Blühnbach Castle aerial shot
Blühnbach Castle aerial shot

Schloss Blühnbach is a hunting castle in the Austrian Alps dated from the 17th century. It was extended in 1911 by Archduke Francis Ferdinand; it also includes his art and antiques.

History

The reigning Archbishop of Salzburg constructed it in the early years of the 17th century. Schloss Blühnbach is situated among the tops of the bare, spikey peaks of more than 2,000 metres in a narrow valley in the Austrian Alps. At the time, Salzburg was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe; its wealth was based on almost inexhaustible deposits of salt, a product as eagerly traded and nearly as precious as gold.

A late 17th-century walnut and fruitwood dwarf cabinet and German allegorical paintings
A late 17th-century walnut and fruitwood dwarf cabinet and German allegorical paintings

Situated verdant pastures

Schloss Blühnbach would have enjoyed the advantage at the outset of being readily defended against the archbishop’s enemies, many of which he had. A road wound, and continues to wind from the village of Tenneck several miles through a spruce forest and green pastures to the castle, from a highway threading its way south along the Salzach River, sits on a slope overlooking a tributary of the Salzach. In places teetering on the edge of a deep gorge, this zig-zag path offers the only easy access to the castle.

Estate of Frederick Koch

Schloss Blühnbach’s belongs to the estate of Frederick R. Koch, who died in February 2020. He was an American philanthropist and connoisseur who collected art, literature, music and architecture in an extraordinarily diverse range of fields. He was a tireless browser of auction catalogues; he quickly found a suitable home in museums, libraries and universities.

Koch was an ardent student of architecture from childhood, mainly when it manifests itself in buildings, even more in the form of old houses in need of sympathetic renovation.  

Koch acquired Schloss Blühnbach in 1987 after the property had undergone upwards of one hundred years of sectarian adventures and misadventures.

A 1601 wedding painting part of Francis Ferdinand's collection of European Art
A 1601 wedding painting part of Francis Ferdinand’s collection of European Art

100 years of sectarian adventures

After the property had endured over one hundred years of sectarian adventures and misadventures, Koch purchased Schloss Blühnbach in 1987. The ecclesiastical authorities had reduced both wealth and power and had given the castle to the Hapsburgs. A band of aristocrats later made it a base for some of Europe’s best hunting operations. It was not entirely to their satisfaction that a fellow hunter, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Emperor Francis Joseph’s successor, plucked it from them. He was a crack shot and enjoyed shooting as many stags, mountain goats, eagles and other local Alpine prey as possible.

Possibly an altar room because of the ecclesiastical symbols.
Possibly an altar room because of the ecclesiastical symbols.

Between 1908 and 1911 the archduke rebuilt the castle, turning it into a country house that his wife and children found comfortable and cozy. It boasted eighty or ninety rooms on four floors and stables on an equally grand scale numerous outbuildings.

Koch selected a carpet with a 17 century pattern for his sitting room.
Koch selected a carpet with a 17 century pattern for his sitting room.

Francis Ferdinand became a significant figure in world history after being assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914 and starting the First World War.

Krupps of Essen

It was just the sort of place that one of the wealthiest families in the world – the Krupps of Essen – were looking for at a time when, thanks to the war, the vast Krupp munitions works were prospering. Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, his wife, Bertha, and their seven children were enchanted with the clear mountain air and the lofty views of Schloss Blühnbach a far cry from the smoky polluted air of the industrial Ruhr, where the Krupps, secretive and self-admiring had been doing business since the fifteenth century.

Books, plays, movies, many attempts have been made to tell the House of Krupp’s story. The last of the family to occupy the castle was Arndt von Bohlen und Halbech, grandson of the stern, hard-driving Gustav and his opposite in almost every way. Having no interest in the family business, Arndt dissipated as much of the family fortune as he was allowed to get his hands on. He retreated into a fantasy world that in many ways resembled that of Ludwig II, the Mad King of Bavaria.

Painted and gilded coats of arms of Salzburg archbishops.
Painted and gilded coats of arms of Salzburg archbishops.

Arndt designed royal uniforms for himself, a throne, a gold crown, and other royalty symbols. When he grew bored with the castle, he shifted his imaginary court to Brazil that covered 40 square miles. Arndt died in 1986 in his late forties, having contrived like Ludwig II, to become grandly and perhaps without regret bankrupt.

The castle was put up for sale; however, most prospective buyers found it too intimidating even to make an offer. Its shingled roof was in a state of disrepair, and thousands of metres of copper wire had to be replaced, and the outer walls would have to be stuccoed and repainted. After all, one could then begin the formidable interior decoration task, laying out of gardens and improving the surrounding farmlands and forest.  

Koch found exhilarating what others usually found exciting. The moment that he entered the great hall, he sensed that the castle was demanding that he take charge of it.

“If restoring a distinguished old building is a responsibility, it’s something else as well – the chance to combine hard work and pleasure that for me is irresistible.”

Today

Despite the beautiful renovations that occurred over twenty years ago. The castle is currently “hermetically sealed”. The castle’s lockdown hinders mountain hikers who want to climb from the Blühnbach valley to the Tiefenbach valley. “To reach the path, you have to go above the castle and along the boundary fence”.

Sources

“Blühnbach Castle” page. In: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Processing status: October 27, 2020, 12:21 UTC. URL: https://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Schloss_Bl%C3%BChnbach&oldid=204937138 (accessed: February 14, 2021, 10:28 pm UTC)

Gill, B. (1996). An Austrian Epic Frederick R. Koch Rejuvenates a Historic Alpine Schloss. Architectural Digest34(1), 110–117.

You may also be interested in

More Inside an Eclectic Los Angeles Wonderland Home designed by AD100 Firm Charlap Hyman & Herrero | Architectural Digest – Encyclopedia of Design

“When people get older, they often lose their playful spirit. I want to hold on to the fun,” said the owner Yoram Heller when it came to the design of the home.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.