The forgotten castle
Description and history of the castle

Front view of the castle with its visual axis © Initiative Haggenberg

The castle is located about 40 miles north of Vienna in a village named Hagenberg in the district of Mistelbach, in the middle of a region called “Wine Quarter”. It lies in the headwaters of a feeder of the Zaya, which is dewatered over the March into the Danube. About 8 miles north of the village, the Thaya forms the border between Austria and the Czech Republic. It cuts through a landscape with a coordinated history and represents one of the numerous quadrangular moated castles, which were built in the 12th and 13th centuries as making part of a fortification line. At the end of the 17th century, the height of the Baroque way of life the castle amidst the whole valley was completely redesigned as a hermetic place of glory.

The spelling of the name
The name Hagenberg, which is derived from an Arabian battle ax, was basically pronounced and written with a K in modern times, ie “Hakenberg”, “Hakkenberg”, “Hachenberg and so on. At the height of its glory the spelling “Haggenberg”, which was shortened around 1800 to “Hagenberg”, which has been the official name ever since. I prefer HAGGENBERG for the historical and cultural in accordance with the original spelling.


The castle until 70 years ago was famous for its painting of the outer and inner courtyard walls which since were washed away by the sour rain. This section describes the remaining illustrations inside the castle referring to Greek mythology.


The driveway

The castle stands at the western end of the village and is surrounded by a 30-yard-wide, reedy ditch. The access road leads through a short chestnut alley over a four-storey stone bridge directly to the entrance portal in the northeast wing of the building. The four-storey, covered with gable roofs surround an approximately square inner courtyard. The exterior facades and the courtyards show traces of the former architectural painting, for which the castle was known until the late fifties. Today, the front of the entrance is largely overgrown with climbing plants.
The rusticated entrance portal bears the coat of arms of Imperial Count Theodor von Sinzendorf, the creator of the Baroque castle and opens to a viewing axis, which leads through the entrance hall, the courtyard and the Sala terrena exposing the back of the building. All ground floor rooms are vaulted.

The entrance hall

Walls and ceilings of the two-aisled, cross-vaulted foyer are decorated with heavily faded grisaille paintings which mark it as hall of Fame of the imperial army. Here the date of August 12, 1687, when a Count Sinzendorf was killed in action against the Ottoman Empire is all important for the designation of this castle.1

Vestibule with entrance to staircase in the northern corner © Initiative Haggenberg

The courtyard

The inner courtyard is determined by a well filled with spring water from the surrounding forests. This well was filled up 200 years ago to allow the passage of the harvested carriages into the grotto. From the octagonal enclosure of the fountain a hewn sandstone is still in place.

The grotto

From the courtyard one passes through an archway, which ceiling fresco shows an old man lying under a tree on the shore of a sea next to a bucket from which water flows. Three children spreading a net stand in the water. The man represents Okeanos, the Greek original god of the water, whose three children were named according to the Orphic tradition. Okeanos was also the name of the giant river that flows constantly around the earth’s disk. Just as in Hagen­berg, where the moat around the castle turns it into a lonely island in the oceans of this world.

The water god Okeanos resting on the shores of the sea .© Initiative Haggenberg

Through this gate you are entering the castle’s grotto or Sala terrena, whose richly stuccoed ceiling is decorated with medallions surrounded by imprints of muskets and tuff and stalactites. From the two basins one has been preserved on the north-western broad side. Behind the basins, sculptures pairs are set up as gargoyles. Although they may have been deliberately smashed already in the Napoleonic Wars – three of the four heads are still missing – their identity is still readable: The figures Neptune, god of the sea sitting on a dolphin next to his wife, the Oceanid Amphitrite. On the opposite pedestal Diana, the virgin goddess of the hunt turns kneeling to her only lover, the hunter Orion, immortalized by his constellation in the night sky.

Neptune with Amphitrite in the south-eastern niche. © Initiative Hagenberg

Orion with Diana in the north-western niche © Initiative Hagenberg


The rooms on the upper floors are covered with flat ceilings almost entirely lined with stucco. The ceiling of the banqueting hall is missing. They are accessed through a staircase from the entrance hall in the norther corner of the building, which is bounded by a stone balustrade. In the southeast tract is a spiral staircase also leads to this floor.

