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Subject: [BURGENLAND-NEWSLETTER-L] BB News No. 13A dtd. 14 Jun 1997 (edited)
Date: Sun, 20 Jun 1999 08:13:25 EDT
THE BURGENLAND BUNCH NEWS -No. 13A
(issued as required by )
June 14, 1997
(all rights reserved)
SPECIAL EDITION CONCERNING BURGENLAND CASTLES
This special edition of the newsletter contains a list and description of
"Burgenland" translates from the German as "Castle Country". It sounds like
an old name, but it was actually coined about 1920, when the Austrian
government was deciding what to call this newly acquired Hungarian territory.
Some wanted to call it "Heinzenland", after one of the 12th century German
Counts of Gu"ssing, Heinz (Henz), son of Hedrich, who brought in German
immigrants to support his fiefdom and started the whole German presence in
the Burgenland. There is still a German dialect called "Heinzisch" which
evolved from this presence. There is also a claim that the "Burgs" in
Burgenland, aren't even in the Burgenland, but are really Eisenburg,
Odenburg, Wieselburg and Pressburg. If you're researching written material
before 1921, you won't find anything under the name Burgenland. Try Vas,
Sopron or Moson Megye or Dunatul.
EARLY "BURG" HISTORY
The Burgenland region has been fortified from earliest times. Few modern
archaeological digs have been made, but evidence of early Celtic "hill forts"
is found at Pinkafeld and some Roman fortified sites have been identified at
Deutsch Kaltenbrunn, Ko"nigsdorf and Rax. An early record of Gu"ssing, calls
it "Mons Kiscin", implying a fortified hill top. By the 12th & 13th
Centuries, since this was borderland even then, castles were being built at
strategic points, near river crossings, mountain passes, trade route
junctions and natural barriers. They were also sited to provide a means of
communication. A signal fire, lit on a tower at one site, could be seen at
another and thus an alarm of enemy incursion could be sent rapidly from the
southern Raab river valley north to Sopron or Vienna. The authorities would
thus know of impending trouble well before the arrival of a mounted
messenger. The locals would also know it was time to seek shelter behind
Depending on which way the political winds were blowing, the Hungarians'
enemies were of course the Austrians (the Hapsburgs-the crown) and the Turks;
the Austrians' enemies were the Hungarians (the Magyar nobles who were always
ready to revolt) and the Turks. Both Austrian and Hungarian aristocracy also
had to contend with periodic peasant uprisings whose yoke became to heavy to
bear and foreign incursions (French, German and the Hungarian and Slavic
allies of the Turks). The importance of the Burgenland castles reached its
peak during the Turkish Wars (1525-1710), but by the end of the Napoleonic
Wars (1815), their use as military strong points had diminished. By 1900,
most castles were aristocratic residences, monasteries, museums or romantic
ruins. Many include churches which are still in use. A number are well
preserved and some castles are serving as hotels or restaurants. Most are
open to tourists.
SOME "BURG" ACTION IN WWII
An interesting aside is that the retreating Wehrmacht ( The German Army) used
some of these castles to frustrate Russian Army advances toward the end of
WWII (1945). A PAK 88mm high velocity cannon sited on castle heights would
deny the Russians the use of the surrounding road network for some time.
Their importance as observation posts is obvious. Some were destroyed as a
result. Both Riegersburg (Styria) with seven successive fortified gates, and
Radkersburg were used in this manner. WWII damage can still be seen in
Riegersburg's doors and stonework.
DEFINITION OF "SCHLOSS"
The German word "Schloss" can mean "castle-a fortified place", but it can
also mean "palatial residence" with an administrative, but no military,
significance. Most post 1700 "schloss" or "schlo"ssl" (smaller than a
schloss) buildings signify the latter. It would be less confusing if these
were called mansions (Herrenhaus) or palaces (Palast), but the Austrians seem
to prefer the word "Schloss" for all. I've not included palaces unless they
were built on the ruins of true earlier "castles". A "Wasserschloss" is a
castle with a moat of some sort. There are also castles (va'r, caste'ly) on
the Hungarian side of the border. I hope to cover these in a later
Burgenland castles are important because villages and towns grew up around
them. They were a source of livelihood as well as a haven during troubled
times. Both land, vineyards and villages were included as part of a castle's
"Herrschaft" or fief.
Our ancestors could have served in many capacities. I have even seen a list
of names of the musicians in the the 1680 military band employed by Count
Adam Batthyany! In other words, a castle may be the main reason for our
ancestors to have settled in a particular area either as peasants performing
robot labor, paid employees, members of the military establishment or
suppliers of goods and services. A Sorger ancestor of mine is mentioned in
Gu"ssing records as a "Weinzo"dl" or wine purveyor in 1732. It is very likely
that his best customer was the castellan of the castle, who had over 400
mouths to feed. Some castle records and those of the families (Batthyany,
Esterhazy, etc.) that owned them are still in existence. While generally
difficult to translate (Latin, Hungarian or German script) and often not
available to the public, some do get translated and appear in other
publications. We should be aware of their existence. If the present high
interest in genealogy continues, I believe it is only a matter of time before
many translations become available to the general public. We will then have
another source of family data which has survived the ravages of time. If your
family village was near a castle, you can be certain your ancestors were
Following are the Burgenland Castles which I have found and in some instances
visited. They are listed by region and make an impressive fortified chain of
border strong points from the Danube to the Raab. There may be others. There
are also some fortified churches which are not included.
