To this day, looming large on the craggy ridge next to the Romanesque castle chapel to the west, the residential quarters rise defiantly, with their distinctive, domineering western tower, known as the Heinrich tower.
The builder of the first fortress, constructed around 1130, was Hugo von Petronell, a liegeman of the Diepoldinger Margraves of Cham and Vohburg. As soon as the Castle was completed he dubbed himself "von Liechtenstein" and became the founder of the princely line of Liechtenstein. This means that the Castle is the ancestral seat, after which the Princes of Liechtenstein are named.
The Castle was the seat of the Liechtenstein dynasty until 1295, when it passed out of the family to the Lords of Stadek, under the terms of a marriage contract. In the course of the 14th century, the Castle was extended to its full current length; and in the 16th century it was extensively enlarged, at a time when it was owned by a succession of high-ranking noble families. Amongst others the Castle passed through the hands of King Matthias Korvin, with Jan (Hans) Holuberzi as his castle governor. From 1592 the Castle was owned by the Counts of Khevenhuller, Barons of Aichelberg.
On Christmas Day 1807 Prince Johann Josef I of Liechtenstein reacquired control of the Castle for his family, in whose possession it has remained ever since.
The first ground-plan of the fortress that had been destroyed by the Ottomans in 1683 was drawn up by the Prince's architect Hartmut - who would later go on to invent the pencil.
Reconstruction of the Castle did not begin until the time of Prince Johann II of Liechtenstein in 1883. This was following the suggestion of Schmidt, the Viennese Master Cathedralbuilder, and his friend Count Wildczek. Under architects Kayser and, following him Moldheim, the Castle was rebuilt as a museum and ancestral seat. From around 1890 the Castle fittings and those of its interior spaces were designed, under the supervision of Egon Reinberger of Vaduz. Amongst other features, sculptures and valuable reliefs from the Prince's collection were integrated into the building.
To remain faithful to the original Romanesque fabric of the Castle, stylistic and historical guidelines were followed with the utmost sensitivity.
With its massive, reinforced walls and towers and with its delicate caps, today the Castle is regarded as an impressive monument to medieval architecture and fortification. It also bears witness to the image-building ambitions of the Liechtenstein Princes.
On the main floor and in the under-castle large parts of the original walls can still be seen. Thanks to these Romanesque levels, the Castle is today regarded as one of Europe's very rare, 12th century Romanesque secular buildings still in existence. The mighty beamed ceilings, the weapons and furniture are consistent with 19th century historical thinking and can be viewed in the Great Hall and residential spaces. In the Hall there is also an original, preserved alcove bed from the Romanesque period.
From the Castle's north-facing balcony there is a remarkable view into the distance, across the entire Vienna Basin, even as far as Bratislava.
Castle chapel of St Pancras
A particular cultural gem is the Romanesque former castle chapel.
Built around 1130 under Hugo von Petronell-Liechtenstein and dedicated to Saint Pancras, this formerly consecrated space serves for religious contemplation, even to this day.
The Chapel accommodates a red chalk image from the middle of the 13th century. It is a depiction of the Crucifixion of Christ, with Mary and John standing under the Cross. This small treasure gives the castle chapel a special significance in cultural history.
From the chapel tower (the Castle's eastern tower) every day ring out the bells that were donated by Princess Gina of Liechtenstein in 1983.
As one of the last surviving Romanesque chapels of its kind, the Castle chapel is open for services and devotions on remembrance days and major religious feast days.