The Castle of Hardegg is one of the most important and best preserved fortresses in Lower-Austria (Niederösterreich).
It was built between the 11th and 12th Century on a sharp granite rock, during the Babenbergers dynasty period, and romantically placed at the meeting point of the rivers Thaya and Fugnitz, today Nationalpark Thayatal, and in times long past, the border to the north-eastern world.
This "Burg" was part of a series of fortresses which constituted a fortificated border (from Freistadt-Upper-Austria- to Moravia) to protect the country from the invasion of the slavic tribes.
Having lost his defense purposes, it was turned in the 17th Century into a "hunting lodge" and end of the 19th Century, after enormous restorations works, into a museum, opened to the public. The museum is dedicated to Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, former Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg, brother of Emperor Franz-Josef of Austria and related to the owners family.
The very first "stoned" Burg Hardegg was built between the 11th and 12th Century on a sharp rock, at the meeting point of the rivers Thaya and Fugnitz. But recent excavation works have proved that in the 10th Century a wooden-defense tower was already existing on the top of the rock. Very interesting tools of the time were found. The construction was progressively extended until the 14th Century and reached then its "culmination point" by owing five towers and seven fortificated doors.
The Burg had , during the course of many centuries, quite exclusively defense purposes, but owned also a "Palas" never used as a residence by its owners: neither by its previous nor present ones.
The name of "Hardegg" means in old german "Forest Corner".
The first owners of the castle were the Counts of Hardegg, who joined Ottokar of Bohemia (1230-1278). Since the Babenberger Dynasty died out, the Counts of Hardegg, together with the nobles owning the other "Burgs", decided in Hardegg to elect Ottokar Duke of Austria, and later in 1251, King of Austria and served during years his cause loyally.
At the expiring of the Hardegg Family, the name and the title of Counts of Hardegg (as well as the castle) were transmitted first to the Rabenswalde, then to the Maidburger and finally to the Prüschenk (Barons of Stettenberg) Families.
- In 1506, the castle was nearly totally destroyed by a major fire, but was soon rebuilt by Count Henry of Hardegg.
- In 1609, Burg Hardegg became, for only two generations (from 1656 to 1730), the property of French Counts -the Counts of Saint-Julien- originally from Provence, and who came to Austria for war service purposes.
- In 1683, the castle was used as safe for preserving the church silver of the town of Retz, during the Turkish invasion.
- Finally, on the 1st of August 1730, the Counts of Saint-Julien sold the property of Hardegg, Riegersburg and Prutzendorf to Imperial Count Sigmund-Friedrich von Khevenhüller.
- In 1755, a violent earthquake damaged the back part of Burg Hardegg.
- Soon after, in 1764, the Castle was robbed and distroyed by the population, who used the Burg stones and elements to rebuilt the town of Hardegg, which had been badly damaged by a large fire. Therefore, from that moment onwards, the Castle of Hardegg stood as a ruin for more than 100 years.
- In 1878, Johann-Carl, Prince of Khevenhüller-Metsch decided to rebuild the Burg and he commissioned the Architects Gangolf Kayser and Humbert Walcher, Knight of Moldheim. The restoration of the castle was stopped in
- 1905, date of Prince Johann-Carl of Khevenhüller-Metsch´s death.
The restored parts include:
- 1 tower
- the summer-kitchen
- 2 museums show-rooms: the Museum Emperor Maximilian of Mexico and a documentation about the princely family Khevenhüller-Metsch.
- The Castle Chapel with the family crypt (with 19 tombs of members or relatives of the princely family Khevenhüller-Metsch.
- And some more rooms.
Naturally, during the last world war, the castle suffered again some more damages.
Interesting to visit:
- The Museum of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, unique in the world.
Prince Johann-Carl zu Khevenhüller-Metsch was the Aide-de-camp (ADC) to the Emperor, born as Ferdinand-Maximilian, Archiduke of Austria and brother of the Austrian Emperor Franz-Joseph. Khevenhüller, belonging to the austrian volunteers corps and beeing also the colonel of the Red Hussars in Mexico, succeded through his diplomatic contacts with General Porfirio Diaz, in getting back the corpse of the Emperor after his execution.
This last was brought back by Admiral Tegethoff on the Novara Frigate.
Khevenhüller restored Burg Hardegg end of his century, to install a place of the remembrance for his worshipped Emperor Maximilian, displaying souvenirs and objects of that mexican epic. There can be see, for instance, his death mask and many other souvenirs or personal objects.
- The exhibition about Prince Johann-Carl zu Khevenhüller-Metsch and the
Khevenhüller-Metsch genealogical tree.
- The winter-kitchen.
- The Khevenhüller´s arms collection (only with guided tour)
- The Chapel (mixed romanesque and gotic style) with a back vestry, straight opposite to the altar (rare because it is with the one of Riegersburg Palace the only one in Lower-Austria, some say even in Austria).
The Castle of Hardegg has remained in the Family Khevenhüller-Metsch until today. The eldest daughter of the last Prince Khevenhüller-Metsch, Marianne, inherited it and her son Gotthard Graf Pilati von Thassul zu Daxberg is the pesent owner.