The most valuable exhibit of the Schallaburg is undoubtedly the Renaissance jewel itself, which also becomes clear in the varied and exciting history of this seat of power.
The oldest parts of the castle date back to the second half of the 11th century. The Palas, also called the “Festes Haus”, is one of the oldest surviving residential buildings in Austria today. The construction of the Palas and the associated surrounding wall, the so-called “Bering”, as well as the Roman chapel, are ascribed to Sieghard X. from the Siegharding dynasty. The first documented mention of the Schallaburg in 1121 is linked to his son, Count Sieghard XI., who already held the sobriquet “zu Schal(l)a”. Just like the “Festes Haus”, only parts of the Roman castle chapel survive: parts of the outer wall, the crypt and two windows from the Gothic conversion.
After the death of the last Count of Schal(l)a, the castle changed hands many times. The wealthy Losenstein dynasty acquired the castle in 1450. Christoph Losenstein began construction of the new, three-wing Renaissance castle, but died in 1558 before the building was complete. His son Hans Wilhelm finished the major work. Innovations weren’t strange to him, having founded a “High School” in Loosdorf for Protestant youth and making the Schallaburg the centre for Protestants in Lower Austria in the 16th century. Based on the model of Italian palazzi, the Losensteins created a seat of power whose impressive silhouette can be seen today from afar. The period from 1572 to 1600 witnessed the layout of the tournament garden and the construction of the arcaded courtyard, with its prestigious two-storey arcade and unique terracotta decoration.
The terracotta reliefs and sculptures, comprising around 1,600 individual pieces, were created by master stove-maker Jakob Bernecker from Hallein and depict mythological scenes, numerous crests in painted and sculpted form, mythical creatures, masks and grotesque faces. Even the “dog-girl” is immortalised in terracotta. According to one legend, the birth of the girl with the dog’s head and dog’s paws is supposed to have been just one of many unearthly circumstances surrounding a bloody fraternal dispute between the Losensteins. The spirit of the dog-girl is said to still haunt the Schallaburg to this day, and announces the death of a castle resident.
The arcade served for purposes of representation. Guests were received here. It was the setting for artistic presentations. The tower, which announces the Schallaburg from afar, never had a defensive function, but served solely as a symbol of power. Below it is the chapel in which Wilhelm von Losenstein is buried in a tomb.
Hans Wilhelm von Losenstein died in 1601, leaving his nephew Georg Christoph many debts. His father-in-law, Georg von Stubenberg, took over the Schallaburg. His successor, the Baroque poet Johann Wilhelm von Stubenberg, expanded the castle, but felt compelled by the Counter-Reformation to sell the Protestant Schallaburg to the Catholic Kletzl von Altenach family from Alsace in 1660. From the middle of the 18th century, the Schallaburg was owned by the Barons of Tinti until 1940. After the castle was purchased by the German Baron Nagel-Doornick in 1940, the Schallaburg was confiscated as German property in 1945 and placed under Russian administration.
In 1955, the cultural jewel was handed back to the Republic of Austria upon signing of the Austrian State Treaty. The acquisition of the Schallaburg by the province of Lower Austria in 1968 signalled the beginning of extensive conversion and restoration measures, which were completed on 17 May 1974. Since then the Schallaburg has established itself as a world-class exhibition centre, and is known far beyond the borders of Lower Austria.