Fürstenfeld, Part II: History of Fürstenfeld
For the second part of the Fürstenfeld article, let me say a few words on the turbulent history of the town: The area of today′s town has been populated since Neolithic days; during Celtic and Roman times, it was probably a trading post and benefited from a its location just by an important road. In the 6th century, Slavonic tribes settled in the area of modern Fürstenfeld. Only since the 8th century, Bavarians moved into the region.
They were facing a threat from advancing Hungarians. In the 12th century, the Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich III initiated the construction of a belt of castles to fortify the Empire′s eastern border - mostly in Styria and Lower Austria. The Margrave of Styria, Ottokar IV von Traungau, built one of these castles in today′s Fürstenfeld in 1170. This was the starting point for Fürstenfeld in the strict sense of the word. The combination of a road and a castle soon attracted settlers and the community of Fürstenfeld grew rapidly.
The Knights of St. John (later Maltesers) built a church in Fürstenfeld and later ran it is the parish church. Between 1215 and 1220, the town was re-modelled to meet the needs of its new size; for example, the market that had existed since 1178 was formalised. The market privileges came in 1232, Fürstenfeld became a proper city in 1277. In 1362, the Augustiner Eremiten order opened a monastery, making them direct competitors to the Knights of St. John. They built their own church and contributed to the development of Fürstenfeld into an important border-town and trade centre.
Fürstenfeld from the late Middle Ages until Today
In 1418, the Hungarians invaded the town and looted it. In the late 15th century, the town was involved in a peasant war. This was only the beginning: In 1480, the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus conquered Fürstenfeld and occupied it for eleven years. Many residents of Fürstenfeld were taken to the Hungarian town of Ofen. Most of the Medieval town was destroyed. Later on, fires in 1503, 1504 and 1509 caused further destruction. There is a report of 1543, which states that almost all houses in Fürstenfeld were severely damaged to the point that nobody could live in them anymore. Nevertheless, in 1556, the old castle was re-built or extended into a modern fortress.
With reasonable success: In 1605, the Hajdukes (Turkish bandits) invaded Fürstenfeld and looted it once again. The threat of a Turkish invasion persisted; this is the reason why the fortress was extended once again in 1664. Another threat was the bubonic plague, which occurred in Fürstenfeld particularly bad in 1679. In 1704, Fürstenfeld was besieged by the Kuruzen (Hungarian bandits), but the city was saved by a Croatian army. The following decades remained fairly stable, until Napoleonic troops conquered Fürstenfeld in 1809. That much about the dark days of Fürstenfeld.
After 1815, it recovered economically very quickly and its population grew rapidly in the first half of the 19th century. In the 1920ies and 1930ies, Fürstenfeld was a centre for the Austrian branch of the Nazi party; unusual for rural communities, there was severe fighting in and around Fürstenfeld when the Red Army conquered it in 1945. The old town was damaged rather badly, including some of the sightseeing attractions mentioned in this article. Today, Fürstenfeld is a prosperous market town that looks after its historical buildings. Tourism has become increasingly important, especially since the development of the thermal spas after the 1980ies.
Return to "Fürstenfeld, Part I"
Back to: "Styria