Contrasts as Basic Message


To approach this building in a proper way, it is necessary to take into account facts which seem incidental to the visitor. But precisely these peculiarities can be interpreted as signs of regularities. Their view was intended only for those very few who belonged to a circle of adapts. During the heyday of the castle, this knowledge had not been exposed to the public and only passed on orally. It even was not passed on to those distant relatives who inherited the castle from its “inventor” – Count Theodor and his brothers. In the Enlightenment, also in the sense of the changed taste of the time, it was simply forgotten.

After the many years of my involvement with the more than forty rooms of the castle, I finally realized that it consists of two areas which can be assigned to different functions: On the one hand, the secular area, which rooms served to maintain the everyday life. These include the steward’s apartment and the castle kitchen on the ground floor, as well as the guest rooms, the staff’s rooms and the storage rooms on the upper floors. This area was distinguished by particular geometrical, figurative or graphic features, and can be described as the ritual space of the castle.


The peculiarity of the castle lies in the decoration and orientation of certain rooms, with which contrasting structures are introduced. It turns out to be one of the buildings with the densest agglomeration of ideas ever built. Here, despite or even because of the period of decay, something has been preserved which should be regarded as one of the highest points of Renaissance philosophy: The spatial program. By this I mean the fact that areas of the castle can be assigned to basic functions that are networked with each other. Generally speaking, the castle is a reflection of the cosmos with its two manifestations.

Quote: The hidden structure

Ventris was able, in the confusing variety of the characters of this writing, to make out schemata which revealed the hidden structure. This gift of grasping an order in apparent disorder is the sign of the great men in all their successes.

John Chadwick about Michael Ventris; in: Georges Jean, The History of Scripture, Ravensburg 1991: Page 125 – The Revolution of the Alphabet.

Quote: The world as a network

Another common denominator between mythical and alchemical thinking is the belief that the world is a network of interlinked symbols. An object is never just the object you are looking at, but also a sign of many other things.

Allison Coudert, Alchemy: The Philosopher’s Stone, New York 1980 pg. 135

There are certain features which humans use to find their position and their way around in space and time, and which are constantly referred to in the building. All features are based on a fundamental contrast – see areas below.

SPACE determining the location.
PICTURE containing a certain statement.
DIRECTION determining the orientation.
NUMBER recording a sum.
ANALOGY which relate spaces to each other.
ORDER resulting in a sequence.


It is here in particular to consider the importance of mathematics. One has to imagine the castle as a building of numbers in which certain numbers are attributed a certain meaning. The number of windows, doors, and other openings, the arrangement and relationship of the rooms and their passages form the key to the message of the castle. The modern contempt for the numbers leads to an understanding of the statements and contexts realized with them.