The Venus room in the west corner

The well-preserved ceiling fresco shows the birth of the goddess Venus in the waters. Neptune with his trident calms down his son Triton, god of the wild waters. Up in heaven Juno, the wife of Jupiter, sits in a chariot pulled by two peacocks.

Neptune monitors the birth of Venus © Initiative Haggenberg

In this west corner room a chapel was set up in the Middle Ages, dedicated to St. George, as it can be seen in its surviving endowments. The again richly decorated stucco around the ceiling carries next to angels and cherubs also the letter T on three cubes: This is the only reference to Theodor von Sinzendorf, the creator of the baroque reconstruction of Haggenberg.

The temple hall of the two Hermesses

From there the two-storied main hall of the castle, which is equipped with four double doors, two fireplaces and eight windows on each side. The ceiling is formed by heavy chubby trees, the former stucco ceiling is missing. All four walls of the hall were originally covered with illusionistic architectural pain­tings. These in 1938 were whitewashed for hygienic reasons – the hall was indeed long used as a granary – which still covers most of the baroque frescoes. These represent a temple whose columns are lined up between the windows and doors on all four walls. Two figures are depicted on both sides of the centre of the hall between the columns, symbolizing the cult images of the temple: on the wall opposite the courtyard, as can be seen from its floppy hat, is the Greek god Hermes, who walks past the visitor to the underworld. The youngster gesticulating on the garden side stands on a square stone and thus can be identified as the “soul” of Hermes named Pimander, who explains us the basic principles of the cosmos. Hermes is the messenger of Zeus, but he is also the god of the dream, because he lets the visitor fall asleep with his wand.
At last, he accompanies the deceased into the underworld.

Quote Hermes on a square base

The fact that the learned Hermes / Mercury could finally be imagined in the antropomorphous appearance of the Arcadian youth is attested by Galen in Gyraldi (Synt.9, page 410). Accordingly, the painters and painters [Hermes] represented the father of the speech (“oratio”) and the author of all arts as a youth, standing on a square base, which was a picture of stability and firmness.
From: Hans-K. and Susanne Lücke, ANTIKE MYTHOLOGIE a Handbook, Hamburg 1999 page 457

Quote Poimandres speech to Hermes

2. I say, “Who are you?” He replies, “I am Poimandres, the Spirit who has the highest power. I know what you want and always stay by your side. “
3. I reply: “I want to understand beings and understand their nature and know God. How (gladly), I said, I want to hear about it. “He replies to me,” Keep everything in your mind, what you want to understand, and I’ll teach you. “

The Cupid room in the southern corner

The adjoining room of the castle is assigned to Amor. The ceiling fresco depicts the Greek hero Hercules as a slave sitting next to Queen Omphale of Lydia. Both are joined by the cupid hovering over them, whose arrow is aimed at the hero’s left shoulder, where she touches him.

Omphale takes Hercules’ military equipment and lets him spin, whilst Amor with his arrow units them as lovers. © Initiative Haggenberg


There are two periods when the extraordinary features of this castle came to the fore: The foundation of 1220 and the Baroque heyday of 1700.


The castle was at founded by Henry von Hackenberg, who can be identified with Heinrich von Hackingen, who served as Marshal of Duke Leopold VI. of Austria to accompany him in the crusade of 1217 in the Holy Land. There the Knights Templar, which just – after Jerusalem was lost in 1187 – completed their new headquarters, the fortress Atlit on the coast of the Mediterranean. He is likely to have brought knowledge and certainly also indigenous builders home. Already in the year 1224 his name appeared in a document: Ulrich von Liechtenstein reported him at the tournament in Friesach in Carinthia: “there was also the barren man von hakenberc, who can do wunders “.

His castle became the center of a reign that commanded more than two dozen villages, as well as rights that extended from the Moravian border to the Danube. In this building, the essential concepts of occidental castle and palace buildings are united: The idea of delimited space accentuated by walls, ditches, ramparts, which creates an orderly interior opposite the lawless exterior.

