Vaduz Castle, The Ancient Home of Liechtenstein’s Royal Family
Liechtenstein is one of the world’s smallest micro-states and lies nestled between Switzerland and Austria. This small principality has many historic sites, the most famous of which is Vaduz Castle. The stronghold has become a symbol of the country and is one of the most important cultural sites within it.
History of Vaduz Castle, Liechtenstein
The stronghold possibly dates back to the 12th century , but the first recorded reference to the stronghold was in 1322. It was built as a fortress to control the key Alpine Pass and trade routes and was acquired by the counts of Werdenberg-Sargans, who were powerful nobles in nearby Switzerland. The castle was also used to control the local population.
The principality was once part of the Holy Roman Empire . In the 16 th century, the castle was burned down by the Swiss Confederacy during the Swabian War. In 1712 the castle came into the possession of the Liechtenstein family, a noble family from Lower Austria. They lived in the castle and made it their official residence in 1732.
The location of Liechtenstein - between Switzerland and Austria (Google Maps)
The castle fell into disrepair and was virtually a ruin due to factors such as the Napoleonic Wars and economic problems. The Liechtenstein family no longer resided in the castle by the start of the 20 th century.
During the 19 th century, because of a legal issue related to the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire , the principality became a sovereign state . In the early 20 th century, Prince Franz Josef II extended the castle and once again made it fit for living. In 1939 he took up fulltime residence in the principality and adopted Vaduz Castle as his family residence and permanent home.
In the post-war period Liechtenstein, which had been neutral in WWII, suffered a severe economic recession . This led the prince to sell off some of the castle’s art and other valuables. However, the principality used a low corporate tax regime to modernize the economy. Today, the Prince of Liechtenstein and his family still reside in the castle and the prince remains the head of state. It should be noted that the castle gave its name to the nearby town of Vaduz.
The Age and Design of Vaduz Castle
Vaduz Castle was built on a mount that overlooks the modern capital of Liechtenstein. While it is thought the castle dates to the 12 th century, it is mainly the eastern side of the fortress and parts of the eastern walls that date back to that century. The bergfried (the keep) was built in the 12 th century and may have been the first part of the fortress that was erected. This round keep was constructed as the inner stronghold. The tower measures 40 by 43 feet (12 by 13m) with a base of 12 feet (3.5 m) thick.
The inner courtyard is faced by a number of buildings as well as the royal family’s residence . The original entrance, which is flanked by round towers , can still be seen. The Chapel of St Anne stands within the complex and dates to the Middle Ages with its most notable feature being the late-Gothic altar.
The middle age fortress, Vaduz Castle ( mikolajn /Adobe Stock)
The western side of the castle has been extensively redeveloped in the baroque style as well as the secessionist style and it is here that the Liechtenstein family have their residence. Many precious works of art from the renaissance and baroque period, are held in the prince’s collection.
Visiting Vaduz and Viewing the Castle
The castle overlooks the city of Vaduz, where accommodation is plentiful. Visitors are able to drive or hike up to the castle. Although it is not possible to enter the castle itself as it is the home of the current Prince of Liechtenstein , it is possible to take photographs outside.
View of Vaduz, Liechtenstein ( Leonid Andronov /Adobe Stock)
The views of the city of Vaduz and the surrounding district are stunning and there are many opportunities to explore the hills around the castle .
Top image: Vaduz Castle in the capital of Liechtenstein. Source: lic0001/Adobe Stock
By Ed Whelan
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