Quote Renaissance Neo-Platonism

The philosophical instinct in the Italian Renaissance was to synthesize thought systems, to find a common, universal philosophy that encompasses a broad range of human thought…
The foundation of Plato’s thought was that the universe consists of two realms: a realm of appearance and a realm of eternal, abstract forms. While the world of appearances (the world you and I live in) constantly changes and so affords no possibility of certain knowledge, the world of forms is always static… In this realm of forms (the Greek word is “idea”), the highest levels of existence and knowledge is mathematics, and the very highest form or idea is the “form of the good.” ..
The most significant and far-reaching innovation of the Middle Platonists was the development of the view that the eternal forms or ideas that underlie the world of appearances are the thoughts of some single god or divinity. This means that all abstract categories and all mathematics are closer to the mind of God than anything else.
The most important of the Renaissance Neo-Platonists was Marsilio Ficino (1433 – 1499), who developed original and highly influential ideas from Plato and Neoplatonism. Ficino was an active and dynamic mind; as the founder of the Academy in Firenze under the auspices of Cosimo de Medici (1389-1464), he, more than any other person in the Renaissance, was responsible for its widespread diffusion… Ficino translated all of Plato’s dialogues into Latin and produced a number of commentaries, but his most important and systematic work was Platonic Theology , in which he out-l­ines Neoplatonism and synthesizes it with other philosophical systems, in particular, Christianity… Ficino’s philosophy is based on one central doctrine: the human soul is immortal and the centre of the universe. It is the only thing that sits midway between the abstract realm of ideas and the physical world—as such, it is the mediator between these two worlds: All things beneath God are but single things, but the soul can truly be said to be all things . . . For this reason, the soul is called the centre of creation and the middle term of all things in the universe, the entire­ty of the universe, the face of all things, and the binding and joining centre of the universe.
This special, central position in the universe made humanity the most dignified of all objects in creation; Ficino’s emphasis on the dignity of humanity was derived from humanistic currents.
From the standpoint of religion, Ficino was a syncretic in that he believed that all the world’s religions could be related to one another. At the heart of every religion was a belief in the one God and the variety of religions was not a bad thing but rather an expression of the complexity and beauty of God worshipped in all his infinite aspects. Of course, Christianity was a more complete religion.
Ficino believed that the purpose of human life was contemplation. The ultimate goal of human life was to be reunited with God, at least in an intellectual sense. This goal, according to Ficino, was realized through contemplation. At first, the human mind removes itself from the outside, physical world, and thinks about abstract ideas concerning knowledge and the soul. As it rises in knowledge it eventually reaches a point where it can arrive at an unmediated vision of God itself—this last stage would occur only after death and the immortality that the soul would enjoy would be an eternity of this vision of God.
From this program, Ficino developed a concept he called Platonic love, which had far-reaching consequences in the history of love and social reality in the European tradition. While Ficino believed that the human soul pursued contemplation more or less in isolation, he acknowledged that human beings were fundamentally social. When the spiritual relationship between God and the individual, sought through contemplation, is reproduced in a friendship or love with another person, that constitutes for Ficino spiritual or Platonic love. In other words, when the love and spiritual activity in a friendship mirrors the love for God, then the two individuals have attained the highest type of friendship that they can. Ficino did not condemn sexuality or erotics nor deny that Platonic love was only possible outside sexual relations; his only concern was the nature of the spiritual bond between two people.
The two most influential aspects of Neoplatonism for Western culture were its emphasis on the priority and certainty of mathematics and Ficino’s doctrine of Platonic love…
The most famous advocate of this scientific position was Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). Kepler… believed that the mathematics of the universe was the truth of the universe. Until Kepler, astronomers and astrologers believed that the qualitative understanding of the universe superseded the quantitative understanding of the universe. The Ptolemaic universe, which was a mathematical system for describing the movements of the heavenly bodies in relation to the earth as the centre of the universe, had long been regarded as a nearly insane mathematical system. That wasn’t the point, though. Even though the Ptolemaic universe didn’t make much sense mathematic­ally, it served its purpose in that it provided the math to successfully predict movements of the heavenly bodies. For Kepler, the math of the movements of the stars and planets was the move­ment of the stars and planets; the most rational mathematical universe was one in which the planets and stars orbited the sun. This, because it was the most rational mathematics, represen­ted the physical truth. This is a unique reorientation of mathematics to physical phenomena and remains the standard world view of European physics…
The fundamental truth of the universe, as Galileo saw it, was mathematical. Only when our understanding of the universe corresponded to the math of the universe could we say that we understood the universe.

©1997, Richard Hooker Washington State University

Quote numbers as basic experience of mankind

Counting is one of the basic experiences of man. With his help, he finds his way in the world around him, in space and time. The primitive knows only a few numbers. He orients himself to familiar features such as the five fingers of the hand. Gradually, the number space becomes larger, the number is abstracted from the object. Certain numbers, however, retain a special meaning because they encounter in the environment in recurrent, divinely conceived powers. Therefore, it comes very early to the formation of “sacred numbers”.



The two pillars in front of the bridge

Contrast: left-right, front-back

The hitherto unknown criterion of the castle, its newly discovered dimension so to speak, is the marked differences of the sides of rooms or entities. In the last respect, the rooms are numbered, as to indicate the direction that leads the visitor in the ritual tour through the rooms of the castle.

The first indication of the orientation is already available before entering the castle area: It is the two brick pillars in front of the bridge, the last two, which line the short chestnut avenue. They have two different cross sections, one rectangular and the other square. The sight from the castle decides which pillar is to be called on the left and which is on the right side. The visitor stands in front of the castle, facing him, and so the rectangular pillar is the left, that is the imperfect, negatively occupied, while the square is the right pillar. With this interpretation left – right the visitor is also induced to his back-front, i.e. to the direction to be taken by him.

In reference to the attributions of meanings to each page the rectangular pillar on the left one would be the first, the imperfect, the one provided with a negative meaning, whereas the right pillar would be the last, the perfect one, provided with a positive meaning.