The castle was first mentioned in Henry`s testament in 1264. His son Otto I became 1286 leader in the uprising against the Habsburg Duke Albrecht I and vanished on the way to find support from the Bohemian king in Prague. In 1382 the family died out. In 1414 it was owned by the Liechtenstein family seated in Nikolsburg (now Mikulov) in Moravia. In 1479, the Nuremberg patricians Georg and Michael Behaim from Nuremberg acquired the possession and in 1496 were granted the right by the Emperor Maximilian I., to rebuild the castle devastated by the “black mercenary army” of the Hungarian King Mathias Corvinus. It was followed in 1543 by Christoph von Kuenritz, who, following Jakob Fugger from Augsburg, was linked to the copper mines of Neusohl in what was then Upper Hungary. The beginning of the 17th century led to a renewed plundering of the castle by the Hungarians, so that after the end of the Thirty Years War it was found in desolate condition.

The Vischer engraving approx. 1665. The reverse printed engraving by Georg Matthäus Vischer: View from the west from the present back of the castle, with remains of the outer walls without the rectangular moat.


In 1650, Sigismund Friedrich Graf von Sinzendorf, already owner of Ernstbrunn, the biggest castle in the neighbourhood, purchased Hagenberg. In 1653/54 the family acquired through a possession on the Rhine the title of “Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire”. The castle was determined and fortified in 1663 by the Lower Austrian estates as a “refuge” against the Turks – a 30-meter-wide moat with four bastions was created.
The magic moment for Haggenberg struck in 1677, when Imperial Count Theodor von Sinzendorf inherited the building from his uncle and for nearly thirty years developed it into one of the most brilliant places in the region.
The chief urbarium Haggenberg from 1715:
HAGGENBERG CASTLE – A FIEF OF THE SOVEREIGN THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY COMPLETELY DEVASTATED, the late THEODOR COUNT OF SINZENDORFF as first holder of the majorate has elevated it greater and more apparent for him and the whole family to immeasurable glory with great expenses in such a building condition that the like cannot be seen in the whole quarter under the Manhartsberg.

First Lower Austrian land survey, approx. 1765 © ÖNB Wien

In the middle of the moat surrounding the castle as an island, a geometric garden was created, from which avenues ran out, and a canal to a dammed lake, on which for over hundred years Gondolieri from Venice rowed the excellencies to a Murano glass pavilion and a lagoon. The castle was intended for a circle of illustrious people, who rallied around the imperial court in Vienna in contact with the spiritual elite of Europe. Emperor Leopold the First and his son Joseph, just crowned Roman King visited the castle and its lake in 1691.
Above all, however, Count Theodor was very concerned with the well-being of his subjects, as can be seen from his “Great Robot Freedom Letter” of 1699 but also from his last will of 1705. The contact of the last polymath, the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz with the Imperial Count Sigismund Rudolf of Sinzendorf, Grande of Spain, chief Court chancellor of Emperor Karl VI., who was the younger brother of Theodor and in possession of the dominion from 1713 to 1747 confirms the continuous exclusivity of the castle of the owners.


In 1773, Count Prosper Anton Joseph, the last Sinzendorf, who became duke in 1803, inherited the rule of Haggenberg and gradually united all possessions of the family in his hands. He was one of the first adherents of the Enlightenment in Austria remodelling Ernstbrunn castle to a “romantic fairy tale” until he fell on his way in 1822 on the way to Carlsbad out of his coach. The rich heritage inherited Duke Henry IV of Reuss-Köstritz from Thuringia. Hagenberg Castle was given up, used exclusively for agricultural purposes, be it as apartments for the employees of the estate or as granary. The lake was drained, the avenue trees were removed and the gardens were used as an orchard. In the two Napoleonic wars, the already empty castle was devastated, its sculptures smashed. The painted facades of the castle still formed a special feature until the late fifties of the last century.
In 1940, during the Second World War, about 30 Belgian prisoners of war were housed, who felt at home here and were also perpetuated by name. On April 19, 1945, the castle narrowly escaped its destruction when it was hit by a Russian tank. At the end of the war the dominion was placed under the Soviet administration as “German property”. In 1954, with the Austrian State Treaty, it was returned to the Reuss family, but in 1959 all fields were sold to the farmers of the village. There was a plan to demolish the vacant building: its walls should have served as bulk material for the field roads, “so that the farmers finally would have some gain from the castle.” – it was nothing but a troublesome remnant of past centuries. With the disappearance of its function the place was abandoned to a quiet, introverted decay.

