29 March 2012

Hohensalzburg Fortress, Austria - Day 15

An imposing fortress situated on a rocky peak 524m above Salzburg's Old town, Hohensalzburg has a history spanning 1000 years. Built in the 11th century during the wars between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy, the fortress was used as a refuge for the archbishops of Salzburg whenever they felt threatened.

Over the centuries and through changing sovereigns, the Fortress was expanded, artillery towers added, fortification walls built turning it into an impenetrable stronghold. By the 16th century the Fortress was taking on the character of military barracks and was no longer used as substitute residence for the sovereign.

In 1800 both the city and the fortress were surrendered to the French, however over the next 16 years it would have its dominion moved between the French, Austrians and Bavarians until Salzburg was finally incorporated into the Austrian Empire.

Always prepared for defence, the Fortress became the home of the Imperial and Royal Infantry Regiment No 59 until 1861 when Salzburg was declared a civilian city instead of a military city and the fortress was no longer required to play a major role.  Used as a military detention centre, barracks, transport centre, the Fortress ultimately became a popular tourist attraction.

In 1892 a fortress funicular was built to ferry tourists from town and a peaceful co-existence between the military and tourists flourished until the end of World War II when the Austrian army no longer existed and the barracks functions ceased to exist.

As the property of Austria, the fortress was leased to the state of Salzburg in 1953 for 99 years. Entrance fees finance the Fortress' upkeep and renovation programmes.

The impressive Fortress on its rocky peak.

As military history enthusiasts, John and I were very excited about our visit to the Fortress.  What we hadn't anticipated was the funicular to be closed and for us to have to ascend the 524m on foot.  Trinity took the stairs in her stride and marched on up finding a game in her every step.  I didn't think the climb was that amusing and with a huff and a puff I soldiered on.  I wished for the good ole' days when my fitness was something worth talking about.

The final trudge was at a 45 degree angle and I was relieved when we got to the ticketing counter until we entered and found that a further and steeper climb was still required to reach the Keep's main entrance.

We explored courtyards, the chapel, Keep, private apartments, bastions and absorbed the magnificent aerial view of Salzburg.

Ring wall around the Keep with a view of the main gate.

Small courtyard.

Chapel St George.

Chapel of St George's high altar (1776).

The tour of the Keep began at the gate room, an elongated hall erected between the ring wall and the Keep.  A broad stairway of red marble led to the first storey where on the east side a small retaining wall from the Roman era along with some artefacts were discovered.

The second storey consisted of the archbishops living quarters.  On display were middle to upper class household items including the archbishops furniture and the "golden treasure".  The treasure consisted of 78 gold coins which were accidentally discovered during restoration works. Minted between 1350 and 1430, the history of the coins and who it belonged to remain unknown.

Glazed tiled oven exemplifying the artistic flair
of 16th century potters.

Household item.

Carved pine box-chest (c1500)

In 1998 another treasure was uncovered when a triple-arched window was discovered.  The colourful frescos on the arches are as bright today as they were some 800 years ago when they were first painted.

Arched windows (c1300).

In the hall on the second floor, a central beam supports an intricately worked wooden ceiling and contains a display of pole weapons and armour.  Weapons such as spears and pikes were used for thrust; hellebarde with its axe to cut through armour plate; and hook to pull the opponent away or knock him down.  On the field helmet, breastplate and arm guards were used to protect them against injury whilst maintaining mobility.

The development of gunpowder in the late Middle Ages gave way to rifles starting with the flintlock. Effective in close combat the handgun was primarily used by riders and replaced the lance, battleaxe and poleaxe.

Red marble figure on the ceiling supports.

Field armour and weapons display.

A unique handgun with a small axe on the opposite end.

Moving onto the third storey we enter the archbishops' private apartments.  The richly decorated "Golden Hall" is a sight to behold.  The dark blue ceiling is embellished with gold discs that gives the impression of a starry night.  In order to expand the width of the room, four twisted marble pillars were installed to hold the ceiling aloft and a loggia was added on.

Golden Hall with the blue ceiling and marble columns.

The rest of the apartments maintain the same level of rich decoration.  A striking tiled oven, commissioned in 1501, is displayed in the Golden Chamber.  Used for heating, each tile on the oven is uniquely designed, creating a work of art.  The bottom third depicts fruits and flowers, the middle is composed of large panels each depict indepentent artwork and the top depicts saints.

Golden Chamber.

The tiled oven.

Detail of a tiled panel on the stove.

Finishing our Fortress tour we took an alternative route back to town, ever so grateful for the downhill walk. We strolled through town until dark and then retired early as the next day we were off to Graz.

Trini and I frolicking as we depart the fortress.

Having way too much fun.

Just one more photo.....