The clear difference between the two pillars © Initiative Haggenberg

The difference of the sides is also detectable in the building as a whole. The floors of the left wing are subdivided differently, while those of the right wing have extensive accordance of its rooms. Also the different side lengths of the castle can be interpreted in terms of a lesser and a more positive number. The biggest difference of marked sides of the castle lies in the courtyard – see below.

The castle as number cube

Contrast: solid building – visual axis, 1 -4

There are some special sums that have their own “function” in the castle’s architecture. The number four is omnipresent in that it captures the space as a whole. Even from the satellite, the formative significance of this number can be seen. Its surrounding moat, at the four corners of which protrude the four bastions of modern fortification, and the former palace garden can be seen as a result of four nested rectangles. The four-winged and four-storey building appears as a perfect cuboid, with its four corners aligned with the four cardinal directions. These corners are additionally emphasized by truncated pyramids of bricks. With this emphasis on the corners the reference to Egyptian temples appears already on the outside of the castle.

Aerial view of the building – the difference between the sides © Initiative Haggenberg

The elevation with the division into the four elements. © Initiative Haggenberg

The number of twenty-two windows shown.

The floor plan – Solomon’s temple

Contrast: actual building – visual axis

Already the layout of the castle, which dates back to the time of its construc­tion in the 13th century, clearly shows that even back then architecture was based on those principles that were fully used in the development of modern times.

Crucial here is the reference to the dimensions of the temple of King Solomon in Jerusalem as listed in the Old Testament. For the room layout and the dimensions of the interiors – lobby – temple hall – holy of holies – can be found in the dimensions of the entrance hall, the courtyard and the sala terrena of the castle as external dimensions of the empty spaces and the walls delimiting them. In addition, in the dimensions of the Solomonic temple, the center strip that forms the visual axis of the castle is missing. This would mean that here in Hagenberg the actual dimensions of the temple are available, while the measures of the median strip are not specified in the text because of its sacrality. The visual axis starting from the avenue through the open ground floor of the castle is the area of ​​emptiness in contrast to the substance of the building.

The floor plan of Hagenberg Castle in relation to the Solomonic temple – measures taken from 1 Kings 6–7 © Initiative Haggenberg

The difference lies in the fact, that the strip which forms the visual axis of the castle is missing in Solomon’s temple measures. This would mean that the strip is not specified, not written down or even mentioned because of its holiness, and that right here, in Hagenberg Castle the original dimensions of the Solomon’s temple have been realized.1

The two Sinzendorf crests and the cosmos

Duality: Nothing -being, Separation – Unification

The coat of arms over the rustic portal in the entrance facade is the sign of the “initiator” of the baroque castle, Theodor von Sinzendorf. The four putti, which frame it and support the crown hoop – sign of his dignity as imperial count – symbolize the four elements. In the inner shield, the three cubes are depicted as the house coat of arms of the family, the inner crown of the Holy Roman Empire testifies the office of the imperial treasurer. The cross on the temple of this crown, which is shown laterally on all other Sinzendorfer coats of arms, is placed here in its middle: It separates the two opposing halves of the temple, its existing right of the void left of it.

These two symbols of power express the two basic laws of duality and polarity of the cosmos. The half temple of the imperial crown corresponds to the first basic principle of duality: that which is not and that which is. Without nothing there is no something. It refers to the beginning of everything, to the creation out of nothing. The three cubes refer to the second basic principle of polarity, which results by the union of both the empty and the full.2

The personal coat of arms of Theodor von Sinzendorf © Initiative Haggenberg

The personal coat of arms of Theodor von Sinzendorf © Initiative Haggenberg

This second crest of Theodor von Sinzendof shows barely noticeable differences to the one on the front of Hagenberg Castle over the entrance gate. These however prove to be of considerable importance for the symbolism. They concern the posture and arrangement of the arms and legs of the cupids.

The double crest of Hackenberg

Contrast: Templar cross – fishhook

In the attic of the passage in the inner courtyard, a capstone in the form of a hook denoting the coat of arms of the lords of Hackenberg is attached

The fishing hook © Initiative Hagenberg

The original coat of arms of the lords of Hackenberg
from: Johann Siebmacher, the Lower Austrian nobility Nuremberg 1909-1918 panel 73

This coat of arms with the Arabian battle ax and the templar cross was not used after 1312 when the order of the Knights Templar had been abolished.