When the banal is made extraordinary, what really matters is no longer recognizable. The fate of the castle is reflected in the spiritual decay of our time. It deals with those prescriptions which determined the self-understanding of man until the Enlightenment; his position in the cosmos, in which he had been measured over millennia. A prime example of this mental degradation are those buildings that once formed the epitome of power and art awareness is Schloss Hagenberg, which got itself mutilated by the authorities even by shorting its name.

But there exist aspects which are to be mentioned as positive: The purely agricultural use of the building meant that the rooms were basically not changed, it was spared from by the usual adaptations of the 19th and 20th centuries to improve life quality, but also by the changed taste. Even the fact that the rooms kept empty their had become clearer.

Emptying the landscape

In the “Wine Quarter”, the dismantling of the cultural landscape, which has grown over centuries, is inexorably progressing. The closed form of the villages, which is unique in Central Europe, is thoughtlessly given up in favour of conceptions that are ubiquitous. The peculiarity of the landscape developed over centuries is no longer recognized, is abandoned without contradiction. For a long time, the region on the north-eastern border of this country has been on the march into insignificance. It is not just the marginal situation with its economic consequences, but the spiritual neglect from the authorities which deliberately obscures that this area formed the centre of Europe in the last centuries.

The disappearance of water

The spiritual emptying of the landscape corresponds to the ongoing decline of the life element water. Already the second traditional coat of arms of the Hackenberg, is a Slavic fish arrow proves on what the people were fed for six hundred years. Today, under the same climatic conditions, it has become inconceivable how it was possible to retain every drop so that a continuous pond landscape could emerge. In Hagenberg the water of the lake has long since disappeared. But it was not until fifty years ago that its dam, a monument of natural and cultural history of the first order was dismantled as part of the aim of making everything equal. The complete and thorough channeling of the entire region has contributed to a loss of value of unprecedented proportions.

The disposal of culture

A development that is largely underestimated and has been increasing alarmingly in recent years is the loss of cultural values in the form of consumer goods, pictures and printed matter, especially books from estates, with which the heirs can do nothing more and which be disposed of as bulky waste at the collecting points present in each municipality. The whole country is covered by this emptying. With the demolition of old farmhouses in the middle of the villages, which are replaced by new ones, this loss is total.
Most of what is produced today as art has no relation to values, it is only self-realization which makes the general misery a determining factor overall.


1 see section 5 – SYMBOLS


Michael & Marion Osmann Hagenberg 1, 2133 Fallbach


A tour through the castle is possible on every Sunday at 2:30 p.m. during the warm season or on appointment. Meeting point on the brick bridge over the moat. The tour lasts about 90 minutes. Please register at:

+43 660 1606233

For details see link under: Openings

Connoisseurs of ancient mythology welcome.

The restoration of the temple hall

Those who would like to be part of the refurbishment can do so on the special donation account IBAN: Vereinskonto Initiative Haggenberg AT83 3241 3000 0008 3824              (BIC: RLNWATWWLAA)

Details see link under: Journal - The restoration of the temple hall

News / Journal


The smashed Renaissance oriel of Laa an der Thaya

The smashed Renaissance oriel of Laa an der Thaya

The city of Laa an der Thaya lies on the northern border of Austria, which is one of the oldest borders in open landscape of Europe. It was built in the 13th century on rectangular floor plan with four large squares, which were intended as a rallying point for the...

The restoration of the Temple hall

The restoration of the Temple hall

The big challenge of these two years will be the restoration of the baroque frescoes in the temple hall dedicated to Hermes Trismegistos. Dr Hermann Fuchsberger, the actual head of the Lower Austrian Federal Monuments Office was so impressed on his first visit...

In memory of Hofrat Dr Werner Kitlitschka

In memory of Hofrat Dr Werner Kitlitschka

We would like to join in quiet mourning of our revered patron and friend, the great supporter and admirer of Haggenberg Castle Professor Hofrat Dr Werner Kitlitschka, who passed away on Friday, 19 October 2018 in his 80th year of life. Connected to the Austrian...



Horst A. Wächter