A once imposing fortress

November 14, 2010

Our last post has – both literally and figuratively – been leading up to one of Lower Austria’s finest castle ruins, Araburg. With its 12th century keep and hall, protected by an outer bailey from the 15th century, it certainly is a sight worth seeing. So today, we invited an expert guest blogger to give you a guided tour of the place. His name is Franz Xaver Joseph Schweickhardt, and he’s speaking to us from the year 1837, but we hope you won’t hold his age against him…

Within the near vicinity of Kaumberg, to the south, among the waving tree-tops of firs and pines, the ruins of a castle are staring sadly towards the valley; we now want to show them to the eyes of our gentle readers. ‘Tis the once imposing fortress Araburg, where centuries ago Joy resided in its keep, and Chivalry was industriously roving about its stately rooms. – Now, things have doubtlessly changed! – Now, it is indeed gloomy to behold, for its aspect cools down the senses’ blaze, it restrains the heart’s free flowing wave, and turns the blood to ice! ‘Tis a true image of transitoriness, fully resembling the direful remains of a human body which has already been left by the animating spirit and is pressed hard by putrefaction approaching with ravenous hunger and wide open jaws.

Araburg, the main tower (keep) from the kitchen

Even though time and hand of man have contended in destroying these mighty buildings (…) there are two gates still extant (…), and there’s the large, extremely high main tower, rising to the west and rounded on one side, but tapering off on the other…

Araburg, the main tower (keep), exterior view from the west

…then there’s the apartment buildings, up to three storeys high in some places, which – resting on bare rock – form two courtyards and one forecourt, and in one of them there’s the chapel just as there’s a kitchen with a very high chimney, and underneath it there’s a well.* Above the entrance to the former the date 1457, written in gothic letters, is carved in stone (…).**

Araburg, the main tower (keep) from the chapel

Turning melancholically away from this image of decay, we notice that the view from these ruins (…) is extremely pleasant. One overlooks at once all the eastern part of the Gölsen valley, with its charming green pastures, fields and groves spread over the soft rolling hills and mountains, where numerous farmsteads and forest lodges are scattered among the trees and meadows in the blooming valley floor (…) as a faithful image of eternally creative nature side by side with the decline of all works of man. ¶

Araburg, view of the Gölsen valley from the chapel

[The italicized passages above are from: Franz Xaver Joseph Schweickhardt: Darstellung des Erzherzogthums Österreich unter der Ens, vol. 6, Vienna 1837, pp. 157-160. If you want to read the German original you can find it in well-assorted libraries or, more easily, on Google books. The english translation is mine, and I hope it does Schweickhardt’s text justice. I have tried to render the old-fashioned tone and the often florid imagery as faithful as possible. I have, however, taken the liberty to abridge and simplify a bit, because Schweickhardt’s overlong sentences and complex syntax make for a more than bumpy read even in German, let alone in English.]

* This may not be a 100 percent clear from Schweickhardt’s description: The well is actually in the basement underneath the kitchen.

** Again, Schweickhardt’s text is somewhat imprecise – even in the original German it’s not clear to which part of the castle “the former” refers. We know from other sources, however, that said date was once carved above the entrance to the chapel. The inscription, though, is now lost.

One Response to “A once imposing fortress”

  1. Really grand pictures and a fun twist on the “voice” to this post. Great idea!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: