Tucked away in the lush forests of the Wechsel mountain range, about an hour’s drive from Vienna, this little gem is notable mainly for two things.
Firstly, it was the home of controversial poet priest Ottokar Kernstock, who penned the words for the Austrian national anthem used in the 1930s. Kernstock is often cited as one of the forerunners of Nazism in Austria—not only because of his 1923 Hakenkreuzlied (“Swastika Song”), but also due to his aggressive German nationalism, his völkisch worldview and his glorification of war.
Secondly, the Festenburg has a succession of six chapels and a church dedicated to the Passion of Christ alongside that of Sainte Catherine. The Austrian Artist Johann Cyriak Hackhofer, who was apparently quite fond of gloomy themes, chronicles the respective life, suffering, torture and the gory (in Catherine’s case: watery) end and then the heavenly thereafter (which, as the Festenburger Frauenhimmel (“Festenburg Women’s Heaven’) ceiling fresco in the main church suggests, is completely devoid of men—or maybe just very strictly gendered). Hackhofers artwork has some quite impressive 3D-fakery throughout, plus a glimpse into purgatory and enough skeletons to counterbalance all that otherwise slightly oppressive baroque opulence.
Know Before You Go
A guided tour (approx. 80 min) will take you through Kernstock's living quarters, a small armory and then the chapels and the church.
There is also a little adjacent museum bit, which has temporary exhibitions.