The courtyard with the missing giant

Contrast left-right, back-front

The difference of sides was most evident in the courtyard of the castle. For, according to reverend Josef Ettl who took over the parish of Hagenberg in 1953, the southeastern wall of the court was painted with a huge giant, reaching into the cornice, which since disappeared in the wake of acid rain. When he first visited me in the castle, he asked: “Where has the giant gone?”

Quote Corpus Hermeticum Hermes Trismegistos: First book Poimandres

1. Once, when I was in thought about the being and my thinking rose to great heights, while my sensory perceptions were eliminated like people overpowered by supersaturation of food or bodily fatigue of sleep, I believed to hear one oversized figure of immeasurable size calling out my name and speaking to me: “What do you want to hear and see and understand and recognize in your mind?”
2. I asked: “Who are you?” And he replied, “I am Poimandres, the Spirit who has the highest power. I know what you want and will always stay by your side. ”
3. I replied, “I want to understand beings and understand their nature and know God, I would be glad to hear about it.”

The Grotto – the two faces of love

Contrast: water-land, love dispute – love lust, invisible law-visible world

With images we make the world understandable. Haggenberg Castle contains a number of figurative references to Greek mythology, all of which revolve around the duality of love. The point is not to perceive pictures as decoration, but to understand the representa­tions as part of a system that has a message to grasp. What did Theodor von Sinzendorf, the initiator of the castle, believe in? It can be read by how he designed his castle, how he realized it; especially what he depicted in it.
In the grotto, the image program is implemented by the two stone sculptures in the niches on the water tanks on the long sides, representing love pairs of Greek mythology: Neptune -Amphitrite on a pedestal overgrown with water plants, the represents the sea, as well as Orion-Diana on a pedestal surrounded by wild animals symbolizing the land.

Neptune – Amphitrite in the south-eastern niche © Initiative Haggenberg

Orion – Diana in the north-western niche © Initiative Haggenberg

In the stucco ceiling just above the two lovers their coherence is exposed by two cupids to which they refer in the proper sense: The quarreling cupids above Neptune-Amphitrite, and the hugging over Diana-Orion. The former symbolize the opposition in love, the latter the unification.

The quarreling cupids left – contention © Initiative Haggenberg

The embracing cupids right – love © Initiative Haggenberg

The former express the original antithesis, the latter the ultimate union of love. They also correspond to the duality from left to right, which are separated or connected by the two basic principles – love conflict and love union. This figurative embellishment symbolizes love as the primary force of the cosmos. With these assignments, the orientation and the sequence of the viewer’s eyes are predetermined in the Sala terrena, through the central motif of the castle, which is repeated in its other rooms.

Quote Empedocles:

He … accepts two opposing moving forces, an appealing and unifying, repulsive and divisive force. The unifying force he calls philótēs (love, friendship), the separating neíkos (quarrel). They are constantly striving to displace each other. From their endless choppy struggle, all processes in the universe, including human destinies, result. Wikipedia

If we include the concept of the four Elements in our consideration, then Neptune corresponds to the element of water and Amphitrite sitting next to him to the element of fire – fire of love of course. And opposite them Orion symbolizes the element of air, whilst Diana next to him assigned to the element of earth. Only through the inclusion of the four elements, the different characteristics of the two lovers become clear: Fire and water are basically incompatible. Although Neptune and Amphitrite are sitting side by side, their missing heads have not looked at each other, while Orion and Diana have wrapped themselves around each other, with their arms and legs intertwined.

Both lovers are also closely linked to the water symbolism. They are gargoyles, with two jets of water splashing into the basins below. Now the rays of the pair of Neptune and Amphitrite come only from the breasts of the goddess, who is the object of desire of Neptune. Both of the chests of Diana and Orion flows a crosswise stream of water as a connecting element. This contrast takes up again the two basic laws of the cosmos, which are already present in the crest of the portal.
Finally the combination of the two goddesses Amphitrite and Diana represent yet another message, in so far it takes up one of the main concepts of the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was burned 1600 in Rome as heretic. He named his two monads after the two goddesses: Amphitrite as the first, the invisible, the substance, the pure number, while Diana represents the visibile world, everything which surround us, with which we deal daily.

This idea goes back to the idea of Plato, see Renaissance Neo-Platonism above.

Quote Giordano Brunos Monads:

Thus, the late Giordano Bruno defines the first monad (Amphitrite) as the “substance of every number” and characterizes it as a substantial minimum in the threefold sense, namely as a rational principle in numbers, as an essential principle in beings, and as the principle of indivisibility of atoms in bodies. The second monad (Diana) is the human understandable light trail of the first in universal nature. Wikipedia.


