. Thanks to funds from the “Turk Treasure”, the city tower was increased to 50 m. In Waidhofen historiography, especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this event was stylized as a heroic test of Waidhofen.

Decline in the 16th century

In the 16th century there was an economic decline of the city, which was mainly based on the preference of the princely city of Steyr by Emperor Maximilian I (* 1459; † 1519) in the tough competition for metal processing. Serious city fires and pests are also reported from this time.

The greatest catastrophe in Waidhofen developed in the course of the Reformation: In line with the extensive trade relations, numerous young Waidhofers were enrolled at the University of Wittenberg in Saxony. One of them, the playwright Paul Rebhun, even became a close associate of Martin Luther. The new ideas quickly gained a foothold in Waidhofen and at the end of the 16th century the city was largely Protestant. At the same time the city acted as de facto independent of Freising. Using the burgeoning Counter-Reformation, the bishop succeeded in getting the sovereign on his side and in 1587/88 the entire Protestant city council was deposed by an imperial commission and expelled from the country. The town clerk Wolf Ebenperger, leader of the Protestant community, was imprisoned in the castle tower under miserable conditions, where he died after two years. Especially around 1600, the recatholicization was uncompromisingly enforced by the Freising carers and many blacksmith families emigrated to Protestant areas. Almost half of the houses were empty. The crisis was lasting: 100 years later, 87 houses in Waidhofen were uninhabited.

Counter-Reformation and heyday of the 18th century
In the 17th century Waidhofen was looked after by several pastors, under whose work there was an inner renewal of the social life of the city. Bernhard and Augustin Pocksteiner were of outstanding importance. Construction projects from this time are the Baroque transformation of the hospital church, the parish church, the extension of the Marienkapelle and the erection of the Marian column. In economic terms, too, things went uphill again with the introduction of the water-powered forge hammers, the switch to scythe production and the permanent inclusion of Waidhofen in the food production for the Erzberg. In the heyday of the 18th century, 360,000 scythes and 200,000 sickles were produced annually.

Crisis, anti-Semitism and reorientation in the 19th and 20th centuries
In 1786 the function of the city judge as the highest representative of the city was replaced by the office of mayor. In 1803 Freising's reign ended and “Bayrisch Waidhofen” became part of the Habsburg family.

The 19th century brought hard times for Waidhofen: In 1809, 40,000 French soldiers had to be cared for by the population of Waidhofen for eight months. After the French Wars, the developing economic crisis hit the scythe trade existentially. And finally, from 1860 onwards, industrialization led to the disappearance of the small iron industry with the switch to mineral coal instead of charcoal, steam engines instead of water power and the construction of railways that disadvantaged valleys off the main transport routes. Despite some rescue attempts, such as the opening of a teaching and research institute for metal processing (1890) and the construction of the narrow-gauge Ybbstalbahn (1896–1899), the future belonged to large companies such as the Böhler works.

In the 19th century, the fortifications fell into disrepair and were finally razed to make way for the growing city. In 1868 the district administration was relocated to the prosperous Amstetten; as compensation, Waidhofen became an autonomous city with its own statute. The Kronprinz-Rudolfs-Bahn was opened in 1872, thus connecting Waidhofen to the monarchy's railway network. Waidhofen was then able to achieve a certain importance in tourism as a summer resort. The liberal mayor Theodor Freiherr von Plenker (in office from 1894 to 1911) made great contributions to the reorientation of the city.


Due to the decline of the iron industry in the Eisenwurzen at the end of the 19th century, the entire region became impoverished. The Rothschild family became the largest landowners in Lower Austria in the Waidhofen and Gaming area, built up Waidhofen Castle and financed infrastructure, school and cultural projects. In addition, they became the initiators of tourism in the region through hiking tours, skiing and cycling tours. Despite this commitment and the renewed blossoming of the region, especially Waidhofen, which had fallen behind the growing railway town of Amstetten, the region became a model region for anti-Semitism in Austria.

On May 24, 1890, the anti-Semitic Waidhofner Association of the defensive associations of German students in the Ostmark was founded in Waidhofen, the local German national-minded gymnasts, singers and innkeepers met to implement Georg von Schönerer's racist program in their statutes. In 1893 they passed the Waidhofner resolution, with which all Jewish professors and students were to be excluded from the connections involved. In 1896 the Waidhofen principle was enshrined, according to which "Jewish students are dishonorable and lacking in character and devoid of any honor and consequently no satisfaction is to be given to them". To be Mr. Waidhofner as a middle school pupil, student or old man was considered an anti-Semitic trademark. Theodor Herzl, who is generally considered to be the founder of Zionism, was originally a German national fraternity. Only when he was expelled from his association because of the Waidhofen resolution did he begin to campaign for the Jewish nation and vehemently demand the establishment of a Jewish state in Israel. He expressed this view in 1896 in his book "Der Judenstaat".

In July 1919, workers from the Ybbstal marched to Waidhofner Rathaus and demanded the expulsion of all Jews from the city, then to the Bundeskonvikt, where they demanded the dismissal of all Jewish schoolgirls, and then to the Jewish businessmen and the Rothschild Castle. This Waidhofner event was propagated as a model for all of Austria.

In the 20th century, Waidhofen also gained supraregional importance as a school town. In 1972 the large community of Waidhofen was established, which meant a doubling of the population and a multiplication of the area. Thanks to several successful medium-sized companies, Waidhofen has been able to detach itself somewhat from the economic stagnation in the upper Ybbstal in the last few decades. In the last few decades tourism has also played an increasingly important role. In 2018, a plan of measures to regenerate the town center last affected by vacancies and business closings was adopted.