Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau: Serbia’s Haunted Austro-Hungarian Estate
Serbia’s north – the dazzling Vojvodina region – is home to many charming and captivating chateaus, all of which are a testament to the rich history of this nation. The Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau, located in the small hamlet of Vlaykovats (Vlajkovac), is one of the iconic remnants of Vojvodina’s Austro-Hungarian past. This is truly a fairytale location – with some darker, eerie secrets. Sadly, it is facing a gloomy and uncertain future. Left to the elements and the unsteady hands of time, this once-illustrious architectural marvel is slowly crumbling away. The history behind it speaks of an era long gone, and the locals consider it haunted, speaking of old tragedies in hushed voices.
But is it too late for this magnificent piece of 19th-century architecture to be saved? The last remaining member of the Bissingen-Nippenburg aristocratic family still clings to hope.
What the entrance to the Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau, Serbia looked like when it was still inhabited. This photo is from the early 1900s when the home was inhabited by one of the many daughters of the Bissingen-Nippenburg family, who can be seen seated to the left of the entranceway. (Serbian Castles)
The Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau: Unique 19th-century Style
Right beside the regional road that connects Romania and Serbia, close to the famous city of Vrshats (Vršac), a magnificent 19th-century chateau endures in spite of all. Rising above the flat plains that surround it, the Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau stands defiant, and weather beaten. Today, its façade is crumbling – revealing the layered brick beneath; the roof is partially collapsed; and the park grounds are overgrown. But it wasn’t always so.
When the Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau was originally constructed it was an icon of classical architecture, and a jewel that reigned supreme over the surrounding region. (Aleksa Vučković)
When it was originally constructed, this chateau was a true icon of classical architecture of the late 19th century, and a jewel that marked the surrounding region. Built in 1859 on the orders of an influential Austro-Hungarian noble, Count George Mocsonyi de Foen, the chateau was one of the family’s most important possessions.
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The chateau boasts a two-story layout. (Aleksa Vučković)
However, roughly 30 years after it was built, the chateau changed hands. In 1888, the count’s daughter, Georgina Mocsonyi de Foen, married a member of the prominent and very old aristocratic family, Count Rudolf Gábor von Bissingen-Nippenburg. Tracing its roots to the Middle Age Württemberg region of Germany, the Bissingen-Nippenburg dynasty extended across central and southeastern Europe, and they held vast properties across the region. And through this marriage, the prosperous chateau at Vlaykovats passed into their hands.
The Chateau: A Wealth of Unique Decorative Details
The chateau boasts a two-story layout with an extended rectangular floor base and a special attention to symmetry in the layout of the rooms and stairwells. Stylistically, it is one of the best examples of the classical architecture that was widespread in the 19th century – and plenty of details iconic to this style can still be observed in the outer decorations.
In fact, the Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau is characterized by its wealth of decorations, some of which were quite unique and avant-garde for the period. The extensive use of flowing wrought iron ornaments and richly decorated columns, balconies, and porticos still remain as its defining features.
The Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau is characterized by its wealth of decorations, some of which were quite unique and avant-garde for the period. The extensive use of flowing wrought iron ornaments and richly decorated columns, balconies, and porticos remain its defining features. (Aleksa Vučković)
The Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau’s rich façade is characterized by symmetry in its every aspect, and the chateau’s prominent, tower-like portico. In many ways, the chateau stands out from similar buildings erected in the second half of the 19th century – the applied architectural ornaments, the well-proportioned ratios in construction, and the extensive use of iron are just some of the features that truly stand out.
The chateau also features a prominent central “avant-corps,” a jutting extension of the building, and one of the most common elements of façades built in the French Baroque architectural style. Combined with two smaller side extensions of the left and right wing, these features are all connected with lavish wrought iron balconies that truly belong in a fairy tale.
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Plenty of the carved details from the original chateau construction still remain. The façade is festooned with charming sculptures and floral designs that still resist the ruthless wheel of time. In combination with the flowing floral arrangements of the wrought-iron balcony fences, these decorations never fail to captivate visitors.
The towering portico doubles as the chateau’s main entrance and is also its crowning feature. (Aleksa Vučković)
The towering portico doubles as the chateau’s main entrance and is also its crowning feature. Resting on carved arches, it houses a special formal hall which is topped off with an attic with rich balustrades and an arched niche which once proudly displayed the coat of arms of the Bissingen-Nippenburg family, firmly nestled between the claws of two griffons. Today, we can only daydream of the banquets and masquerade balls that once unfolded in this magnificent formal hall.
Stories of Shadowy, Haunting Secrets and Ghosts
Sadly, much of the splendor that the chateau once boasted can only be guessed at today. Although plenty of majestic details have clung on through time, the mansion is without a doubt way past its prime. But it is not just its grandeur that captivates the imagination – the chateau’s shadowy, hidden secrets can also stimulate one’s senses. The local families – living in adjacent buildings that also date to the late 19th century – reluctantly talk of the eerie moments they witnessed in the early hours of the night. Could the chateau be haunted?