Region of the Neusiedler See-North East Burgenland-and "the Seewinkel"
Few hills and level marshy land precluded establishment of many important
BREITENBRUNN-Watch Tower in the city square , erected 1689. Now a museum.
Fortified walls through 1786. Owners, Count Paul von
Mattersdorf-Forchtenstein, then Esterhazy family.
HALBTURN-built from a pre 1683 castle, which then became a 1700's hunting
lodge, then a magnificent Austrian baroque "schloss" (c1810), by architect
J. Lukas von Hildebrandt. Has the look of a feudal castle. Damaged and burned
during WWII, (central section spared).
KITTSEE-one of the earliest and easternmost castles was built here and
provided a doorway to Hungary. Various fortified buildings were built as well
as a hunting "schloss". Now greatly restored in palatial style and site of an
PURBACH-market place is still surrounded by a wall, with three gates and a
RUST-As a free city (1681), Rust had fortified walls from 1512, but no
evidence of a castle.
Rosalia Region-North West Burgenland
"Hu"gelland" or hill country, encompassing the "Rosalia" mountains, this is
ideal castle country.
DRASSBURG-On the Hungarian border with a history dating from 1304, its name
implies there was an earlier castle and such is the case. The present church
of this Croatian village was built on the foundations of a castle built 1289
and destroyed in 1477.There is an interesting "Schloss" (Zichy family) dating
from the 1700's.
EISENSTADT-another free city (1648), no longer has a castle, but the location
of the massive 200 room Esterhazy palace, built in 1663-73 on the foundation
of an earlier medieval castle. Has large gateways and an interior parade
ground and six assembly halls. Includes a "Haydn" museum and concert hall.
There were fortified city walls and towers and the present cathedral (Dom St.
Martin) was part of the defensive structure of the town, with towers,
turrets and arrow slits in its walls. There is a modern underground car park
next door to the palace grounds. The juxtaposition of the two is mind
FORCHTENAU; "BURG FORCHTENSTEIN"-The premier castle in all of the Burgenland
if not in all of Austria. First built in the 1300's by the Counts of
Mattersdorf and later improved by the Princes Esterhazy (starting 1622), it
served as one of their residences and never fell to an enemy. Today it still
belongs to Esterhazy heirs, is in a remarkable state of preservation and
contains a museum of weapons from the 14th to 18th centuries, Burgenland and
Turkish War historical items, memorabilia of the Esterhazy Regiment from the
Seven Years War, portraits of the Esterhazy family and the Esterhazy family
A stone causeway leading to a drawbridge over the moat, the "Black Tower" and
a 455 feet deep cistern built by Turkish prisoners are impressive. It is open
to the public and special exhibitions and programs are held. A "must see"
for any Burgenland visitor! Featured on a recent PBS television series, "The
Castles of Europe".
Middle Burgenland-Another hilly area which includes the "Geschriebenstein"
(883m), the highest mountain in the Burgenland and on the
DEUTSCHKREUTZ-founded in 1245, is right on the Hungarian border. Ruins of a
previously destroyed castle were rebuilt in 1625-1630. It was a typical
combination aristocratic residence, castle and economic center with gothic
arcades, four outer bastions and watch towers. Has a 17th Century chapel.
Badly damaged during WWII, it can not be visited.
HANNERSDORF-BURG-ruins of a 1244 castle and 15th Century Gothic church.
KOBERSDORF-a "Wasserschloss" or moated castle, from the 1300's, rebuilt in
1656. Called "Die Ma"chtige" (the mighty) because of its massive round corner
towers. Surrounded by a broad ditch of water, it is a typical moated castle.
The original aristocratic family names were "Kery" and "Weisspriach" . Chapel
and early graves. Kobersdorf was in the fore front of border wars.
LACKENBACH-another early "Wasserschloss" built about 1618 by Nikolaus
Esterhazy, no data.
LANDSEE-old ruins from 1300's, some parts from the 16th & 17th Centuries; was
one of the largest castles in Austria. Near Ko"gl (north) and the border with
the province of Lower Austria.
LOCKENHAUS-another "mighty" castle, but in two parts, the lower built in the
1600's on the highest mountain in the Burgenland ("Geschriebenstein"). The
upper part was built about 1242 and contains a famous Gothic knight's hall
("Rittersaal"), chapel and massive casemates. The "Keep" is surrounded by
five outer works of high thick walls. Possession of the Counts of Gu"ssing
from 1242, Esterhazy's in 1676. May have been owned by the Knights Templar.
MATTERSBURG-ruins of a castle owned by the Mattersdorfs, who later built
OBERPULLENDORF-castle from the 1700's, now site of a technical college.
