Schloss Pielach

Pielach was situated on the military road linking the Roman frontier (or Limes) road, later an imperial road, with Favianis (Mautern) via Melk, Lanzing and the Dunkelstein Forest.

The castle that was once the centre of a small manorial estate still stands in Pielach. The visitor enters it through an old octagonal tower. From the courtyard, it is possible to see the former park containing an island, upon which there was once another castle accessible via a bridge. However, nothing remains now of this island castle or the water. Only dry trenches betray the existence of these old defensive features. This island castle’s history goes back to the first half of the 12th century, when Reinmar, a noble official of Count von Schalla, had the Bishop of Troyes dedicate a church to St. Aegidius in 1147. At the time, the bishop was on his way to the Holy Land as a crusader. Previously, a small fortification near Schollach was misidentified as this church; its location on this island was only later definitively determined.

Ownership of Pielach Castle passed from the Pielach family to various families of knights belonging to the retinues of the Peilsteiners and the Burghausen-Schalas: the Häuslers, Plankensteiners, Topels, Zinzendorfs, Greiseneggers, Geyers and Enenkels, before, in around 1600, Ludwig von Starhemberg acquired it. A zealous Protestant, he had a “Lutheran temple” built opposite the castle, the ruins of which only disappeared in the last century. After the Protestant insurgency was crushed, Ludwig’s goods were confiscated and sold to the highest bidder. Thus Melk Abbey came into possession of the building in 1622, but by that stage it was in a parlous state.

In the Baroque era, the dilapidated building was rebuilt as a recreational and summer residence for the abbot and monks. The island castle was abandoned and the island incorporated into the park. The millstream that had fed the moat was filled in during the 1980s, so that the bridge to the tree-lined site of the island castle now merely crosses a dry ditch.

The Baroque expansion and conversion began in 1692 but was only completed in 1766. The site was never actually used for the Melk Benedictines’ recreation as had been planned. Its economic function deriving from the adjacent farm and fish pond always remained more important. As a result, the castle was increasingly used as living quarters from the 19th century. Naturally, the castle’s existing furnishings, some of which were very ornate, suffered as a consequence. In the 1970s, chandelier manufacturer Alfons Maderna bought the castle and had the remaining contents immaculately restored.

The entrance to the castle is through the old gatehouse. The first floor of this building contains a chapel, which the massive octagonal tower with its prominently curved roof hints at. The two wings lead off from this entrance at an obtuse angle. The simple exterior of the building contrasts strikingly with the sumptuously decorated great hall. Here, the painter Johann Bergl created a fanciful indoor garden, imitating the frescoes in the Pavilion at Melk Abbey by introducing biblical motifs into exotic landscapes.

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