One of the last remaining caretakers of the chateau told of his experiences of hearing frail whispers that echo through the long corridors of the chateau, doors suddenly slamming doors without any draft, creaking floorboards, and rapid and sudden footsteps in the hallways. (Aleksa Vučković)
One of the last remaining caretakers of the chateau, an elderly gypsy man (who requested to remain anonymous) comes from a line of groundskeepers that lived on the property. At first reluctant to share the dark secrets of the mansion he guards, the poor man later changed his mind, and told of his experiences in a hushed voice and a distant, averted gaze. He often sleeps in the last habitable room on the ground floor – but sleep frequently eludes him. With obvious distress, the man spoke of hearing frail whispers echoing through the long corridors of the chateau, doors suddenly slamming without any draft, creaking floorboards, and rapid and sudden footsteps resonating through the hallways. As one traverses the crumbling formal halls, bedrooms, and dining rooms, an overpowering feeling of unease isn’t at all unusual.
Many of the tales of haunting and dark secrets could be related to the last person living in the chateau before the Great War (World War I), in the early 1900’s. (Aleksa Vučković)
The Last Lady of the Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau
Many of the tales of haunting and dark secrets could be related to the last person living in the chateau before Europe’s first Great War (World War I), in the early 1900’s. Living on her own in the spacious building was one of the many daughters of the Bissingen-Nippenburg family. It is said that she led a lonely and eccentric life. The locals often mention her story.
As a young woman she lost her husband and could never cope with the grief. The legend states that – overcome by sorrow – she sat on the balcony at dusk, overlooking the lavish park and cut off her long hair with a pair of scissors.
The chateau at the time was well known for its vast and precious library that held well over 20,000 titles of rare books, as well as for many precious porcelain goods and other valuables.
The chateau once overlooked a sprawling park and arboretum, whose grounds extended well into the surrounding landscapes. (Aleksa Vučković)
The chateau once overlooked a sprawling park and arboretum, whose grounds extended well into the surrounding landscapes. The nobles of both the Mocsonyi and Bissingen-Nippenburg families made extensive efforts to make the park of the chateau one of the rare oases of flora and fauna in the region. To that end, they modeled it on classic French and English park grounds and introduced several rare and endangered floral species that even today dot the park.
Towering between the specially designed ponds and islets within the park grounds are rare species of oak, beech, and birches, amongst other trees and flowers. Some of these are endemic only to the North American continent, making this lonely and overgrown park a truly unique location within Serbia’s northern region. Stepping into this solitary haven which hums of mystery, surrounded by lichen-covered trees, one is immersed in a feeling of pure solace. And one quickly forgets the buzz of the world beyond the chateau and its arboretum.
Bissingen-Nippenburg Family Have Tried To Save The Chateau
The chateau was owned by the members of the noble Bissingen-Nippenburg family until the onset of the 20th century. In 1919, because of new agrarian reforms and laws, the Counts of Bissingen-Nippenburg lost half of all their properties for good. Sadly, with the eruption of the Second World War, the chateau itself was finally lost to them as well.
With the world receiving a new face, the old ways of aristocracy in Europe were becoming a thing of the past. The new laws of nationalization under the Communist regime took the chateau away from noble family. Soon after it became an orphanage for war orphans, and in the 1970’s it was sectioned into several rundown apartments for the locals. Ever since then, its destiny has been uncertain. To date, no conservation work has been done to bring this marvelous building back to its original state.
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The chateau came to the attention of the public again when Franz Xaver, Graf von Bissingen und Nippenburg, the last male member of the Bissingen-Nippenburg lineage, made attempts to regain ownership of the property.
A resident of Frankfurt in Germany, Count Franz Xaver forwarded a formal demand for an act of restitution in 2006, bolstered by Serbia’s new laws. However, he realized all too well that the costs of attempting to preserve and reconstruct the chateau would be huge and close to impossible. To that end, he expressed his concerns and stated that “it is more important for the building to be saved, than to be returned to his family.”
He subsequently gave his consent to the local administration of the town of Vrshats (Vršac), which signed a 40-year lease with a prominent Italian company, “Vega International.” The company made plans to reconstruct the chateau and transform it into a luxury hotel and a major tourist destination. Somewhat unsurprisingly though, the Italian company soon abandoned their efforts, leaving the entire situation “in limbo.”
The Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau is, nevertheless, still waiting. It is waiting for a better future or an inevitable, crumbling end in just a few decades. It stands today amid the overgrown remnants of the park, just a rundown shadow of its incredibly elegant past. Formally, it is closed to visitors.
However, the chateau is completely open and abandoned. Occasional visitors that want to soak in the remains of its 19th-century magnificence will have no trouble waltzing right in.
The chateau is located just 9 kilometers (6 miles) from the nearby regional center of Vršac, and just off the side of the main regional road, at the entrance to the small village of Vlaykovats (Vlajkovac).
Top image: The abandoned Bissingen-Nippenburg Chateau in Vlajkovac, Serbia as it looks today. Stock Source: Merlot Levert / Adobe
By Aleksa Vučković
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