THE CASTLE OF LOCKENHAUS
The existence of the castle of Lockenhaus can already be verified for the years since 1200, when it was called “Leuca”. At that time it belonged to Bana, the prefect of Sopron from the Herény family. It was supposed to block the Zöbern valley and control the roads leading to the west. Lockenhaus’ owners changed several times, as it happened with many fortifications in the Austro-Hungarian border region, and therefore often changed its strategic orientation.
In 1241 Duke Friedrich der Streitbare (Frederik the Warlike) occupied the Hungarian border counties, but two years later the Hungarians recaptured the area. The native Bavarian Buzád-Hahold family settled people from Bavaria and Styria to the area which originally was inhabited mostly by Slavs but had been depopulated by the Mongol invasion. Count Demetrius II Csák, who was related to the Buzáds, handed over the castle to a nobleman named Torda. After Count Csák had had an dispute with the Hungarian King Béla IV, he left the dominion to his father-in-law Heinrich II of Güssing in 1270.
Heinrich’s son Nikolaus I called himself “Count the Leuka” and founded the Lockenhaus line of the counts of Güssing. His son Nikolaus II successfully defended Lockenhaus when it was besieged by his nephew Andreas in 1318. When in 1336 King Karl Robert I of Anjou broke the power of the counts of Güssing and the Voivode Stefan Láczkfi conquered Lockenhaus through treason after a long siege, the castle came into the possession of the Hungarian Crown. In 1390 King Sigismund gave the castle with the extended estate as a feud to the Kanizsay family, who kept it until 1535. They also executed the land jurisdiction. In 1405 Stephan Kanizsay invaded Austria and ravaged the border region. This resulted in Duke Wilhelm of Austria arming a punitive expedition and the conquest of Lockenhaus. Following the Peace of Pressburg, it was returned to the Kanizsays in 1409.
When in 1490
Emperor Maximilian I’s troops conquered the castle, the Kanizsays changed
fronts and so could remain in possession of Lockenhaus. By the marriage of
Ursula Kanizsay with Thomas Nádasdy the dominion came into possession of the
Nádasdy family. Thomas had excelled in the Turkish wars and strove towards an
arrangement between Emperor Ferdinand I and his rival, King Johann Zápolya. His
son Franz II was married to the “blood countess” Elisabeth Báthory. It is
said that after his death, she sadistically tortured and murdered 650 young
girls in Lockenhaus and, mainly, at her widow domicile in Csejthe (today’s
Cachtice in Slovakia).
In 1676 Count Paul Esterházy gained the dominion. His descendants kept the castle until the middle of the 20th century but didn’t live there, so it fell to its ruins. Around the middle of the 19th century 16 families lived in the half-decayed rooms of the stronghold. During the years 1902-1906 Prince Nikolaus V Esterházy had some restoration work done. The great hall and some adjacent parts had been romantically renewed by architect Prof. Stephan Möller. The outer castle was arranged as a museum. In 1935 the chapel tower got a new roof. Towards the end of the Second World War and during the postwar period the castle had been quite devastated due to accommodations. The lower castle not only was missing the roofs, but partly also the ceilings.
In 1957 the roofs were remade, but the rescue did not happen until 1968, when
the Styrian author Paul Anton Keller bought the ruinous building and had it
restored. He died in 1976 and his widow placed the castle in a foundation, in
which also the State of Burgenland has a share. Today Lockenhaus serves as the
cultural center of the county of Oberpullendorf. Well-known became the “Lockenhaus
concerts”, which take place in the summers. Next to the castle you can visit
the Prof. Paul Anton Keller Museum. The outer bailey is used as hotel and
restaurant. The castle is shrouded in legend more than any other in Burgenland.
However, the “indelible bloodstain” in the great hall, which is said to
originate from the massacre of innocent Templars, turned out to be red algae on
the moist brickwork.
Next to the main gate is a guard house. Passing it, you stand in the outer bailey in front of the massive complex. From a distance it seems that there are two castles ahead, but the lower one is only the outer bailey of the other one above. With its red-yellow-red painted shutters and the bright brickwork it seems, in spite of the two corner bastions, more inviting than the much older main castle. The outer bailey was built in the 17th century on the foundations of former economic and military buildings. The old sundial shows the year 1655. The northeast round tower still has key-shape arrow slits. Its base probably originates from an ancient advanced defense tower.