Contrast: above-below

The elevation of the southwest wing again shows the presence of the scheme of the four elements.

The coordination of spaces of the southwest wing © Initiative Haggenberg

This is in line with the hermetic law of “What is above corresponds to what is below.”

Quote „Tabula Smaragdina“:
The lower is equal to the upper, and the upper to the lower, to the completion of the wonders of the one. Just as all things have come out of one and through the contemplation of a single one, so too are all things born out of this one by differentiation ….

Translated after J. Ruskia 1926, In: Allison Coudert, Alchemy: the Philosopher‘s Stone, New York 1980


The relations of the three ritual rooms of the southwest wing emerge from the following scheme, where the doctrine of the four elements doctrine is present as symbolic theme.

Southwest wing – second floor © Initiative Haggenberg

The temple of Hermes Trisegistos

Contrasts: standing-walking, Silence-Speaking, Real-Dream, Sound-Vision

This hall with its two frescoed Hermes figures is dedicated to Hermes Trismegistus, the “three times greatest Hermes” who possessed all the knowledge of antiquity and represented a fusion of the Greek god Hermes with the Egyptian god Thoth. He is the god of measure. He represents the uniform order of the world, he is the inherent spirit of legitimacy, representative and guarantor of the exact rituals performed. He is the inventor of the script, the hieroglyphs, that is, the letters as well as the numbers. The recourse of the Renaissance to the alphabet has been exemplarily implemented here in this hall. Because here are decisive numbers in sums. For both the number of wall openings as doors, chimneys, windows, and the number of frescoed pillars are twenty-two, a number which, as already noted, corresponds to the number of Hebrew letters.

Hermes on the wall to the courtyard © Initiative Haggenberg

Pimander on the wall to the garden © Initiative Haggenberg

Quote Thot as founder of the rituals:

Thus, Thot, as representative and guarantor of the precisely executed rituals, fulfilled an important function.

Florian Ebeling : The Secret of Hermes Trismegistos – Munich 2005. page 19

In addition to the contrasts embodied by the two herms, such as speaking-silence, standing-walking, there is another one in the fresco of both broad sides of the hall at height of the attic: The frescoed animals, which sit on the two Anatolian carpets at the level of the upper floor, so the peacock with his eagle-occupied tail on the southeast side, as well as the two parrots on the northwest side of the hall point to the contrast of vision and sound. The lute next to the parrots corresponds to this juxtaposition.

The two realms of love

Contrast: Venus-Amor, origin-Union of love

The corner spaces adjoining on both sides in turn attack the cosmic law of love as its strongest force. For in the ceiling fresco of the western space, the birth of Venus, that is, her separation from the underwater world. Venus has no parents, so here is only one person in the game while in the union of Hercules and Omphale in the West – in the two People actively appearing, facing each other. Both ceiling frescoes in turn have references to the four elements. In the west, the wild waters are assigned to Triton, the son of Neptune, who is put in his place by his father – here incarnating the element of fire. This enables the birth of Venus, who sits on a shell and represents the earth, standing in eye contact with Juno, the Queen of Heaven, impersonating the air.

The four elements appear several times in the ceiling of the red-painted southern corner room. In the central fresco, Hercules symbolizes the wild forces of the hero, finding peace under the heavenly canopy attributed to the element air. Cupid with his arrow represents the element fire, and Omphale below the earth, which here units with Herkules as the element water. But also in the corner medallions of the ceiling, the four elements are represented, at the same time also with the four directions of the sky and the four characteristics of love – represented as bond, as pain, as blindness and as beauty. In the stucco strip in between are inserted the four symbols of power of the house Sinzendorf: the imperial crown as treasurer of the Roman Empire, two piled up cups as cupbearers of Lower and Upper Austria, the three dice as the house emblem of the family and the imperial crown with four spikes as a signum of imperial immediacy.


1 This subordination of the text to a principled duality corresponds to the fact that the book of Genesis is composed of what is written down and what is not written down – see section 7 CODE

2 The attentive reader will be able to make the parallel to the two sculptures of the demolished bay window in Laa on the Thaya 8 miles north of Hagenberg: The broken temple of the crown corresponds to the man with one arm, the cubes correspond to the woman with both arms.


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


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Horst A. Wächter