ROTENTURM-("red tower")-a "schloss" built over an earlier (1334) moated
Southern Burgenland- Traversed by a range of hills and containing the valleys
of the Pinka, Raab, Strem and Lafnitz Rivers, this is ideal castle country.
River valley heights were excellent defensive positions.
BERNSTEIN-another "mighty". Built in the 1300's, restored in the 1600's, in
the Renaissance style, it was plundered and blown up in 1705 and rebuilt.
Very strong outer bastions. Has a Knight's Hall. Operated today as a romantic
hotel. Beautiful appointments and grounds. Said to be haunted by the "white
lady". Area known for "jade", (edelserpentin) used for jewelry.
EBERAU-ruins of a "Wasserschloss". Right on the Hungarian border, was of
major importance. Owned by the Ellerbach (1465), then Erody and Zrinyi
families. A 17th century picture shows it and its church surrounded by
fortified walls. A local border crossing is nearby.
GU"SSING-begun in 1157, supposedly on the ruins of a Roman hill fort,
Gu"ssing Castle has a lengthy, well documented history. In the possession of
various owners, it was begun by "Wolfer and Hedrich out of Viltonia (Styria)
with 40 riders", founders of the line of the "mighty counts of Gu"ssing" who
were powerful enough to tweak royal noses until 1387 when the line died out.
Ownership then reverted to Hungarian King Stephen who gave it to the Peterfi
family. They lost it to Nicholas Ujlaky, Prince of the Siebenburgen. This
line became extinct in 1524; it was then acquired by the Batthyanys, who own
it today (Draskovits-Strattman line). Now operated as a museum with special
programs. Has a chapel with 16th Century organ, Knight's Hall and picture
gallery. Clock in bell tower strikes the hours and can be heard in nearby
villages. City is clustered around the base of castle hill. Most picturesque.
Road to the "Keep" passes through ruins of many outer defensive works and
walls. Can also be seen from villages throughout the district. The "Inner
Stadt" (city) also had a series of walls (2.2 meters thick) as well as gates
and towers, some still incorporated in the buildings of today. There is a
legend of a tunnel leading from castle to city.
MOGERSDORF-scene of the Battle of Szt. Gotthard in 1664, when Count
Montecuccoli achieved a major victory over the Turks. There is mention of a
"schlo"ssl" being used as his headquarters. There is also a memorial park on
the battle site, called the "schlosslberg". No castle ruins. There is a
Turkish record of a reconnaissance patrol from this battle which got as far
as Gu"ssing; they took one look at the castle, decided discretion was the
better part of valor and turned around and went back to Mogersdorf and
NEUHAUS-ruins of a former Batthyany castle (Burg Dobra), the southernmost
Burgenland castle. Small "Castle Tabor", a hunting lodge (near Mu"hlgraben)
is slightly north. From this point, southern Burgenland ends and the province
of Styria begins with its own castles.
OLBENDORF-"Castro (Schloss) Olber"; Castle here as early as 1271, no longer
in evidence, although there is a memorial tablet. Was located south east of
the church on hills called "Schlossriegel". Belonged to Duke Albert II in
1289; 1291-1468, to Counts of Gu"ssing; 1469, to Andreas Baumgartner, from
1566, Batthyany. Destroyed during the Bocksky Rebellion (1605).
RECHNITZ-17th Century castle (with 13th Century antecedents) totally
destroyed in WWII.
SCHLAINING-well preserved and used today as an international conference
center. Built by the Counts of Gu"ssing in the 13th Century, reverted to the
crown and presented to Andreas Baumkircher, knight, in 1445 by Emperor
Frederick III and later enlarged. Has one of the largest "Keeps" and was one
of the most powerful castles in the province with 30 foot thick walls.
Occupied by Soviet forces, WWII. Open to visitors, there is a museum. Has
STINATZ-village named by Croatian immigrants about 1530 after "Castle
Stenicnjak", in ruins in Croatia today. Included since it's the only village
I know that was named for a foreign castle!
A total of at least 24 castles, truly a strong argument for calling this
(Note, since the literature consulted spans over ninety years, conditions at
some castles may have changed-if visiting be sure to check current local
References: AUSTRIA, Phaidon Cultural Guide, Prentice Hall, 1985. AUSTRIA &
THE AUSTRIANS, S. Musulin, Praeger Publishers, 1972. BAEDEKER'S AUSTRIA,
1900. BEZIRK GU"SSING & BEZIRK JENNERSDORF-IM WANDEL DER ZEIT, Kisner &
Peternell, Lannach, Austria, 1996. BOOK OF AUSTRIA, E. Marboe, Austrian State
Printing & Publishing House, Vienna,1948. BURGENLAND FU"R JEDERMANN,
Zimmermann & Gesellmann, Wien, 1980. BURGENLAND O"STERREICH, Merkurverlag,
Graz, Austria 1974. CASTLE HOTELS OF EUROPE, Long, Hastings House, 1973.
END OF NEWSLETTER-EDITED & DISTRIBUTED BY GERALD J. BERGHOLD, For information
concerning the Burgenland Bunch, contact .