The History of Schloss Kapfenstein

After a changeful history over approx. 900 years, Schloss and Gut Kapfenstein have been owned by the family Winkler-Hermaden since 1918. Built by the Kapfenstein family from the 10th to the 11th century, the castle has seen many things over the centuries. Numerous Turkish attacks and sieges, changes of ownership, times of decay and reconstruction. Now known as Schloss Kapfenstein, the castle is used as a hotel and restaurant.

The castle Kapfenstein, a border fortress against Hungary, is an old defensive and protective wall against the attacks from the east. Numerous remains, also from the older Roman times, testify that the castle hill has been inhabited for a long time. The construction of the castle was probably already in the 10th or 11th century by the Kapfensteiner family (Caphensteiner), which received the name of the castle.

The current name Kapfenstein derives from the Middle High German word “kaphen”. which means peeking or gawking – Caphenstein, the stone from which you have a view.

Documents about the family of Kapfensteiner (Caphensteiner) are available only from the time 1193/97, namely the nomination by the Archbishop Adalbert of Salzburg. One source states that the castle was built around the year 1132. In any case, one can assume that it already existed in the middle of the 12th century. In 1238 an army of King Bela of Hungary attacked, conquered and destroyed the fortress. Even before the year 1362, the castle is said to have been sold to the family of the Walseer; However, there is the news that a Martin von Kapfenstein still participated in the crusade to Palestine in 1434 in the wake of Emperor Frederick IV. In 1418 the Hungarians ravaged the whole Styrian border area from Hartberg to Radkersburg. Martin von Kapfenstein is said to have remained 1475 in the Battle of Rann against the Turks. As late as 1510, a Kapfensteiner represented his rights at the Reichstag in Regensburg; but these late Kapfensteiner are no longer the owners of the castle, but confessed to the service of other nobles.

From the Walseer family, the castle passed to relatives of the Neitberg family. In 1422 the castle was sold to Sigmund von Wolfsau, a member of a very rich family in Styria, who was in fierce feud with the Archbishop of Salzburg. It arose from a protracted country war, with the castle Kapfenstein besieged by the Styrian provincial command, until the volatile Wolfsauer submitted to the bishop’s verdict. The castle came into the possession of Duke Friedrich V., which he handed over after a few years as a fief to Hans Schüßler.

The Schüßler family sold the castle to Knight Jörg von Weisseneck (1468). The Weissenecker, who had their ancestral castle at Wildon, kept the castle Kapfenstein over a century in possession. In 1584 Hans von Weisseneck sold the rule of Kapfenstein to Adam von Lengheim, members of a family who had worked their way up to become landlords of the province of Styria. For over two centuries, the castle remained in the possession of the later Counts of Lengheim. To Kapfenstein belonged at that time large estates in Kapfenstein, Mahrensdorf, Gutendorf, Windisch Kölldorf, Neustift, Höflach etc. In 1664 a raid of the Turks invaded the castle, in the 17th century was carried out multiple raids of the Turks and Heiduks; In the 18th century, the Kuruces besieged the castle. From this period, a report on an incursion of the Kuruzzen at St. Anna from March 31, 1706 has been preserved. Even during the attack, the administrator of Kapfenstein Johann Elegast wrote to the secretary of Countess Lengheim, Michael Andrae Fasching:

„Wolledl gestrenger, hochgeehrter Herr Secretari! Hete mir gewisslich nit eingebilt, deme zu denen sonst fröllichen Osterfeyertaegen mit so betriebten avissen ungelegenheit zu mahen. sondern mueß ich und bin genötiget, den hiesigen ellenten zuestant, worinnen wür heunt unß befinten, zu Papier zu sezen, umb zu erinnern. wie nemblich die rebellen frühe umb 8 uhr unvermueth mit 6000 man, merenthails wintischen und benachbartn, unweith St.Anna heraußgefahlen, solhen orth außer der khürchn, alwo gar kein waht gewest, angezint. Ich ware sogleich in den Guettentorfer keller umb eine veranstaltung, damit die wein in das schloß gebraht werden möhtn vorzukhern, so ersehete ich unverhofft das feur und Piesch sogleich auch in erschrökhlichen feuersflamben aufgehen. Dieses mahte mir alsobalt glauben, das der feint, von welchen schon etlich tag her unterschiedlich, doch ohne grunt geredt worden, mieste eingebrohen haben, worauf ich asobalten nah den schloß gelotfen und aldort mit aigner hant drey pöller losgebrennt, umb hierdurch deß teints einbruh den lant khundt zu mahen.“

Johann Elegast, Verwalter der Herrschaft Kapfenstein

In 1799, the castle was sold by Joachim Graf von Lengheim to Dr. Johann Edlen von Sertenthai, who restored these 1800-1802. After his death, castle and fortification were sold in 1810 to Johann Piebetz. The castle remained until the end of the 1870s owned by the Piebetz family (until the death of his son Wilhelm Piebetz), which possessed also in Lower Styria and in the area of ​​Straden larger possessions. After several changes of owners Kapfenstein went in 1896 to Dr. jur. Dr. chem. and Prussian Rittmeister a.D. Ludwig Arendt, who held this until his death in 1916. Since then, the castle and its grounds have been continuously owned by the family Winkler of Hermaden.

During the Second World War, the castle was heavily plundered by the Russians and their agricultural holdings were destroyed. After a few years, a tavern (Buschenschank) was set up in the renovated parts of the castle to provide an additional source of income for the preservation of the castle. Finally, in the 1960s, the tavern was converted into a gastronomic business with guest rooms. Castle Kapfenstein is built on a volcanic rock, made up of basalt tuff – a mass created by volcanic eruptions about 4-5 million years ago. It has interior courtyards partly built into the rock, a castle garden laid out in three terraces and a defense tower flanking it. The foundations of the castle, which have 3-4 m thick walls, go back to the Middle Ages. In the castle, there is a geological collection of rocks from the near and further areas of Kapfenstein, the grandfather of the current owner, Prof. Dr. med. Arthur Winkler of Hermaden, Univ. Prof. of Geology in Graz was compiled. Below the castle is today’s parish church, ad sanctum Nicolaum (the old castle church), which in 1779 was made a branch church.

At the northern end of the plateau of the Kapfensteiner Kogel, there is the Herz-Jesu-Kapelle, a rotunda from the second half of the 18th century in a place that used to serve as a pagan cult place.

Not far away, on the way to the chapel is the tomb of a former castle owner, who chose this place as the final resting place.
Near the farmyard (Meierhof), about 60m below the castle, the Löwenkeller is located (today as a wine cellar in use), which shows a lion as a relief of red marble over the entrance.

Field Marshal Lieutenant Arthur Winkler of Hermaden was ennobled by Emperor Karl the First and received in gratitude to his merits in the Battle of Hermada the noble name “von Hermaden”. Arthur Winkler of Hermaden, Univ. Prof. of Geology in Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Graz, was mainly interested in regional geology. Today, its extensive geological collection can be visited in the municipal office Kapfenstein.

Economist Burkhardt Winkler-Hermaden and his wife Eva Winkler-Hermaden, b. Höpler from Hermingen, dedicated themselves to the reconstruction. At the end of the 40s a tavern was opened in the castle. In the 60s, the conversion into a restaurant and hotel operation took place.
In the 90s, Burkhardt Winkler-Hermaden handed over the estate to his eldest son Georg Winkler-Hermaden, born in 1953, after graduation and a two-year gastronomic training, originally studied art history and worked as a restorer. In 1977, he returned home to his parents’ business and worked intensively on viticulture and agriculture. In 1986 he finally graduated from the master of viticulture in the viticulture school Silberberg.