Reichenau & Rothschild Castle


Reichenau an der Rax is a market town in the Austrian province of Lower Austria, situated at the foot of the Rax mountain range on the Schwarza river, a headstream of the Leitha.

Reichenau Castle was first mentioned in a 1256 deed. Duke Otto IV the Merry, who in 1327 had established the abbey of Neuberg, acquired Reichenau in 1333 and granted it to the monastery.

Original an ore mining and forestry area, Reichenau due to its picturesque setting became a summer resort of the Viennese nobility in the 19th century. From 1854 on the development of the area was decisively promoted by the opening of the Semmering railway line with a train station in neighbouring Payerbach, part of the Austrian Southern Railway (Südbahn) from the Vienna Südbahnhof to Trieste. Reichenau was directly connected to Payerbach by the Höllentalbahn narrow gauge railway in 1926 at the same time with the opening of the Raxseilbahn, the oldest aerial tramway in Austria.

In 1873 a drinking water pipeline to Vienna was built to supply the Austro-Hungarian capital with mountain water rising from the Rax range.

In 1872 Archduke Charles Louis of Austria had the Villa Wartholz residence erected near his favourite hunting grounds, according to plans by Heinrich von Ferstel. In 1887 a member of the Rothschild banking family followed with the building of Hinterleiten Palace, finished two years later.

This was Nathaniel Mayer Anselm von Rothschild (October 26, 1836 – June 16, 1905), who allegedly only had the palace erected to annoy Charles Louis, whose strong Catholic manners Rothschild disliked.

As the eldest male, he was expected to take over the running of the family's Viennese bank, S M von Rothschild. Nathaniel studied at Brünn but fell out of favour with his father who considered him extravagant and financially irresponsible.

Rather than going into business, Nathaniel spent his life as a socialite who built mansions and collected works of art. He built one of the Palais Rothschild at 14-16 Theresianumgasse in Vienna where his large collection of art was on display. In 1880, he purchased Enzesfeld Castle with its vast property from Graf Schönburg-Hartenstein.

Nathaniel Rothschild became known for his substantial philanthropic and charitable activities and was highly popular with members of Vienna's aristocratic society, something that aided the family image and therefore its business. Nathaniel Anselm von Rothschild died a bachelor in 1905. He is buried in the Zentralfriedhof, Vienna.

He however did not spend much time in Reichenau and shortly afterwards donated the palais to a veterans’ foundation, while the Villa Wartholz remained a seat of the Habsburg family, especially of Emperor Charles I and his wife Zita. Their son Otto von Habsburg, head of the House of Habsburg, was born at Villa Wartholz in Reichenau on November 20, 1912.

Reichenau was also the summer retreat of the author Heimito von Doderer, where he wrote large parts of his novel "Die Strudlhofstiege".