Judenburg: Diving into the Middle Ages of Styria
Judenburg means "Jewscastle" and indeed there was a large Jewish community in the 13th century in this pretty Styrian town. However, to my great surprise, I had to learn the name is derived from a medieval ruler of the place with the silly name of "Jutho". So Judenburg really means "Jutho′s Castle".
The Jews, by the way, had to leave the place in the course of the expulsions that took place all over Austria (and Europe, really) in the 1490ies. In any case, Judenburg is a truly pretty place striving with history and since it is in an area with rather rural appeal, some sightseeing in a semi-urban setting might be a welcomed change.
Judenburg promotional video with German commentary.
Located at the river Mur and holding a rather dominant position on this important trade route, the town developed to Styria′s most important economic centre. In the late Middle Ages, Judenburg controlled most of the Mur Valley trade, which consisted primarily of iron and lavender. You can learn more about the history of Judenburg as well as details on the iron heritage of this part of Styria in the Stadtmuseum or Town Museum. It has displays that show traditional techniques used in the quarries and mines as well as details on the (historical) arms manufacturing that took place here in Judenburg.
Two Churches & more Sightseeing
There are two interesting churches in Judenburg: The parish church, dating back to the 16th century, is an acceptable mix of Gothic and Baroque elements. The Magdalenakirche Church was built in the mid-14th century, with several features well-preserved from the original building. This includes some of the stained glass as well as frescos and some of the interiors.
The top-attraction of the town, however, is of the secular kind. The Stadtturm or Town Tower (I like the English version much better) is 75 metres high and wall built in the 15th century as a sign that Judenburg rules. Since then, the tower was on fire a couple of times and relatively little is left of the original building - yet, climbing it will grant you remarkable views over the Mur river valley. If you haven′t had enough of Styrian history at the town museum, you will find smaller exhibitions inside of the Town Tower.
There is not an awful lot to do, things to see or places to go in the immediate surroundings of Judenburg. Cycling along the River Mur can be scenic, and the stunning church and monastery of Seckau is only some 20 kilometres away. Generally, the entire region of the Mur valley was heavily involved with the iron ore business. With the downfall of this industry in th later 20th century, the towns of the area didn′t do very well and as a tourist, you are probably best advised to move on to the Salzkammergut, the Alpine areas of Salzburg and Carinthia (such as the National Park Hohe Tauern), the Styrian hill area or the area of Graz. To learn more about the iron ore industry, go to Leoben and Eisenerz.
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