Sitting in a valley surrounded by rugged hills, Graz is the second largest city in Austria and has historically been an important point of passage between Western and Eastern Europe. In medieval times, the hills around the city were fortified with watch towers and castles for defensive purposes. Few of these fortifications remain today, but one of the highest peaks still boasts the eerie ruins of one Gösting Castle, as a relic of the Holy Roman Empire.
Due to its good strategic location, the castle controlled the narrow Mura valley north of Graz, which opens out into the Graz basin, and therefore the traffic and trade to and from the city.
Originally built in the 11th century, its first record dates to the year 1042.
The castle was gradually extended and updated for several centuries, and in 15th century was expanded to a fortress serving as an outpost above Graz to defend against invading Turks and Hungarians. It was part of the signalling fire system, which was supposed to warn the population in case of danger.
In 1707, the castle and domain were acquired by the Counts of Attems, part of an ancient and illustrious Friulian parliamentary family that held the titles of princes, counts and barons and branched off into Italy and Austria.
However, a tragedy struck on July 10, 1723, in the form of a lightning bolt igniting a gunpowder magazine, blowing the roof and several walls down while setting the rest of the castle ablaze. Being at that point somewhat antiquated, the owners opted to replace it with a more modern structure in a different location, at the foot of the mountain, which was completed a couple of years later.
The remains of the burnt-out castle were left to decay for almost two centuries until efforts were undertaken to stabilize it in 1925 by the Gösting Castle Preservation Society who is maintained the castle still today. Since 1999 the ruin and surrounding forests have been owned by the Auer family, who are bakers.
Today only the chapel, the keep, and the remnants of some of the walls are still standing. The tower now houses a small museum and a small tavern operate next to the castle as well. The ruins are situated 200m above Graz and offer a panoramic view of the Graz basin and the eastern Styrian hill country.
The castle can be reached on foot in only 20/30 minutes from the Schlossplatz in Gösting.
The steep but short ascent passes by the “Jungfernsprung”, the place from which, according to the legend, the lovesick and grief-stricken Anna von Gösting threw herself to her doom.
Legend has that Wulfing von Gösting was the last owner of the castle of the same name. He had two daughters, Katharina, who was married to the knight Otto von Thal, and Anna contested by two brave knights. Her father would have preferred the wealthier knight, while Anna loved the other one, whose name was Heinrich. In any case, a duel would decided which of them would have the beautiful Anna as his wife.
The fight took place on the tournament grounds of the castle, which is still called Lindgarten, and both knights struck each other hard. However, at the end, Heinrich was hit by the rival’s sword and was beheaded. Desperate, Anna ran away and she threw herself from the rocky jump. She was washed ashore by the Mur by farmers who found her. When Wulfing von Gösting saw his dead daughter, he also fell dead to the ground, in a fact that has extinguished the Göstinger family. The rocky outcrop has been called the “Jungfernsprung” ever since, and the castle chapel was later consecrated to St. Anna.
As story goes, at midnight, a white female figure still floating on the rock, and then disappears in the castle chapel!