The two floors of the high three-wing building of the outer bailey include several with massive vaults equipped rooms. Originally from Siena architect Pietro Orsolini is considered to be the creator of the Baroque hall. Powerful barrel vaults span the basement of the North and West wing. Underneath the so-called Hajduken parlors on the east side is a mighty Gothic cellar, which was partially quarried out of the rock.
On the south side of the courtyard the picturesque gate tower with its pointed roof overtops the masonry. Passing through it, you get into the middle courtyard. Originally, there were vaulted rooms in its place, what is still indicated by different vault beginnings. Here also was a dungeon, which was quarried out of the rock by Turkish prisoners in the 16th century. A documented from 1557 reports that 16 Turks were burnt alive in the dungeon. From the middle courtyard you can enter the old kitchen of the castle, which was extended the same year by Thomas Nádasdy. The impressive hearth area is canopied by a bulky-looking chimney. Two adjacent casemates were used as pantries. A dumbwaiter led up to the stronghold.
A covered and arcaded staircase led through a reinforced gate from the middle to the polygonal upper courtyard. In its center is a hole in the ground, which illuminates a subterranean room. This so-called “cultic hall” still gives reason for mystical speculation today. It is a rectangular barrel-vaulted room with two vestibules, behind its cube walls is older herringbone patterned masonry. This type of masonry suggests that this is one of the oldest rooms of the castle. The round hole in the ceiling meets a rain water collection bowl embedded in the ground. However, the assumption that this room was a secret sanctuary of the Knights Templar lacks any scientific background. Possibly, the small hall rather had a much more prosaic purpose and served as a crypt, treasury, prison, or cistern.
On the north side of the courtyard is the massive pentagonal tower house from around 1200. Its purpose was to protect the defensive side of the castle. It, like the chapel tower and the vestibule room, is masoned of beautifully carved ashlar rocks holding stone cutters’ marks. Its merlons are hidden under a flat roof today. The gate reveal of the high entrance, which is at the height of the first floor, is still preserved. The wooden structures of the six floors were burned by uninvited visitors in the postwar period. In the 16th century, a staircase was added to the donjon, which allowed access to the other rooms of the stronghold.
In the 17th century it was only used as a powder and weapons depot. Opposite of the donjon is the hall, probably built by the Earls of Güssing, with the Gothic but heavily restored “Knights’ hall” on the ground floor. This hall is also always associated with the Knights Templar, although there is no documentary indication that they have ever owned the castle. It is a two-nave secular building with a cross rib vault borne by five octagonal pillars, rather reminiscent of a church nave. The long hall occupies the full width of the southern front and so almost half of the inhabited area of the old castle. Due to the slightly curved ground plan it’s bent in the middle. Its “Romanesque windows” originate from the historicist restoration in the early 20th century. Above this room, Paul Anton Keller installed a large concert hall. East of the donjon the chapel tower protrudes from the front wall. Its Early Gothic windows are divided by little columns with bud capitals. In front of it is a small staircase in which a snail-staircase led to the “Pfaffenstube”, the flat of the castle chaplain.
In the top floor
was the belfry. The castle’s small chapel is dedicated to Saint Nicholas. It
contains fragments of Romanesque frescoes from the early 13th century, which are
among the oldest of Burgenland. So you can recognize Saint Nicholas in a window
reveal. Traces of the Gothic elements which had been destroyed during the
subsequent Baroque-ization are still recognizable. The space underneath the
chapel originally served as the Nádasdy’s family tomb, but this was relocated
to the crypt of the town’s parish church in 1669 by Franz II Nádasdy, who had
founded the church. The other, the yard surrounding wings date from the 16th
century, the quadrangular building protruding from the round old castle from the
17th century. In the southwest corner of the upper courtyard a fountain was
driven allegedly almost 120 meters deep down to the valley floor in 1549.
Homepage of the Lockenhaus Castle: http://www.ritterburg.at/
by Scholem Alejchem